Tuesday, May 01, 2018

A United Korea—50 Disunited States

What follows is the introduction to the Korean edition of my book, Reinventing Collapse. Now that North and South Korea are finally achieving peace and there is talk of reunification, it is a good time to revisit it. My thesis—that superpower collapses trigger both reunifications and quests for independence—still seems to hold water.

Over the course of the Cold War, the two superpowers – USA and USSR – built up an inventory of unresolved conflicts, which they, by tacit agreement, placed in deep freeze for the duration of their combined existence. In some cases, ethnically homogeneous entities were split up along artificial political boundaries, while in other cases disparate ethnic groups were held together by force within a single artificial political boundary. Once the USSR collapsed, the multi-ethnic entities – Georgia, Moldova and Czechoslovakia – did their best to break apart, while the partitioned ones did their best to try to reunify. While some of these frozen conflicts—most notably Germany—needed both superpowers to remain refrigerated, one particular example—Korea—remained well-preserved even after the the collapse of the USSR, with the North providing its own, self-sufficient source of refrigeration.

For now, the US military continues to maintain over a thousand foreign military bases around the world, including South Korea. Most of these serve no real purpose. Even while it was still opposing the Soviets, the US military morphed into a sort of grand extortion scheme: the American intelligence community exaggerated global threats, and the military spent copious public funds pretending to counter them. To this day the military remains Washington's single most powerful political lobby (Israel is a distant second) and thanks to its efforts America spends more on defense than most of the other nations of the world combined. But what it gets for all this money is in fact quite meager. There are just two things that the US military can do well: it can shoot civilians and blow things up with wild abandon (as it has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan); it can also hold a proud and purposeful pose while doing nothing (as in South Korea and many other countries around the world). There is not a single country that is sufficiently defenseless, defunct and impoverished—not Iraq, not Afghanistan, not even Somalia—that the mighty US military can successfully conquer and control. (Perhaps Haiti—but only just after a major earthquake.)

It is something of a law of history that sooner or later all empires must collapse. It is also something of a law of group psychology that people always underestimate the probability of large and sudden changes, and so are they are always taken by surprise when they occur. Nobody was more surprised by the collapse of the USSR than the professional sovietologists. As the book Reinventing Collapse explains in detail, the collapse of the United States of America is already a given. Only the timing of its collapse remains uncertain, because it can be triggered by any number of relatively minor, unexpected events. Inevitably, the US will be forced to repatriate its troops and to liquidate its overseas military bases, in order to concentrate its efforts on attempting to reign in the forces of chaos on its own territory. We can only hope that the unwinding and scrapping of the US military empire will proceed in a controlled manner. There are few countries in the world that have more of a reason to think forward to that day and plan accordingly than Korea, and so it is quite appropriate that Korean is the second language, after English, in which Reinventing Collapse has been published.

The collapse of the US empire is certain to be accompanied by a long cascade of global crises. International trade and finance are sure to be disrupted. Countries around the world will be subjected to an experience similar to what countries in the former Soviet sphere went through after the USSR collapsed. They are sure to experience economic dislocation, numerous bankruptcies, mass unemployment and impoverishment, political crises, and many lives will be cut short as a result. Some countries did better than others in adjusting to the new circumstances, and could offer useful lessons. For instance, when Cuba was cut off from the Soviet oil supply, it pioneered the use of organic urban agriculture, and it did succeed in feeding its population without the use of fossil fuel inputs. North Korea is generally not seen as a success story, but it too may be able to offer a few useful lessons on surviving superpower collapses. Moreover, it does have a population accustomed to extreme hardship, and that, in the new circumstances, may itself turn out to be an asset.

Over the course of my life I have known many Koreans, both in the US and in Russia. (There is one particular North Korean student of nuclear engineering I remember: a very serious and sober young man living quietly in a fraternity of hard-drinking Russian engineering students. This was at MIT. "Our little Chernobyl" we called him.) From what I have been able to piece together based on what I've been able to observe, Koreans are quite patriotic, very resourceful, detest foreign meddling in their affairs, and are exactly like everyone else in wanting a peaceful and prosperous existence for themselves. It may very well be that Korea's 21st century will make up for the horrors of the 20th, while most of the former USA devolves into a collection of lawless, ungovernable, sparsely populated territories that, gradually or abruptly, fade from the world scene. But such a positive result for Korea is by no means automatic. Fierce beasts are at their most dangerous right after they have been fatally wounded, and it is hard to predict what sort of damage a fatally wounded America might cause in its agony. Korea will have to reinvent America's collapse to its own advantage. Being a foreigner, and not wishing to meddle in Korean affairs, all I can say is, think ahead, plan ahead, and may you have the best luck possible!


NJGuy73 said...

Maybe someday the president of Unified Korea will win the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a truce ending the decades-long battles between the California Republic and Greater Texas.

the blame-e said...

To get some idea about how "peace in our time" between North and South Korea is going over here in the US you have to listen to what the Deep State has to say about it. Three news stories will suffice. Needless to say, the propaganda coming out of the US government and the Deep State is not very encouraging.

