By Dean Buckley
Military intervention is no laughing matter, but we live in a world where it can sometimes be a cruel necessity. Earlier this week, the United States launched military operations against the Islamic State. I don’t know if that’s the right call, geopolitically speaking. Some international entanglements are more complicated than others.
But I’m pretty damn sure we need to invade North Korea.
Yes, I know China won’t stand for it, so that why I think any nation who might contribute to a humanitarian intervention force, including Ireland, needs to start laying the groundwork for this project immediately so when we finally convince China to stop propping up their southern neighbour, we’ll be ready to roll on out.
I realise that could take decades, but those decades will still be a whole lot shorter than the natural death of the brutal regime in North Korea.
Most of the time, we in the western world tend to think about North Korea only in terms of its comedic value. Wow, that Kim Jong-il, what a kook, eh? Built a multi-million-dollar basketball stadium just to house a signed basketball. So crazy.
Or that Kim Jong-un, he’s a veritable cornucopia of fat jokes. Lol.
But the situation for the people of North Korea is anything but laughable, in fact, it’s pretty much one of the world’s longest and most devastating humanitarian crises, and also the one we’re doing the least to actually solve.
Oh right, we send aid to North Korea, but the spending of that aid is purely at the discretion of the government. I refer you to a previous description of Kim Jong-il building a basketball stadium just so he’d have a place to keep a signed basketball.
So let’s look at what that means for ordinary people in the most misunderstood countries on the face of the Earth.
North Korea has been in a state of continuous famine since the nineties. The country has virtually no capacity to feed even a fraction of its own population and remains almost completely dependent on food aid from the rest of the world to ward off mass starvation.
Any interruption to food aid would immediately kill millions of people. What little food is produced in North Korea, and a significant portion of international food aid, goes toward feeding the army, because they need a lot of energy to oppress the ordinary citizens.
North Korea is the most drug-addicted country in the world. How did that happen? Well, the government of North Korea is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of crystal meth. By all accounts, it’s actually quite good, as meth goes, and it’s finding its way out of Asia and into the west, so you too will soon have the privilege of getting high on slave labour.
An interesting thing about meth is that it staves off hunger. So what’s a government to do when it has a starving population it needs to control and also a massive supply of crystal meth? Obviously, they give away crystal meth in ration packages. Obviously.
Also, the reason the government of North Korea became a global producer and distributor of crystal meth is because North Korea has basically no economy. The country is empirically and objectively, on all possible scales, one of the poorest and least developed countries in the entire world.
And their government consists entirely of either ideologues who won’t give up the dream of North Korean self-sufficiency or mercenary megalomaniacs who are only out for themselves, so you can be damn sure the bamboo curtain won’t fall and let any foreign investment into the country any time soon. So there’s no chance of an economic solution here.
Usually, even the most brutal dictatorships leave some sort of freedom lying around, if only to placate their subjects. Vladimir Putin may oppress a lot of people in the Federation of Russia, but he also keeps them fed, sheltered and healthy. General Pinochet murdered a lot of folk in Chile, but he at least gave them some semblance of trade and economy.
The situation in North Korea is just completely inhumane. There are no redeeming factors, nothing even the most devoted apologist for authoritarian communism could dream up to justify or explain away what’s happening there.
If the international community has ever cared about saving lives and freeing people from brutality, and not just our own naked self-interest, this is where we show it. We won’t do it tomorrow, or the next day, but if we commit to doing it, if we plan this out properly, if we start talking to Beijing about how to make this happen, we can get there.
And we can put an end to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the history of the world. Surely, that’s something at least worth dreaming about.