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Post Is Kim Jong-un a "Rational Actor"?
Created by John Eipper on 09/08/17 4:45 AM

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Is Kim Jong-un a "Rational Actor"? (Istvan Simon, USA, 09/08/17 4:45 am)

Many thanks to Tim Brown, Gary Moore and Tim Ashby for their thoughtful comments to my essay on pacifism. I would like to add a few comments to Tim Ashby's take on North Korea (5 September).

I generally agree with what Tim said, including the parallels of appeasing North Korea with the Second World War folly of Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" mission to Hitler's Munich, in which he gave away Czechoslovakia's freedom for, as Churchill said, neither peace nor honor. Yes, unfortunately war with North Korea seems likely, and the consequences may be horrendous.

There are no good military options in North Korea. The North does not need to retaliate with nuclear weapons to a hypothetical preventive attack by us. Responding with nuclear weapons of course would be suicide and total annihilation for the North Koreans, and therefore it is fairly safe to assume that they will not do so. The problem for us is that the North Koreans have many non-nuclear military options that could devastate Seoul with conventional artillery and kill an estimated one million South Koreans in a few hours if they so chose.

Kim Jong-un is a bad dude, but I believe that he is not irrational. On the contrary, unfortunately his nuclear gamble is rational and what is even worse, a consequence of our own misguided policies. Kim's father had agreed to suspend their nuclear program in exchange for food and aid. But George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, in which we forced "regime change" for Saddam Hussein, changed his mind, and he restarted the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons. They have pursued it ever since with singular and obstinate focus, and their resolve was only reinforced by what happened later to Col. Gaddafi in Libya, who looking at Iraq had suspended Libya's pursuit of nuclear weapons. So, from the North Koreans' point of view, it made perfect sense that their insurance against us forcing regime change in North Korea was developing nuclear weapons.

Now, one look at the map will convince anyone that Kim's nuclear weapons are a much greater threat to Russia and China than to us. So we must ask why Russia and China do not do more to curb Kim's nuclear ambitions. Kim is also threatening us with a nuclear strike, but to do so he needs to put his weapons on an ICBM. That is difficult to do technically, and what's more I believe that his ICBMs could be destroyed before they take off. We may be able even to destroy them in flight after they take off, though that certainly would be very dangerous for us.

I would like to ask our many generals in WAIS whether my analysis here makes any military sense, and what would they recommend our options should be if a military conflict becomes inevitable with North Korea.

JE comments: Failing to destroy even one of Kim's nukes would cause a devastation unseen since WWII.  Like David Pike (6 September), I'm uncomfortable with the odds.  And why wouldn't the Chinese get involved, if the US and South Korea unleash a scorched-earth retaliation on the North?

Shall we revisit Tim Ashby's suggestion that a solution might be found by allowing the Chinese to (gently) take over the North?  This at least would bring stability.  The cost might be mostly symbolic:  China would acquire its first neo-colony.

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  • Why Would China Want N Korea? (Brian Blodgett, USA 09/08/17 11:31 AM)
    John E's comment about revisiting Tim Ashby's suggestion for China to take over North Korea implies that the Chinese would want North Korea.

    The Chinese already have to deal, and that is the right word, with the many North Koreans who left the country and fled into China where they are not wanted (no skills for the most part) and a drain on the Chinese economy if they even are doing anything for them--years ago they were not. The NK citizens as we know have lived their entire lives being told one thing about the world--what the Kim family wanted them to hear. Would China want the estimated 26 million citizens to become a part of their country, and what would they gain from these citizens? The country itself is in shambles in basically every way possible and the cost China would have to spend on the country would likely be high even to raise it to the level of the poorer sections of China.

    I really do not want to compare this to the US and our ongoing situation with illegals entering the country.  One can draw many similarities to them (if one wanted to), but I am going to avoid going down that path.

