Those sympathetic with North Korean human rights must be the least susceptible to flinching every time Pyongyang pulls the war card. Of course a war on the peninsula would likely be devastating. Everyone acknowledges that, especially Pyongyang, which is the problem, at least from a human rights standpoint.
With avoiding war on the Korean peninsula always taking the highest priority in the global community’s mind, the moment Pyongyang accedes to acting civilly after a big financial payoff and greater international acceptance of its cult dynasty, the world breathes a sigh of relief as if the only catastrophe worth averting has been achieved.
Meanwhile 19 million casualties of peace continue to ensue because of a war that no one is willing to risk.
To every proposal of monitoring humanitarian aid, Pyongyang may resort to lobbing missiles over Japan, giving dovish donors time to reconsider their conditions. To U.N. sanctions, Kim Jong Il may issue his own ultimatum: either you are with us, or we – with our plutonium – are with the terrorists. With war phobia as the world’s prime directive for the peninsula, all bets that might free families from generational prison camps or might feed starving children or might stop the sex trafficking of N. Korean women are taken off the table. These are not arguments for war from a hawk, or a chicken-hawk at that. These are bare statements of fact.
When Pyongyang warns that stopping shipments of oil to its regime is a hostile act, or US withdrawal from the peninsula is inviting war, these are not exaggerations. Either of these non-actions would deliver severe blows to Kim Jong Il’s authority to continue subjugating his people. That is why Kim Jong Il threatens to bite the hand that stops feeding him. Not only because he must, but because in a world with a reflex aversion to war on the Korean peninsula he knows that he can to survive.
Thus North Koreans are left pinning their hopes for a better life on Kim Dae Jung and Jimmy Carter. Perhaps Steven Spielberg might provide the kind of breakthrough that diplomats have been looking for in persuading Kim Jong Il, an avowed movie buff, to renounce his deity and join the community of accountable leaders. Should N. Koreans be holding their breath during this current cycle of peace?
When certain people preface their comments on why everything must be done to avert war on the peninsula with phrases like, “Kim Jong Il is an evil tyrant, but. . .” or “North Korea has incredibly terrible human rights problems, but. . .”, these prefaces serve as mere pretexts for excusing themselves from any serious consideration of how donor countries are complicit in North Korean human rights abuses. This pretext allows them to appear sympathetic as they propose containment policies that reassure no change in the North Koreans’ plight.
I am willing to admit for honesty’s sake that my position risks several casualties of war. I only ask that doves be willing to acknowledge that their policies have guaranteed 19 million casualties of peace.
For those concerned about the dire conditions of the 19 million North Korean prisoners of peace, the crisis will not have been diverted should Kim Jong Il agree not to go nuclear this time around. Leaders and thinkers should not congratulate themselves and him, as they did in 1994, and be satisfied with the perpetuation of a cult-regime bent on robbing an entire people-group of its dignity and livelihood for yet another generation simply because Kim Jong Il’s reign of terror has been contained within his own borders through U.S.-S. Korean-Japanese payoffs.
Either there will be regime change and with it human rights, or there will be regime containment and the status quo. What must be acknowledged, which has not been done so far by advocates of peace, is that both positions entail unacceptable losses.