I have a few thoughts on the developing North Korean situation.
Disclaimer: As a good friend of mine pointed out, if you’re not in government, you can never fully know what’s going on.
It’s really politically interesting that we are still putting so much interest in North Korea, for several reasons. While it could possibly be the first real instance of the Washington Consensus in action for quite a while, the level of coverage and attention that North Korea gets by our media and government, it seems to me, is unwarranted. I’ll lay out my reasons for and against this attention now.
- NK is enriching uranium, has several nuclear weapons already, and has a history of being an irresponsible and neglectful regime. Therefore, it is a wise choice to be keeping an eye on them and helping to create a more stable environment in S.E. Asia.
- At least from a Western perspective, the promotion of democratic values is a good thing.
- The humanitarian in me wants to see people getting the food, clean water, and education that, arguably, every human being needs to lead a successful and happy life.
- North Korea, in spite of its weapons, has very little strategic importance to anyone but the South Koreans. Yes, they could invade S.K. but then at the same time face carpet bombings from the U.S.
- Try as we might, China will never allow the U.S. to have a greater influence in the politics of N.K. than we do as it is the primary buffer between China and one of the largest strategic deployments of American military strength in the world.
- And here’s the reason for the rest of this post. The main point for the hype of North Korea is because of its public popularity.
And I’ll expand on that now.
Again, my humanitarian side is incredibly happy for the opportunity to begin pulling North Korea out of the stone age it has been in for the past decade. Ever since it was hit by a famine in 1990’s the regime there has shown such incredible neglect of its people that it’s a wonder there is still a country to consider at all. The negotiations that on the table: N.K. will suspend its uranium enrichment activities, while allowing IAEA inspectors to verify that such actions have been taken, in exchange (initially) for 200,000+ tons of food aid from the US. A good start I suppose.
However, if Washington were truly worried about feeding hungry people, why have we not taken more action, not just in feeding the hungry in Africa but also in creating more development and investment opportunities in Africa as a whole? Why am I bringing in Africa? Because it is possibly the largest strategic and financial investment opportunity of the 21st Century. Africa is the second largest continent on the globe in both population and land mass, yet it produces 1% of world GDP, with 60% of continental GDP coming from South Africa (yes, including oil states). Everyone knows that Africa in itself is resource rich but its people are impoverished for a variety of reasons. I won’t go into those reasons here.
Here’s my point. Let’s, as a nation, make more strategic investment in the continent of Africa, where most of those nations are ready and willing to have new development initiatives within their borders. Yes, there are a multitude of obstacles to overcome but the longterm payoffs will be huge (just ask China).
The reason why I think that anything to do with North Korea gets so much attention is because it is a popular topic, not because it is strategically or economically important. Bottom line, it comes down to marketing not pragmatism. North Korea has been demonized for so long in our nation (along with Iran btw) that any action that has the potential of yielding even meager positive results becomes big time political ammunition for the parties involved. People are interested in places like North Korea, not Africa. Why? In the minds of many Americans, Africa will always be the place where people live in huts, carry things on their heads, and political dissidents fire AK-47s into the air. Africa is not popular.
Here is an underlying problem with our whole culture. People are elected based on popularity and excitement, not on ideas. The exception to this is when ideas piss people off (just look at Santorum, possibly the most polarizing candidate in recent history). Africa, in the minds of many, is a lost cause and generally uninteresting. I was even this way until I actually started doing some real research into the continent.
I realize, this post has been a shotgun blast of ideas, but give what I’m saying a thought. I’m not saying that North Korea should not be invested in, but instead, that if we are actually serious about creating sustainable change in the world and promoting things like political stability, new investment markets, and the furthering of democratic ideals, we ought to take a much closer look at Africa.