    So, back to China taking over North Korea.  We would also have to consider how Japan, the Republic of Korea, and even Russia would feel about the "annexation."  I doubt they would appreciate their neighbor moving even closer. We also would have to consider if North Korea would willingly become a neo-colony of China and the fact that the North Korean military may put up a fight against the Chinese. Or, just as likely, they would abandon their posts and simply head south into the Republic of Korea. Can you imagine the impact it would have on the northern sections of South Korea to wake up and find tens of thousands of refugees crossing into their country and seeing all the food and other consumables that they have never dreamt were so close to their own country?

    In the end, I am not sure who would win in this scenario, as the North Koreans would likely be unwanted in either country and the neighboring countries would lose Kim but have China even closer (and so would the US if we remain allies with the Republic of Korea and Japan).

    JE comments:  So even the "least bad" scenarios are pretty bad.  Brian Blodgett suggests that if the North becomes Chinese, most of Kim's former subjects would prefer to live with their countrymen (and women).

    But at the very least, there would be no nuclear war.

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    • Koreans in Mongolia (Timothy Brown, USA 09/10/17 4:25 AM)

      A small, but interesting addition to our discussion of the current North Korea imbroglio.

      Several years back, while he was staying with us at our home, I asked Elbegdorj Tsakia, EB, recently President of Mongolia, about Mongolia's relations with China.  He mentioned that when asked by China, Mongolia would take in North Korean refugees that were seeking refuge in China (he called them escapees). While he didn't ever say as much, he made it rather clear that one of Mongolia's most important relationships is with the PRC, a subtle but understandable bow to the ancient reality that "the strong do what they will. The weak do what they must."

      JE comments:  China outpopulates Mongolia by about 300 to one.  Perhaps they need the extra people, although the most likely explanation is the PRC wanting to get the Koreans out of sight and mind.  Stalin did something similar:  the Koreans in the Soviet Union were deported en masse to Uzbekistan, leaving a significant and lasting impact on that region.  See this recent radio piece (PRI's The World) on a Korean-Uzbek restaurant in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  This is a fusion cuisine I never thought about:


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  • Is Kim Jong-un a "Rational Actor"? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 09/09/17 5:20 AM)

    On what basis does Istvan Simon (8 September) think that Kim Jong-Un is "rational"?

    I am not saying he's not--but I just don't think we know. There are a certain number of signs that he is a raving lunatic. Or, he may be crazy as a fox, building his starving little hell-hole into a major military power to parlay into geopolitical clout above its weight, to negotiate some deals which would otherwise be far out of reach. But at the expense of beggaring his starving population? I just don't think we know what makes him tick, and this is extremely dangerous--this is what is essentially dangerous about the situation.

    Correspondingly, I just don't think we know under what circumstances he might use his nuclear weapons, or against whom. We know that his policy is extreme aggressiveness, and he does seem to be itching for war. There is a certain type of dictator who believes that power, and even domination, may flow from simply by being more aggressive than others--Hitler is the classic case of this, but even Churchill represents this point of view (his main thesis about the start of WWII, is that we could have prevented it, simply by being more aggressive, never mind that we did not have much actual military force). Napoleon is another who went far, very far, unto near total domination of Europe, on the basis primarily of extreme aggressiveness. So it is not hard to imagine that the boy dictator fancies himself as more powerful than we can imagine, and might think that he could conquer South Korea by sheer aggression, and ruthlessness in using weapons of mass destruction. To us these seem like crazy ideas, but they might not seem like that to him.

    As to whether he would be more likely to nuke Russia or China than us--why? China is something like a patron state; Russia has been a friendly neutral since the 1990s. The US, which is the protector of the (to their minds) renegade South, and with whom a state of war still officially exists, in their minds, is clearly the main enemy. The purpose of building nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles is to scare the US, not Russia or China, and we may thank God if it turns out that the purpose goes no further than scaring.

    In short, I think the whole situation is extremely unpredictable and hideously dangerous--the most serious direct threat to the US since the Cuban Missile Crisis, and probably more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis, since our enemy in that case was a fairly rational and cautious actor with recent experience of a devastating war, and no desire to have another large scale war with a major power.

