If there's anything better at cranking up anxiety than watching two lunatics with no capacity for empathy and no concern for human life playing a game of chicken with nuclear weapons, I don't know what it is.

Look, it doesn't take a specialist in international relations, military strategy, geography, or the Korean peninsula to figure out that North Korea has this situation by the proverbial balls despite being a despotic, backward, half-starved shitbox of a country. The problem is simple and everyone with 2% of a brain can see it: 25 million people live in Seoul and Seoul is so close to the DMZ that there is literally no scenario in which North Korea can't level it in the first hour of any conflict.

Say North Korea launches a missile, the US responds with an overwhelming "Reduce NK to rubble" all-out attack. So much for North Korea! Except that it will take Seoul with it. Even in the short time that it would take a determined US to turn the country into a smoking crater, they would do the same to Seoul.

Estimates that within 1 hour NK could hit Seoul with nearly half a million artillery shells may be too liberal. But even half or a quarter of that leaves a death toll likely in the millions. It's a densely populated, vertically oriented city. And it's so close to its fraternal enemy that no advanced technology would be necessary to destroy it. No fancy missiles, air strikes, long invasion columns, or sci-fi space weapons are needed. Just cheap Russian and Chinese knock-off artillery pieces of WWII vintage. And that's why from the South Korean or American perspective, there simply is no winning move that involves military action against NK. The second real fighting starts, Seoul is gone.

Trump is a dumb person who does not understand any of this. Kim is a lunatic who doesn't especially care about sending people to their deaths by the millions. Trump probably doesn't either, provided those sent to their deaths are not American. When the White House responds to North Korean saber-rattling in kind I get the really sinking feeling that Trump's only takeaway from starting a war that gets a quarter of South Koreans killed would be "Look how tough I was with North Korea." The liberal cucks just didn't have the stones to start a war that would kill that many people.

Whoever starts that war had better have a good, thorough understanding of the consequences it is going to entail. Given that the president lacks the attention span to understand the consequences of anything except inasmuch as it affects his popularity, the confrontation makes me a lot more nervous today than the feeble attempts of North Korea to flex its muscles in the past.


  • D'you remember how the President was kinda disappointed in the reactions to pardoning Arpaio? That was last week, though I have to admit it seems a lot longer.

    Everything Trump knows about Korea (either one) he learned from the headline crawl on Fox and Friends.

  • Something that is infuriatingly absent from these discussions is any mention that the US killed somewhere around 20% of the North Korean population during the Korean War by indiscriminate carpet bombing, dropping more bombs than it did during the Pacific Theatre of WWII and levelling more cities than it did throughout all of WWII. When the US ran out of cities to bomb, it bombed all the dams and canals it could find. If there was every any doubt about the North Korean motives for making itself too costly to attack, and an explanation for why they feel the need to do this on their own.

    This should also be a sobering wake-up-call for those Americans who think that a callous disregard for the lives of others is a recent phenomenon. Apparently it is the prerogative of superpowers to not only commit atrocities, but to not even allow itself to be conscious of this. The North Korean response is utter madness, but it is also hard to see what else anybody who possesses any self-preservation would do.

    Here are two bits of coverage in the US media I did find, quoting US war officials on their estimates of the damage they caused and noting the near-total lack of consciousness amongst Americans of this:

  • You never fail to disappoint, Ed.

    Do you really think that we, your tolerant readers, have failed to discern the clouds on the horizon? If you must comment, you might, at a minimum, have proffered a way to deal with the threatening storm.

    But no, here you are, a man of some little erudition and less talent, making a career out of being a misery pimp.

  • Is there any reason to suppose that Kim is, in fact, a lunatic? This is not the same guy, and acting incredibly hostile and pursuing a nuclear deterrent is literally the most logical course of action possible.

  • Living here in lovely South Korea, you'd be amazed at how unperturbed Koreans are by all this.

    But, and here's the thing, most of them still think there's a US foreign policy being guided by generally mature and thoughtful folks.

    And I have to keep telling them, as I have from Day One of Trumpolini, Everything Is Permitted Now. As Ed rightfully points out, Trump gives no fucks regarding mature and thoughtful.

  • North Korea is not looking to attack anybody right now. Their missile program is purely defensive, and the development of it is entirely rational from their point of view. They're dead without it.

    War will only begin if the US government chooses to begin it.

    China cannot force the North Koreans to abandon their missile program. All they can do is to shut off their oil and cause another famine. The North Korean government, if forced to it, will let the people starve rather than commit suicide by giving up their nukes.

    Fortunately, the Chinese government are sensible. They are very unlikely to be willing to start another famine.

