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100215-N-8421M-173As I attempt to complete a class assignment, which requires me to come up with a defense policy toward North Korea, I find myself asking questions beyond the US defense strategy. I wandered onto YouTube, partly because it is much less exciting to read one 30 page report after another, and partly because I wanted a glimpse of these people’s lives. For, as Mr. Masty regularly elucidates, Americans can only understand a country’s military strategy and political regime when they are immersed in the culture.

I found this documentary, among others, especially the BBC one, and it struck me in a more poignant way than any report I have read. If you have a few minutes, I think it is well worth your time:

After watching and reading, my question for this conservative forum is this: What is the Conservative’s response to genocide occurring across the ocean? It seems dangerous to presuppose that the United States has a responsibility to establish justice and democracy across the globe. When we look at Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, and even Korea, it becomes evident that the United States involvement often causes more hardships and discontent among the people.

The idea of “democratizing” the world rests on shaky ground when the US neglects the mores and dogmas that define particular cultures and habits of the people. Yet, can we as Christians and Conservatives neglect the injustices that plague the oppress people daily? From Sudan to Tibet, from India to Ecuador, from Libya to Afghanistan, people die from starvation, disease, and oppression. In North Korea, over 30,000 family members are detained in concentration camp #22. These people don’t know why they are there, but most will never see the other side of the layers of electric fence. One soldier admitted, when people come in, they are told “to treat them not as humans.” These 30,000, and the other thousands across the little country, have been stripped of all dignity and all humanity for the sake of Kim Jong-il.

This horror, however, does not remain in the concentration camps–it seeps into the lives of each person, rich or poor. It stares at them every day as they bow to the “great Leader”, as they sing praises to the giver of all gifts, as they gloat at his feet. He has brainwashed the people; they are robots, acting as extensions of the state, with no human will or liberty, with no beauty or love. He has extracted everything good within humans and left the people starving for a savior–who they find in the “great Leader.” He has blinded the people until the only thing they can see is his power.

Can we continue to plug in our i-pods, and tweet our complaints, and eat three meals a day as we forget the horrors so many suffer? Yes, we can keep living our lives, and we should enjoy the blessings we are given, but let us recognize that they are blessings. Yet, what can we, as fellow humans, do for the people of North Korea? I know we can pray, but what, if any, actions should we take? Does the government have a role in preventing or combating injustices?

I ask these questions not because I expect to find a solution, but because I wonder if they are worth thinking about. If one day we will look back on 2010 and ask ourselves how we allowed so many people to die under the terror and power of Kim Jong-il.

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3 replies to this post
  1. We already do intervene with sanctions against NK.

    Let's end the sanctions and buy from their factories.

    It's just like China. Mao was king for a while, but in the end, money always wins. The Chinese no longer care about Hu Jintao or whomever. They're entrepreneurs, now… well, some of them anyway.

    The point it is, our current punitive sanctions just ratchet up the pain in that society.

    We already are playing policeman.

  2. Miss Baldwin, I hope that your teachers admire you as much as we do. While just out of grad-school, I volunteered on the Reagan transition team and edited their findings on Carter's grain embargo of the USSR (punishment for their 1979 invasion of Afghanistan). The experts found that embargoes disrupt or hurt your enemy for up to 5 months, whereupon supply finds another way of filling demand (in that case, S Americans began reselling US grain to Russia). Politicians love sanctions because, while ineffective over time, the pols can strut on camera without spending any money. The last time I looked, the USG had sanctions against around 80 countries, including some allies. So Western options against ghastly N Korea are relatively few short of (another) war, which is frustrating since Kim Jong Il & Co. don't mind starving their people. If we "buy from their factories" (what useful things do they make?) we probably don't get the slave-labourers another half-ration of rice; instead we probably fund another container-load of cognac for the oppressors (which they mix with Coca-Cola, I am told).

    On to your bigger question, I've worked abroad in both relief and development. Development is far harder since it partly relies on cultural values including work-ethic, respect for law, commercial acumen, etc. while a whole other batch of stronger ancient values may help an agrarian culture survive but retard modern economic development: an example may be extended families and nepotism that can outweigh other values such as fairness or rule of law. This is not to say that development does not work and values cannot shift – they can, as in Thailand or much of India – but progress can move slowly if at all.

    That leaves relief: the food, water, medicine and temporary shelter which stop people from dying – period. There is a case to be made that this is good Christian (or other) charity, and provides a model to inspire others while not digging in to try to solve ancient, complex enmities using soldiers and big development projects in places where such enmities exist. Indeed, the current foreign-aid mantra of focusing on developing the most unstable 'God-help-us' nations may rarely work, considering that development's greatest successes occur in poor but stable places such as India and Thailand, and less so in tribally-torn Rwanda where about half of GDP comes from foreign donors, the country has few economic prospects beyond bananas and where, when I was there two years ago, an old French post-colonial chap said, "You have come at a good time: Rwanda is between genocides." Former Yugoslavs, the richest in the communist bloc, disdained economic growth in favour of slaughtering one another. Maybe the only answer available to us in some places is Mother Theresa's approach, and Christ's.

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