    As to whether we have any options to play with--I can't say. Our military experts will have a better understanding than I do, but it does look to me that it would be quite difficult, if not impossible to neutralize North Korea's ability to attack the South, before they could get off a devastating attack, of one kind or another, on the densely populated Seoul region, if not a nuclear attack on us. WAISers will know me as something of a pacifist--I am proud nowadays to claim that I am one of the few who was strongly opposed to the 1991 attack on Iraq as well as the unprovoked war on Afghanistan. But North Korea waving nuclear weapons at us seems to me to justify military action, as a pure matter of self-defense, if there were an action available to us, which could achieve the purpose. But also, I don't think we could act unilaterally, without risking a more general conflagration--can we agree with the South Koreans, and with China? You don't just go attacking a major power's client states, without permission, if you don't want to risk big problems up to and possibly including a declaration of war. And what about Russia? These issues are some of the most grave ones we have faced in any of our lifetimes. It sure doesn't help that at this grave moment we have a commander-in-chief, ultimately responsible for these decisions, who is probably the stupidest man to ever occupy the position.

    In my opinion, the only option we have, which has a reasonable chance of reducing this threat, is an agreement with China, South Korea, and possibly Russia, maybe backed by or even initiated by the UN, to pressure North Korea to give up their weapons of mass destruction. We do have common interests with all of these states--China for one certainly does not want a reckless Kim Jong-Un throwing nukes around in their backyard or starting wars. If we were to guaranty to respect China's position in North Korea, and guaranty not to try to overthrow the government and reunite the country, the Chinese might agree to cooperate in disarming North Korea. The same kinds of guarantees could work with Russia. As to South Korea--I have no idea. But I think that if a coalition of all of the countries concerned presented Pyong Yang with an ultimatum backed up with a total blockade or a joint military action--that could work. Unilateral military action--I really doubt it. Doing nothing while the North Koreans finish development of a missile-transportable thermonuclear weapon, also seems to me to be just not the right approach. It's a hell of a situation, without any decent solution which I can see.

    JE comments:  A Sino-Russo-US ultimatum backed up by the threat of a total blockade could work.  But how do you assemble the coalition?  I suspect Putin for one enjoys Kim's antics and the headaches he is causing the US, S Korea, and Japan.

    On the other hand, blockades can turn into war.  See Eugenio Battaglia (next).

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    • Is Kim Jong-un Rational? (Istvan Simon, USA 09/10/17 7:44 AM)
      I thank my friend Cameron Sawyer (9 September) for challenging the assumptions of my post on the rationality of Kim Jong-un and his policies. I would like to respond first to his question. He asked on what basis I think Kim Jong-un is rational.

      I explained this already partly in my post. I think the Fat Boy is rational, because his policies are the continuation of his father's policies, which were also rational (from the North Korean point of view), to pursue nuclear weapons as an absolute insurance policy against us forcing regime change in Pyongyang like we did in Iraq, Afghanistan, and to a certain extent in Libya. This is rational and makes sense.  China is the controlling power in North Korea that could force Kim Jong-un to his knees.  China could decide to stop all fuel and food deliveries to NK, two very big weapons held by China. But Kim Jong-un is rational because he correctly predicted that China would not do that, even if he murdered his half-brother, who was under Chinese protection, and he turned out to be right. He calculated the Chinese reaction correctly and thus got away with murder and at the cost of loss of face for Xi Jin Ping and the Chinese leadership, and at the cost of the life of his half-brother and the sacrifice of the two NK agents who were arrested for the murder.

      Cameron's analogy to Hitler is actually perfect. We can say that it was extremely reckless for Kim Jong-un to murder his half-brother when China seems to have all the cards to whether he survives or not, so we can say he gambled. Hitler also gambled that he could re-occupy the Rhineland militarily, and he was also correct in predicting the non-reaction of the Western democracies. So, both Kim Jong-un and Hitler won this risky bet, risky to more prudent and cautious leaders. But the fact that they won these bets indicates also insight and intelligence on Hitler's and the Fat Boy's part, not merely pure luck.

