North Korea, Poster Child For HBD Theory

In a response to a race denier on this blog, who argued for the primacy of culture and political economic systems, Lazy Glossophiliac wrote:

In regards to North Korea: how’s that Sudanese nuclear weapons program coming along? Any 100-story hotels put up with the help of local engineering talent? Come to think of it, did even any of Dubai’s high-rise projects use local engineering talent? If the US government ever became so displeased with Congo-Brazzaville as to wish to contain it, how many troops would it need to use? 400? 4,000? 40,000? How long would they have to stay? How much money would have to be spent on this?

Touché. NK demonstrates that no matter how fucked up a country’s polity is, the HBD component will still make itself felt. The distortions of a command economy that directs up to a third of the national output into the MIC might be making it as poor as Senegal but the hermit kingdom nonetheless managed to build nuclear weapons, ICBM’s, architectural splendors, an indigenous operating system; synchronize gymnastics performances involving hundreds of thousands of people; invent political philosophies like Juche and Songun; create a ton of inspiring music; and maintain a million man army posing a grave threat to the prosperity and well-being of its immeasurably richer southern neighbor.

In effect a nation of 23 million people has managed to build, and sustain for 60 years and counting, a mini civilization against a hostile outside world. It might be a deeply perverse civilization from our perspective, held together by love and fear of the Leader, but it is no less an achievement for all that. It is ironic but had Koreans been a less intelligent and socially conformist people, the regime would have likely long since disintegrated from total collapse of basic infrastructure and discipline.

New York Times Manipulation Of The (Alleged) North Korean Missile Sales To Iran Cable

It’s sad, but not unexpected, to see the usual motley of neocons, freepers and general creeps crawling about the interwebs, baying for Assange’s blood and calling for him to be disappeared into the Nacht und Nebel. But it is absolutely tragic that, misled by the MSM and dulled by their own cynicism, so many people who in other times might have resisted those right-wing thugs, instead just content themselves with making smartass remarks about how Cablegate has revealed nothing new or consequential (or even, implausibly and disingenuously, accuse Wikileaks of being a CIA front tasked with spreading pro-US disinformation).

Now even if this charge were valid, it would be no reason to dismiss a project that is enabling the rise of “contemporary history” and opening up the cynical workings of geopolitical actors to a public that is nowhere near as familiar with them as those smug commentators. And it’s no reason whatsoever not to condemn the enraged lunatic fringe calling for Wikileaks to be branded a terrorist organization (with all the attendant consequences for its members’ life expectancy), or not to confront the “moderates” like Joe Lieberman who intimidate private enterprises into joining the crusade against Wikileaks and through their actions enable the extremists. [BTW, a fun factoid: one of old Joe's biggest hobbies is bashing Russia for its human rights abuses, such as breaking up (unsanctioned) protests: such atrocities never happen in the US, of course.]

But even that isn’t all there is to it, because if you look deeply enough, there ARE many, many very interesting revelations in these cables. It’s just that the Western MSM, beholden to the corporate and political elites that provide it with audiences, sources and funding, is actually COLLUDING with their governments, and above all the US government, to conceal or ACTIVELY DISTORT the content of many of these cables. And with great success, as even the skeptics and free thinkers are drawn into the resulting narrative.

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How a Second Korean War will be Fought

The recent sinking of a South Korean (ROK) corvette, with the probable deaths of several dozen sailors, brings to focus the fraught situation on the Korean peninsula. Now the cause of this incident – North Korean (DPRK) torpedo or tragic accident – is not yet clear. Moreover, the two sides have a long history of border clashes – the current hot-spot over the Northern Limit Line, claimed by the ROK but disputed by the DPRK, has already seen three armed clashes in 1999, 2002, and 2009. The Korean War never really ended (the DPRK actually withdrew from the 1953 Armistice in 2009), and the North has pursued a strategy of periodically ratcheting up tensions to extract concessions from South Korea and the US. So this latest near-crisis is neither unexpected nor exceptionally destabilizing. As with the Cold War nuclear standoff, though the chances of any one trigger setting off an escalation to all-out war are small, they do accumulate over time.

Welcome to North Korea!

The Democratic People’s Republic is, as is well known, neither democratic (elections are fixed), popular (it is run by a small clique), or even a republic (Kim Jong-il succeeded his father Kim Il-sung to become “Supreme Leader”, and his son Kim Jong-un is slated to take over in 2012). Its political economy is essentialy based on the Asiatic mode of production – “held in thrall by a despotic ruling clique, residing in central cities and directly expropriating surplus from largely autarkic and generally undifferentiated village communities” (Martin & Wigen, 1997). These surpluses are used to buy the loyalties of the ruling elites who plan the DPRK’s self-sufficient economy (Juche) and uphold the “military first” (Songun) policy, as a result of which the DPRK is by far the most militarized state in the world – around 5% of its population are in the Korean People’s Army, on which the state has lavished a third of its entire gross product since the 1970’s. What emerges is an apotheosis of industrial totalitarianism, a “hermit kingdom” that manages to develop ballistic missiles and nukes, but can’t even feed its people – permanent dearth occasionally dips into outright famine, such as in 1995-98 when around 12% of its population starved to death.

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