  • @wetcasements; we had a mature and thoughtful leader. We *could have had* another one–that was the person that got the most votes. Enough Murikkkuns wanted someone more like them, that the gerrymandering and voter fraud were able to override what should have been a shut-out election.

  • What Craig said.

    I've always been surprised by how few nations have joined the nuclear club. If you want attention on the international stage start a program to produce your own nukes.

  • "Trump probably doesn't either, provided those sent to their deaths are not American."

    "Trump probably doesn't either, provided those sent to their deaths are not TRUMP." Fixed.

  • Also, Tom, correlation does not equal causation. There are a number of possible reasons for you being a dumb person.

  • So, Ed, what is the solution? In your liberal mind what should our president, who was not president when lil Kim began developing his arsenal, do with the situation. You say that our president is dumb, then you need to arrange a meeting at the white house and explain a solution to the problem.

  • Arcane Nitehawk says:

    "War will only begin if the US government chooses to begin it."
    I find this fact less than comforting.

  • The solution has always been multilateral effort over several years, if not decades, to reposition North Korea into a more secure position economically and internationally, and then allow the more stable situation to evolve to North Korea's comfort.

    At first, that was unthinkable because of the "moral duty" to free North Koreans from the yoke of dictatorship; so everyone twiddled their thumbs and if there was any point a unilateral solution would work, it passed long ago, leaving the above the only choice. Every passing year made it harder to achieve, but it was possible so long as the U.S. didn't seriously consider war to be the answer.

    That's the unique new problem of Teump. Of course it's true the North Korea isn't his fault, but it doesn't follow that his only play because of that is fire missiles into the peninsula. That's dumb. He is exactly as unconstrained as any other President to pursue a diplomatic solution seriously, but of all the Presidents to date he's he least likely to try and the most likely to sweep aside any and all chance at a future solution.

  • If there's one thing Kim and 45 share, it's a love of adoring (or seemingly adoring) crowds.

    45 believes he can get this by acting tough. And he can, with a larger-than-I'd-like-but-smaller-than-I thought base. But if he actually starts a war, he knows he's toast.

    Kim, on the other hand doesn't give a shit about "taking Seoul with him". If the US attacks, he has less (seemingly) adoring crowds.

    Point is, besides what Craig said, Kim won't initiate.

    The scary part is that 45 likely wants them to initiate, so he can act tough in response. What I don't know: how will he react when he's unable to goad Kim into initiating?

  • "What I don't know: how will he react when he's unable to goad Kim into initiating?"

    He will hire Vizinni, who has experience in these matters. After the Sicilian has poisoned LK3* of the PRNK–he will of course be stiffed!

    * Li'l Kim III

  • @Mark: "Not as dumb as Trump" does not mean "Has solution for difficult geopolitical problem". It just means "not dumb enough to flick sparks at tinder keg." This is not a liberal/conservative thing. I'd much prefer Jared be in charge of this one. Judging by his comments on the Middle East, he at least understood that he was not going to fix things by mouthing off.

    But I'm glad to hear that the South Koreans are not going bananas @wetcasements.

    Seems Ed's got a lot of critics today. What's up with that? His increasing publication profile drawing the flies?

  • Any war with North Korea would not be Iraq 2003 or even Iraq 1991.

    Unlike Iraq, they have real WMDs: nuclear, chemical and biological.

    I suspect they would use them if they felt the survival of the regime was threatened.

    They are very difficult to deal with at the best of times. They don't seem to respond well to diplomacy or threats of force.

  • "Who has the prescience and skill set to make the North Koreans economically comfortable? Maybe a GoFundMe for North Korea? UN resolution?"

    Keep going, eventually you'll get there.

  • Schmitt trigger says:

    "Ed is a dumb person who doesn't understand any of this."

    Even a 5 year-old can utter Ad Hominem attacks. Without a need to prove those attacks.
    I trust you are not a 5 year old. Would you care to explain your position?

  • Kermit Neville says:


    Don't expect any sort of legit explanation. The drive by attack is the method of the conservative commentator.

  • I do suspect this is the price Ed pays for national exposure; the drive-by idiots and dedicated trolls are settling in.

  • "Ed is a dumb person who doesn't understand any of this. I am a
    dumb person for reading his blog."

    "Andrew John, did you consider that Ed doesn't share your love
    of Draconian censorship?"

    "Schmitt trigger, it is an identical argument to the one made by the
    editor — a proposition wanting a proof."

    Lots of aggressive whitehotburnin'stoopit there, honey. Argument? Go look up the term, s.f.b.

  • "Kim is a lunatic who doesn't especially care about sending people to their deaths by the millions. Trump probably doesn't either, provided those sent to their deaths are not American."

    Honestly? I'm not even sure about that last clause anymore.

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