      Cameron Sawyer is strictly speaking correct that I cannot know with absolute certainty that the Fat Boy is rational. But absolute certainty is not given to humans, only a probability, based on careful observation and intelligent analysis. So it is on this probabilistic basis that I affirmed that the Fat Boy is rational.

      What do we know about the Fat Boy? We know that he is a gambler like Hitler was. We know that he likes to provoke like his father did, but his provocations are carefully calibrated and he has avoided major wars and combat so far. He takes risks, but seems to be accurate in gauging the likely reaction of those he provokes. We know that he cares not a whit about his people--he risks famine to pursue his nukes, and he lives in luxury while his people live in poverty. We know he is ruthless. He murdered his uncle and his half-brother. We know he craves power. We know his regime is the last Stalinist dictatorship on Earth. Will he use his nukes? I doubt it. All of the above suggest that he is rational and that he will not.

      JE comments:  Perhaps "rational" is not the correct adjective for this discussion.  Is Kim suicidal?  Hitler ultimately proved to be, with his invasion of the Soviet Union.  Evan Osnos in the New Yorker quotes a North Korean official that even in a nuclear exchange, the North would "win" because it would have inflicted incalculable damage on the US.  This is both sickly rational...and suicidal.

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      • More on the Kim-Hitler Analogy (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 09/10/17 5:41 PM)

        Istvan Simon's analysis of Kim Jong-un (10 September) is cogent and interesting.

        I would like to drill into the analogy to Hitler, which I think is, unusually for an analogy to Hitler, instructive and interesting.

        Hitler was certainly a "gambler," as Istvan says, and his gamble in the Rheinland paid off. He took another gamble by making, in 1940, an extremely energetic and aggressive attack on arch-enemy France, which had a larger army than Germany's, and succeeded again, defeating a much larger and better equipped force with a short, sharp blow. But these successes went to his head, and the idea that "We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down," as Hitler famously, or infamously said on the eve of Barbarossa, was a disastrous miscalculation, based on an irrational view of his enemy which flew in the face of facts which he had at his disposal. I think he was drunk on his own aggression, and I think Kim Jong-un may also be.

        JE comments:  Drunken, yes.  A 33 year-old petty tyrant with nuclear weapons is almost certain to be.

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      • Irredentism and War: Rhineland and Elsewhere (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/11/17 11:09 AM)
        The famous Godwin's Law about Hitler has struck again. (See Istvan Simon, 10 September.)

        What the hell does recovering the Rhineland have to do with North Korea? The Rhineland was part of Germany, inhabited by Germans who wanted to be part of Germany.

        After WWI at Versailles, Germany lost (excluding the Rhineland) an area of 70,500 square kilometers with a population of 6,475,000, of whom 3,481,000 were ethnic Germans. Of these, 769,000 were kicked out of their homes, and many were killed, especially in 1939.

        On top of this, 3,000,000 ethnic Germans were lost from Austria-Hungary. Therefore, the so-called democracies left about 6,500,000 people without their motherland and completely discriminated against.

        Perhaps because I was born in Fiume (Rijeka), I know the terrible pain of these people and of their brethren who remained within the motherland. Therefore I strongly believe that these people had the right to be reunited as they wished.

        Lord Halifax in his meeting with Hitler in 1937 clearly let him believe that the UK was favourable to a redefinition of the borders and to the recognition of the rights of the ethnic minorities. In many places they were the majority, such as Sudeten, Danzig, etc.

        A recognition of the rights of the ethnic groups would have prevented WWII, the Holocaust, and 50 million deaths.

        Unfortunately Churchill preferred to completely destroy the British Empire just to destroy Germany.

        JE comments: Irredentism has started, or at least justified, many a war. (France, for example, was fired up in 1914 to reclaim Alsace and Lorraine.) The rub is when two different peoples inhabit the same territory. The result: Israel-Palestine.

