North Korea is a small blip on the map. The attention it receives on the international stage is entirely out of proportion with the nation’s geographical stature. Although the landscape may seem insurmountable and endless to travelers and soldiers alike, the national boundaries pale in comparison to its two giant neighbors in the northeast and west.
Accordingly, the brinkmanship displayed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un is entirely out of proportion with the interests and needs of the planet. The beating of the war drum by the White House and the chorus of support from the mainstream news propaganda machine is actually taunting common sense with the possibility of thermonuclear holocaust. In a region that could easily escalate into World War III, the president is escalating his rhetoric every day.
Before we all get too cocky about teaching North Korea a lesson or two in military prowess, I think all Americans would be wise not to underestimate the military capability of North Korea. Not only do they possess a nuclear deterrent, they are indoctrinated with a prophetic worldview that makes war with America inevitable. Every North Korean is being prepared to fight with everything from hand tools to automatic weapons. They are going to fight from cave to cave, hilltop to hilltop, farm to farm, river to river, street to street, and house to house. It will be a catastrophic bloodbath that will eclipse the death toll of the first Korean War by millions. They have intercontinental missiles that can be fired from mountainous bunkers that are impenetrable. They have giant standing infantry corps in every major urban center. And they have armed tank corps and a competent air force.
They are also a nation with a proud history. As is evident in the infrastructure and design of the North Korean capital, North Koreans take great ownership over their allegiance to the artistic and political vision of the Democratic Republic. They believe in the advancement of their systems, and they long for the opportunity to showcase their unique genius. This is a nation that was able to build a nuclear arsenal. This is a nation that has been able to remain independent in the shadow of two immense, imperial conquerors in China and Russia. This is a nation that is demanding the obsessive attention of the American president.
That said, the topography of the map below provides all of the evidence needed for why a land invasion of North Korea is basically suicidal. America, more than 60 years ago, found out the hard way what it means to go to war here. The Yellow Sea and Korean Bay act as barriers in the west. The Sea of Japan acts as a barrier in the east. The interior is strung with impassable mountain ranges, and the elements in winter are beyond description.
Nevertheless, the United States has 30,000 service members stationed in the peninsula. In the past few days Trump has deployed the USS Carl Vinson, a 97,000 ton nuclear carrier to the Sea of Japan. China has amassed 150,000 soldiers on the border. In case there is a refugee crisis they are willing to drive back the Korean masses with deadly force. Everywhere the threat of a preemptive strike looms.
What if China attacks first? What if South Korea moves in? What will Russia do? How will Japan defend its sea? What will happen if there is another Korean War with superpower proxies? More than a million people died the last time. How many more million will die when the weapons are intercontinental and nuclear?
Why does this script need to follow a preordained path? Trump is a trigger happy, belligerent, ignoramus who does not understand the consequences of his actions. The same can be said about the bellicose, gluttonous and politically vain Kim Kong Un. Why does the world need to allow these two rotund, delirious goats to lock horns while drunk on the elixir of their own self importance? Why does the world need to sit by and watch this spectacle?
Why does World War III need to happen here? After-all, this is a nation that is in the dark. Why not work with China and Japan and South Korea and Russia to help bring them into the light? Why must we all succumb to the darkness together?
Is North Korea a menace. Absolutely. The nation’s track record is dismal in the area of human rights. But the most effective way to engage people in dictatorships is to show them why liberty and equality are enviable values to pursue over the quasi spiritual values of emperor worship and Communism. This must be done on a grandly subversive scale. Rather than a policy of “strategic patience,” cyber-attacks, economic pressure, and the threat of war, why not try something new and interesting like creative diplomacy? Why not trade with North Korea? Why not negotiate for peace with North Korea? Why not make North Korea a business partner? Isn’t that what you are good at, Mr. Trump? Why do American interests need to inherently conflict with the interests of North Korea?
Who said this must end with thermonuclear disaster when it could begin with a New Deal for both countries?
And if that sounds like wishful thinking, what if we thought away the existence of borders all together? Why do we have names and flags to possess what is just imaginary lines in the dirt? There is no such thing as a natural border. We create these lines around us to protect us from all enemies: some are real and some are imagined. We tell ourselves that we need these lines in order to know where we are in the world. But the truth is we can only be in one place, and that place is never where any map says it is. That place is our own place that no one else has. In the lived reality of consciousness, there is no such thing as a border beyond the one we choose to perceive. The border- like the objects and people it is designed to keep out- is in our mind. We create it. We live by it. We make decisions by it. We let it rule our lives as if it is real.
Borders are what we think borders should be.