Who Gives a Damn About North Korea?

There is s chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,”

– -Trump

The time for strategic patience (with North Korea) is over

– Vice Prez Pence

War against US imminent”

– North Korean statement after another of its missiles fail

I graduated from college on June 30, 1950 the day North Korean communists invaded capitalist South Korea with Red Chinese and Stalin’s help.  As the civil war dragged on miserably the newly liberated Chinese  sent in ‘volunteer’ soldiers and the Russians secretly flew MIGs against U.S. jets in what Pres. Truman called a “UN police action”.

Both North and South Koreans were ferocious, hating fighters in a proxy Cold War between the USA and Russia.

We forget, but Koreans don’t, that Japan “owned” Korea as a semi slave colony until the end of WW2. The core of North Korea’s tough army was composed of long time anti Japanese guerrillas.

The 1950s war, ended in a three year stalemate where it began on the 38th Parallel splitting the peninsula in half.

The country was awash in the blood of massacres, executions, and no quarter to the enemy including slackers on your own side.  (Friends who fought later in Vietnam tell me that of all the Allied units the Koreans were the most savagely unforgiving.)

In seesaw battles the Communists made a point of executing intellectuals, and the South Koreans mowed down many of their own people suspected of “tendencies”.

Curtis Le May’s bombers pretty much destroyed North Korea until there were no more targets to hit.  The south was devastated; the north a napalmed wasteland.  All in the name of “reunification” by one side or another.

At the time, argued some leftists and the independent journalist I.F. Stone, the south was as guilty of aggression as the north and – winked at by our State Dept. – may have fired the first shot.  Who cares now?

Americans lost 33,000 soldiers; almost 3 million dead Korean civilians and hundreds of thousands of troops on both sides.

What’s amazing is that from a ruined landscape the North Korean prison-state has in a mere half century managed to become a sophisticated, industrialized  nuclear threat.

Imagine yourself as a U.S. soldier on duty at the Armistice Line or an ordinary citizen of congested Seoul within easy artillery range of Kim Jong-Un’s revenge.

What does it prove?  That if you starve and terrorize your own people, mismanage or provoke famines, and sustain at gunpoint a culture of betrayal, modern miracles are possible – as indeed the Soviets also proved in the 1930s.

And you end up on a Pyongyang balcony applauding yourself while lovingly caressing a mini-atom bomb that fits into the nose cone of – lets hope not – an ICBM.  He’s a weirdo all right.  Who kills off his rivals with an anti-aircraft gun?

But how sane are our own generals Trump appointed to crucial posts?  Especially now when his U.S. field commanders are off the leash and the Navy Dept. sends its Asian task force to the wrong ocean?

Our problem is and always has been our generals, from blundering Courtney Hodges’s WW2 Hurtgen Forest disaster to Doug MacArthur’s demanding to nuke the “Chinese hordes” to Vietnam’s obsessively bodycounting Westmoreland to priapic Petraeus in Afghanistan.

Now our lives are in hands of generals like Secy of Defense “Mad Dog” Mattis (“It’s fun to kill some people”); Guantamo’s harsh warden John Kelly as homeland chief; and  as #1 military advisor Herb McMasters (“the Vietnam war was lost on the pages of the NY Times and on campuses”).

And of course in the grasp of Kim Jong-Un who in the nuclear poker game has the hole card.

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

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