        Do WAISers agree with Eugenio's penultimate paragraph?

        "A recognition of the rights of the ethnic groups would have prevented WWII, the Holocaust, and 50 million deaths."

        To my mind this is quite a reach.  Hitler's modus operandi was exactly the opposite:  to deny the rights--and often the lives--of ethnic minorities. 

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        • Hitler and Minorities (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/13/17 5:22 AM)
          When commenting on my post of 11 September, John E wrote of Hitler denying the rights of ethnic minorities. (Granted, he wanted the Jewish people out of the Third Reich one way or another, but no nation wanted them; only Italy accepted several thousands.)

          Are you sure?

          Hitler agreed with Italy to accept all the people from Alto Adige who identified as German. (He was the only German or Austrian not to give Italy problems about this situation, from 1918 to the present.)  He agreed also to withdraw German minorities too far away from the Fatherland, such as the 60,000 Germans from the Baltic states taken by the USSR, 118,000 from former Polish territories taken by the USSR, plus 140,000 from Bucovina and Bessarabia.

          In 1941, there were 577,000 Germans in Romania, almost 1,000,000 in Hungary, and 60,000 in Slovakia. Liechtenstein was entirely German. Luxembourg was German in the countryside, but the main towns were instead dominated by French-speaking people.  However, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg were of no interest to Hitler.

          Very debatable was the situation of the Autonomous Bohemian Protectorate. You will not like this: the working and social conditions of the people inside the Protectorate improved with German influence (this alone would not have satisfied me). After the institution of the Protectorate, Italy should have broken the Pact of Steel. This possibility was discussed, but a decision was postponed. This was a mistake.

          Generally the Axis powers gave satisfaction to the minorities. For instance, consider the union of the Albanians of Kosovo to Albania. For their part, the Ustasha wanted a Greater Croatia and finally Slovenia. But the Slovenes did not want to become Croatian, so they got an autonomous state united to Italy for the main part. This was also a great mistake. The northern part of Slovenia, with many Volksdeutsche, became part of the Third Reich. In the occupied territories of the USSR certain freedoms, as much as war conditions permitted, were given to the minorities--especially if they, due to their hatred of Bolshevism, agreed to cooperate against the Soviets.

          Unfortunately in the war in the East, Nazi ideologists wanted to be involved and brought defeat.

          JE comments: Nazi defenses of "minorities" was limited to the German diaspora, as well as useful ethnic groups sympathetic to German expansionism. Was there a single exception to this? The examples given above suggest that there was not.

          Most of us are very uncomfortable with viewing Hitler as a defender of minorities.  Istvan Simon (next) has sent a forceful rebuttal to Eugenio Battaglia's post of September 11th.

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        • Hitler and Rhineland, Sudetenland (Istvan Simon, USA 09/13/17 8:32 AM)
          Eugenio Battaglia's opinions are often diametrically opposite to mine, and once again (September 11th) he does not disappoint.

          I have to say that his defense of Hitler is deeply offensive to me personally, because my maternal grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz and my father was almost starved to death, used as slave labor at the Henkel aircraft factory, near the camp at Oranienburg where he had been deported to. A more disgraceful regime than Hitler's can hardly be found. The only thing worse or comparable in recent human History that I can think of is Mao ZeDong's disgraceful regime in China and Stalin's in Russia. Yet Eugenio has the temerity to defend Hitler's decisions in the Rhineland and still much worse, later in the Sudetenland.

          So let's just review this history step by step. Eugenio cites ethnic compositions of the Rhineland and Sudetenland in defense of his theory. But ethnic composition has little to do with borders, and therefore his entire argumentation is absurd. To begin with, Eugenio acknowledges in his own post that German ethnicity was only about 50% of the inhabitants of the Rhineland, and an even lower ratio in the case of the Sudetenland. However, all that is besides the point, because even if the ethnic compositions on these lands were 100% German, it still would not follow that Hitler had any rights to annex them to Germany. Ethnic composition only determines borders in the feverishly sick and racist mind of Hitler and his cohorts.

