How do you solve a problem like North Korea?

It was while I was guiltily enjoying a clip of the British television import (invasion?) The Voice USA that a heterodox thought occurred to me. Why don’t we have a talent show for things that matter? There are shows where people competitively sing, dance, bake, sew – even bargain hunt. Clearly on some level, we view these programmes as being an effective means of identifying talent; if we didn’t, why on Earth would we inflict the winner of Britain’s Got Talent on the Royal Variety Performance?

We could pit members of the general public against one another to come up with solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time. Got the perfect replacement for austerity? Apply to be on The Great British Macroeconomic Policy Formulation-Off. Have the perfect conception for future institutional relations between European nations? Welcome to Who Do EU Think You Are? (Admittedly not a talent-show, but the use of EU to mean ‘you’ would at least be familiar to readers of right-wing papers). Have a great idea for British foreign policy? Battle it out with others on the X(tra-national affairs) Factor.

Though this is glib, it would at least generate some new thinking. The reason I bring this up is the stark paucity of substantive analysis of Britain’s policy towards North Korea. I recognise that this is far from our sole responsibility. Our involvement in the Korean War (1950-1953), friendship with regional neighbours, and general interest in a secure world-order means we cannot continue to place our fingers in our ears whenever Pyongyang starts to make noise.

Currently, our policy has echoed that of the US. ‘Strategic patience’ has largely consisted of economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea in order to discourage bad behaviour. As anyone who has been following news of missile tests will understand, such an approach has palpably failed. The regime elites are capable of appropriating wealth in any circumstance, and care little for the plight of the cowed masses.

Yet those who blithely suggest war equally misunderstand the situation. North Korea is not Saddam’s Iraq. The North Korean People’s Army is the fifth largest in the world, with 1.2 million active troops, and stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Any military action would come at great cost, and victory would be far from assured.

What to do about the perennially troublesome Korean peninsula has been stumping the best and brightest foreign-policy experts for too long. Perhaps opening it up to the general public wouldn’t be such a mad idea. If nothing else, it’d be better television than Casualty.


Written By: Matt Allen


Author: alternativefactsuk

Current Affairs and Economics from Loud Voices

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