As though to prepare the world for the news of reunification between North and South Korea MSM announced how North Korea's underground nuclear test site had collapsed, (perhaps but most certainly), killing all (if not most), of North Korea's top nuclear scientists. This story was plainly fakes news put out by qualified and expert un-named geologists.

The US went underground when they started understanding more about radiation and fallout. In the 1950s and early 1960s the picture wasn’t pretty. The US government wanted Americans to think that the test ban treaty between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union was what sent everything underground. This plainly was not the case.

The pictures of all their open air above ground tests didn’t help the folks back home with that warm and fuzzy feeling they were supposed to have about thousands of above ground nuclear detonations going on. Americans went from the expected “Gee Whiz! Wow!” response to a very wary and real “WTF!”

I think the statement by some Pentagon loser, Admiral William H.P. "Spike" Blandy, that the US government was not a bunch of “atomic playboys” really sealed it.

Testing underground meant drilling and mining. That’s how you test underground. Same thing went on in North Korea. The atomic bombs stayed underground. The nuclear detonation collapsed everything underground. This whole bit about North Korean nuclear scientists caught underground is pure propaganda.

The North Koreans aren’t stupid. They see what happens to leaders and despots who negotiate with the US. They end up dead. If I was North Korea I wouldn’t give up my nukes. Not when things are heating up between the US and China and Russia.

This coming Korean summit (where Donald Trump accepts the Nobel Peace Prize), is another Bill Clinton deal. The North Koreans promise to behave, and the US sends them billions of American taxpayer money. Another freaking bailout. Another raw deal for the American people.

Anyway, too soon after the death of all of North Korea's nuclear scientists, news of a Korean reunification was announced here in the United States, and not in a good way.

Reunification of North and South Korea is not going over like "tear down that wall" did. Un-named sources (probably the "New York Times" or the "Washington Post"), claim that Kim Jung-Un is a big “Battlestar Galactica” fan. Can’t get enough of the hot Cylon babes.

The bonus question is guaranteed to suck you right in. "Guess which side he identifies with the most."

According to these same un-named sources, peace will come with just a couple of perfectly innocent conditions.

First, South Korea has to take down their border defenses. All of them. This has already begun as South Korea has started taking down that nasty loud-system that blasted propaganda across the border to the North at all hours day and night for over 60-years.

Second, South Korea has to kick out -- ask -- politely -- suggest that -- the Americans leave.

Then, right after President Trump accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, the Cylons attack.

In keeping with the current spirit of LGBT and Sodom and Gomorrah here in the United States, where public policy is being dictated by hookers, concubines, cheap escort women, whores, strippers, Playboy Playmates of the Month, and decided by the #MeToo movement, fingers are pointing and tongues are wagging about having to watch the North Korean tyrant, Kim Jung-Un, and South Korean leader, Moon Jae-In, walking around hand in hand, like two faggots out taking a girly walk.

Nothing good can come of this.

Anonymous said...

Being somewhat of an empire collapsist myself, I have been following Dmitry's work since his early work, Reinventing Collapse.

In this post, Dmitry is correct that "the US military morphed into a sort of grand extortion scheme: the American intelligence community exaggerated global threats, and the military spent copious public funds pretending to counter them." But the threats are simply propaganda used to justify the "defense" budget, which the Pentagon distributes to weapons industries in all the lower 48, thus keeping the Congress Critters in line. I see no threat to the American people or its territory since at least the beginning of the "American Century", or the beginning of the republic for that matter.

However, continuous threats to Western capitalist elites and their economic empire have come from nations all over the world and rebel groups within them who suffer greatly from the US imperial foot on their neck. So even as the empire in decline gets ragged at the edges, I would argue that the thousand US military bases continue to serve a purpose, just not the one fed to the US public: along with the usual financial arm-twisting, bases in say, Colombia or Thailand have kept existing client states all over the global empire obedient to Western elite financial interests.

At the same time, I think Dmitry is right that once this imperial military/economic presence fails, as it has repeatedly in the Middle East, it has been impossible to put Humpty Dumpty back together again short of bombing to rubble nations who dare to declare sovereignty. Invasion and occupation requires an army that can fight a ground war, and the US arguably has not won a ground war since WW1. Instead, the CIA, the empire's tool of clandestine operations, has funneled military support to obedient native elites to put out brush fires of revolt and even overthrow recalcitrant regimes, at least in small countries. In these projects the CIA creates a cover story for the US public. In Colombia for instance it said its project was part of The War On Drugs, but in fact its goal was to put down peasant revolt and gain drug profits for the Agency.

sjoh said...

Interesting times for the Korean peninsula. I liked reading that intro to the Korean version a few years ago; and it still rings true today. A couple of queries:

Is the Korean version of Reinventing Collapse (예고된 붕괴) available as an e-version?

Have any of the author's other works (e.g. Five Stages of Collapse) been translated into Korean?