          I am of Hungarian Jewish descent and a proud American citizen. Let me state it clearly: the fact that I reside in the United States does not give Hungary any rights over the borders of the United States. If there were say a county of the United States, hypothetically, where Hungarians had settled predominantly, so that let us say again hypothetically 80% of the population in this hypothetical county were ethnic Hungarians, still under this scenario Hungary would have zero rights over this region of the United States.

          So having disposed of the logical absurdity of Eugenio's argumentation, let us turn to the actual events in the Rhineland and Sudetenland. Even if we accepted the view that the Versailles Treaty was unjust to Germany, something that I have not conceded, it still would not have given Hitler the right to reoccupy the Rhineland militarily, because there was a treaty that Germany had signed that this would be a demilitarized zone. There was no dispute about the Rhineland being part of Germany. Here the only issue was whether Germany could or not station military forces on this territory. So the answer is no, it could not because it had signed a legally binding treaty that it would not. The Treaty could be renegotiated, if Germany felt that it was unjust, but that is not what Hitler did. He unilaterally moved his troops there.

          At the time when this occurred, Germany was still very weak as a military power. So the Generals that advised Hitler, who were a lot saner than him, all advised against it, knowing full well that if France had reacted militarily to the move, Germany would not have had a chance. Indeed the orders were that any mobilization by France would be answered by an immediate withdrawal of German forces. We know this from the German archives captured after the war by the allies. William Shirer's excellent The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich gives a full account of this History.

          The case of the Sudetenland, is of course much much worse. For the Sudetenland was not German territory.  It belonged to Czechoslovakia, and Czechoslovakia was a wonderful democratic little country, a much better country than Germany at the time, a cultured highly humane freedom and music-loving country, that is not my own, but nonetheless I greatly admire and love.

          Just as an aside that illustrates what an extraordinary little country Czechoslovakia was, my father told me that his train passed through Czechoslovakia on the way to Germany, and the Czechs knew what "cargo" the trains transported, and in every overpass the Czech people threw bread and water bottles onto the train in a display of humanity that moves me to tears to this day.

          No matter what the ethnic composition of the Sudetenland was, it does not follow that Hitler had any rights to it, and he did not. Though the Nazis had sympathizers that were creating trouble in the Sudetenland, no democratic elections ever established that this land desired to become part of Germany, and I am fairly sure that in fact if such a choice were presented to them it would not have voted to join Hitler's Germany in free elections that were not vitiated by Nazi storm troopers, as they were in the vote held in Austria.

          It is for this reason that Munich was a shameful episode of capitulation by England, a great power, to Hitler's blackmail, to the eternal shame of Neville Chamberlain. Not only he shamefully ceded the Sudetenland to Germany, but in so doing he sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia, because the defense of Czechoslovakia depended on the geography of the Sudetenland, so indeed the Czechs had no chance after losing the Sudetenland in defending the rest of their mauled little country.

          JE comments:  Irredentism, as Istvan Simon points out, always has a flip side.  A more apt analogy than Hungarians in the US would be the Hispanic populations of, say, New Mexico.  They stayed put while the borders shifted.  The only "successful" settling of border scores since WWII happened in recent memory, with the Russian takeover of Crimea.  Or am I overlooking another example?

          Didn't Saddam Hussein use an irredentist justification for his invasion of Kuwait in 1990?  This move led to his downfall.

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          • False-Flag Operations: Germany and Elsewhere (John Heelan, UK 09/14/17 10:34 AM)
            Istvan Simon (13 September) should also review the German false-flag operations Project Himmler (aka Project Konserve): "The goal of this false-flag project was to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which could be used to justify the German invasion of Poland. Hitler also might have hoped to confuse Poland's allies, the United Kingdom and France, into delaying or stopping their declaration of war on Germany."

