When Xerxes lost a sea battle, he had the sea waters whipped in revenge. The Persian king literarily punished Nature for conspiring against him. When an earthquake demolished Lisbon, Voltaire condemned nature for crimes against reason and civilization. The French philosopher symbolically punished Nature for conspiring against progress of mankind. If Kim Jong-un fires nuclear missiles against South Korea, Japan or the United States, Security Council of the United Nations Organizations will certainly condemn and perhaps punish him for destroying both Nature and Civilization. The Korean dictator, a close relative of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, will ultimately be either killed, or punished for crimes against mankind. But he may do more than literarily or symbolically beat Nature up. He can also turn parts of our global commons into an uninhabitable desert.
What should be done? As usual, history might give us a clue. The Korean war was a war by proxy. Northern Koreans and Southern Koreans did not start hating one another from day to day. The Northerners were a front for Soviet Union and China. The Southerners were a front for the United States and for the United Nations (only because the Russian member of Security Council failed to vote). The war never ended with a peace treaty – all we still have is a ceasefire. Meanwhile, between 1950ies and 2017 North Korea became a vast concentration camp with nuclear weapons, while the world warily watched, busy with other matters. These matters included South Korea becoming one of the world’s largest and most modern economies. Samsung is a household name challenging Apple and Hyundai or Kia are competing against Toyota, Ford or Volkswagen. These divergent trajectories mean that the western world boasts of the South Korea as a showcase of a successful capitalism (corruption notwithstanding). Neither Russia nor China can boast of the North Korea as a showcase of a successful communism (military buildup notwithstanding). But North Korean bellicose stand draws attention of the world’s public opinions to the unresolved issues of the Cold War. When will the communist genocide be publicly put on trial in Russia, China or North Korea?
What does it have to do with the North Korean nuclear threats? Bloody Asian wars – the Korean and the Vietnamese one – were the price paid for peace and allowed the Cold War to stay cool in Europe. Is it becoming too hot for comfort?
Rotterdam, September 28, 2017