May 27, 2009

Oh, People...People...

During the Pleistocene Epoch, I had a tenth-grade English teacher. Mrs. Comstock was a lovely, gentle woman, who adored reading anything and everything and encouraged all her students to develop the same passion. Her gentleness carried a risk, one that was actualized on a number of occasions. Many of the students were typical teenagers, not notably aggressive or dangerous, but boisterous, if you will. Mrs. Comstock's soft-spoken, kindly manner opened the door to times when the class became rather noisy and unfocused.

But Mrs. Comstock was exceptionally skilled at using her dulcet tones with great effectiveness. As a look of grave disappointment and pain so all-encompassing that it seemed metaphysical in nature spread across her face, she would gaze around the room, meeting one set of recalcitrant eyes after another. She would slowly shake her head, always very, very gently, and declare, without raising her voice in the smallest degree, "Oh, people...people." Within moments, the room grew quiet again. The lesson recommenced.

Today, as on many tragically similar occasions in recent years, I am in desperate need of Mrs. Comstock's skills. As Drudge falls to the repellent task of unforgivably enthusiastic war-mongering (hardly for the first and certainly not the last time), he repeats an equally repellent and unforgivable headline: "NKorea Threatens to Attack US, SKorean Warships." All that is omitted are the reasons for these threats, that is, the actions of the United States and South Korea to which North Korea is responding.

If one takes the trouble to read the story (and understand it, I should doubtless add) -- but in this kind of atmosphere, one disgustingly typical of the "noble," "peace-loving" American people and their rulers, how many people can be bothered with context or facts? -- those actions to which North Korea is responding quickly become obvious:
North Korea threatened military action Wednesday against U.S. and South Korean warships plying the waters near the Koreas' disputed maritime border, raising the specter of a naval clash just days after the regime's underground nuclear test.

Pyongyang, reacting angrily to Seoul's decision to join an international program to intercept ships suspected of aiding nuclear proliferation, called the move tantamount to a declaration of war.

"Now that the South Korean puppets were so ridiculous as to join in the said racket and dare declare a war against compatriots," North Korea is "compelled to take a decisive measure," the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by state media.


North Korea's latest belligerence comes as the U.N. Security Council debates how to punish the regime for testing a nuclear bomb Monday in what President Barack Obama called a "blatant violation" of international law.

Ambassadors from the five permanent veto-wielding council members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - as well as Japan and South Korea were working out the details of a new resolution.

South Korea, divided from the North by a heavily fortified border, had responded to the nuclear test by joining the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led network of nations seeking to stop ships from transporting the materials used in nuclear bombs.

Seoul previously resisted joining the PSI in favor of seeking reconciliation with Pyongyang, but pushed those efforts aside Monday after the nuclear test in the northeast.

North Korea warned Wednesday that any attempt to stop, board or inspect its ships would constitute a "grave violation."

The regime also said it could no longer promise the safety of U.S. and South Korean warships and civilian vessels in the waters near the Korea's western maritime border.
So who exactly is ratcheting up tensions in this situation? North Korea, which is conducting tests and has not threatened to initiate the unprovoked use of whatever weapons it might be able to deliver sometime, somewhere -- or the U.S. and South Korea, which are threatening "to intercept ships suspected of aiding nuclear proliferation"? The seizure of ships of a sovereign nation is certainly an act of war. When such seizure is predicated on suspicion, perhaps well-grounded, perhaps supported by absolutely nothing, we have moved into utter lawlessness.

But the U.S. and its allies always represent Pure and Unalloyed Good, Now and Forevermore. And North Korea is Ultimate Evil; never mind the Ultimate Evil about which the United States claimed to have equally certain knowledge yesterday or all the days before that. Pure and Unalloyed Good does not require reasons. How shabbily unenlightened of you to demand otherwise.

War-mongering of this kind never fails to resonate with the Good and Virtuous American People. I've previously described the mechanisms involved:
For a very long time, the United States government has specialized in the pattern pursued by Israel. The vastly more powerful nation wishes to act on a certain policy -- almost always territorial expansion, for purposes of access to resources, or to force itself into new markets, or to pursue the evil notion that economic and ideological success depend on brutality and conquest -- but a specifically moral justification for its planned actions does not lie easily to hand.

So the powerful nation embarks on a course designed to make life intolerable for the country and/or those people that stand in its way. The more powerful nation is confident that, given sufficient time and sufficient provocation, the weaker country and people will finally do something that the actual aggressor can seize on as a pretext for the policy upon which it had already decided. In this way, what then unfolds becomes the victim's fault.

The United States government has utilized this tactic with Mexico, to begin the Spanish-American War, even, dear reader, in connection with the U.S. entrance into World War II, most recently in Iraq, possibly (perhaps probably) with Iran in the future, and in numerous other conflicts. It's always the fault of the other side, never the fault of the United States itself. Yet the United States has always been much more powerful than those it victimizes in this manner. The United States always claims that its victims represented a dire threat to its very survival, a threat that must be brought under U.S. control, or eliminated altogether. The claim has almost never been true. This monstrous pattern is "The American Way of Doing Business."
And as Robert Higgs has observed:
No one should be surprised by the cultural proclivity for violence, of course, because Americans have always been a violent people in a violent land. Once the Europeans had committed themselves to reside on this continent, they undertook to slaughter the Indians and steal their land, and to bullwhip African slaves into submission and live off their labor—endeavors they pursued with considerable success over the next two and a half centuries. Absent other convenient victims, they have battered and killed one another on the slightest pretext, or for the simple pleasure of doing so, with guns, knives, and bare hands. If you take them to be a "peace-loving people," you haven’t been paying attention. Such violent people are easily led to war.
Oh, people...people. You can never have too many wars, can you?

Never too much death, never too much devastation, never too much suffering, until all the world is a wasteland.

Mrs. Comstock would not be pleased. Neither am I, and neither is any decent human being who remains remotely civilized.

As for Obama's claim that North Korea's actions constitute a "blatant violation" of international law: you have one hell of a nerve, you bastard. For my reasons (in addition to those identified above) and a discussion of what the United States ought to do, see my post on the same subject from just yesterday.