            Other contemporary false-flag operations were: The strategic railway at Jablunka Pass (Jabłonków Incident), located on the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia; the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz (Gliwice) (this was arguably the most notable of Operation Himmler operations); the German customs station at Hochlinden (today part of Rybnik-Stodoły); the forest service station in Pitschen (Byczyna); the communications station at Neubersteich ("Nieborowitzer Hammer" before 12 February 1936, now Kuznia Nieborowska); the railroad station in Alt-Eiche (Smolniki); Rosenberg in Westpreußen district (per Wikipedia).

            Other nations have used similar excuses, such as Operation Northwood aimed at Cuba and Project TP-Ajax aimed at Iran, Israel's Lavon Affair. More worryingly, Noam Chomsky alleged earlier this year, "Donald Trump's administration could stage a false-flag terrorist attack to maintain the support of voters after they realise his 'promises are built on sand.'" If so, one looks towards the Korean isthmus with some concern.

            JE comments: False-flag operations are the Gold Standard for conspiracy theorists--which may make them, paradoxically, easier to carry out.  Regardless of how genuine an attack is (think 9/11), some will find a false-flag conspiracy.  This Cry Wolf factor makes the real false-flag event deniable.

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          • Had Ethnic Minorities Been Respected, Hitler Would Not Have Risen to Power (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/18/17 12:46 PM)
            In response to Istvan Simon (September 13th), not recognizing the rights of minorities is an internationally recognized crime.

            Hitler would have not risen to power if the ethnic Germans had had the possibility of choice according to what President Wilson was preaching. Rhineland and Sudetenland were ethnically German. In my earlier post I simply stated that of the territories taken from Germany after World War I, 54% were German; therefore the shifting of borders was justice only for the remaining 46%.

            Czechoslovakia was a wonderful democratic country only for the Bohemians (even the Slovaks were discriminated against). Likewise, South Africa was a wonderful democratic country for white people and Israel is a wonderful democratic country for Jewish people and not for the occupied Palestinians.

            By the way, Israel's right-wing political parties in the government have voted for the annexation of the West Bank.

            A comparison with communities which immigrated to the US or Argentina or other places is not pertinent.

            Our esteemed editor, when commenting on shifting borders, was correct to mention Crimea, but he forgot the wars for the creation of new nations based on ethnic principles--Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia or better the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and peacefully Germany (East and West) plus the Czech and Slovak Republics (confirming the division of March 1939), and the dissolution of USSR. Pretty soon we may even have Catalunya and Scotland....

            About Saddam's war against Iran:  was it only irredentism or was some big country meddling and pushing him, also supplying intelligence, etc?

            Of course I strongly sympathize with Istvan's family tragedies and I can understand his feelings, even if I still believe his post was based on misinterpreted data.

            JE comments: My example of Crimea referred to an irredentist "settling of scores," with a larger country taking from a smaller country what it allegedly used to possess. The breakup of Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia is not the same thing, although Albania hypothetically annexing Kosovo, or Romania conquering Moldova, would be close analogies.

            Historians have often argued that there would have been no Hitler had the terms of Versailles been more lenient. But Eugenio Battaglia's ethnic minority argument is harder to accept. Did the unemployed and desperately poor German "mainstream" of 1933 really care about Sudetenland?

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    • Is Kim Jong-un Rational? What About Trump? (John Heelan, UK 09/10/17 11:26 AM)

      Cameron Sawyer's comment (9 Sept) about the rationality of Kim Jong-Un is also applied in today's media to Donald Trump, suggesting that he should not be regarded as mentally unstable just because some people dislike him.  (Sic!)

      However, has anybody noticed that Kim's acolytes sport a similar hair-do as their Leader, and each carries a notebook and pen, presumably to capture his deathless words?  Of course the Qing (Manchu) dynasty demanded the same thing of its subjects a few centuries previously (not the notebooks), who had to have hair on top of the scalp grown long and braided into a queue (or pigtail), while the front portion of the head was shaved. Is Kim modelling himself on the Manchus?

      JE comments:  I was waiting for the Kim-Trump comparison to arise.  Will The Donald's sycophants start sporting the Trump 'Do, too?

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