What North Korea Really Wants

Could it be that ideology is not driving North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, but rather an attempt to become a full-fledged “member of the international community”?

New York Times:

Conventional wisdom holds that the North’s weapons are intended to address the country’s two greatest problems — military inferiority and economic weakness — by deterring the United States and extracting concessions.

But in practice, the weapons make both problems worse by increasing the risk of war and ensuring continued sanctions.

So what is driving the North’s actions? Earlier assessments pegged the country as irrational or warped by its own ideology. But virtually every expert now dismisses those explanations, saying that North Korea has managed its history-defying survival too cannily to be anything but coldly rational.

North Korea envisions the United States one day concluding that it has grown too powerful to coerce and the status quo too risky to maintain, leading Washington to accept a grand bargain in which it would drop sanctions and withdraw some or all of its forces from South Korea.

Interestingly, the relationship between the world and North Korea shares a few similarities to the relationship between the world and China back in the 50s and 60s:

Mao Zedong’s China began, in the 1950s, as a pariah state, isolated and threatened by the United States. It became, in the 1960s, a rogue nuclear power. And then it rose, through the 1970s, into an accepted member of the international community, embraced even by its onetime adversary.

China ultimately won acceptance by playing the United States against the Soviet Union, not by rattling nuclear sabers. Its size and power also made it impossible for other nations to ignore it, advantages that North Korea lacks.

But North Korea’s desperation, as well as its longtime obsession with China, may have led it to see the possibility, however misguided, of achieving success by following Beijing’s script.

Richard Nixon formally visited China in 1972, and although it was a controversial move, history has shown that it signified a huge first step in the country’s relations with the world, not just the U.S.

What’s stopping us from doing the same with North Korea? Food for thought. What do you think?

Atheism Plummeting in Mother Russia

02-2806 CBN:

The number of Russians who call themselves atheists has fallen by 50 percent in only three years, according to a new poll.

The independent Levada Research Center conducted the survey in late June.

It showed that Russian atheists and those who describe themselves as “absolutely irreligious,” dropped from 26 percent in 2014 to 13 percent in 2017.

Religious believers now make up 86 percent of the Russian population and 44 percent say they are “quite religious,” but that number included Islam and eastern religions.

The poll found that the Russian Orthodox Church remains the major denomination by far in Russia, with 9 out of 10 respondents saying they view the Orthodox church with “respect and benevolence.”

74 percent of Russians view the Roman Catholic church with “respect and benevolence,” 61 percent hold a favorable view of Protestantism, followed by 59 percent for Islam and 56 percent who said they respect Judaism.

Say what you will about Putin or the Kremlin, but the Russian people are loyal to God and nation. They, along with the Poles, best represent the essence of Christendom, i.e., Western Civilization.

Russia Has More Legal High Ground Than the U.S. in Syria

So argues Adil Ahmad Haque in his article on Newsweek:

In plain terms, the U.S. may have a legal right to protect non-state partner forces who are exclusively “conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations,” but has no legal right to protect non-state partner forces who are pursuing regime change or other political objectives.

There is no right of collective self-defense of non-state actors, and the right of collective self-defense of other states only justifies measures that are necessary and proportionate means of achieving legitimate defensive aims.

For this reason, among others, the mixed motives of the U.S.-led coalition and its non-state partners compromise the legal basis of their military operations and draw them into conflict with Russia—both legally and militarily.

Read the whole piece here.

Happening in Belgium

If this was an attempt at a terrorist attack, it doesn’t sound like it went very well for the terrorist, fortunately.

ABC News:

A train station in Brussels, Belgium, was evacuated today after an explosion, a senior Belgian law enforcement official told ABC News. Police said the situation is “under control.”

One suspect has been shot by the military after the explosion at Brussels Central Station, the official said.

Several Belgian officials told ABC News that the suspect was wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt, but authorities have yet to confirm whether it was real.

There are no reports of fatalities at this point, a senior Belgian law enforcement official said.

Eyewitness Arash Aazami told ABC News he heard two explosions and gunfire. He was sheltering inside a restaurant as he told ABC News there was a heavy presence of military, ambulances and police.

Resort Town Built by Third Reich Redeveloped and Reopened

A Third Reich-era resort town built on the Baltic Sea is now open to the public after years of renovations.

CNBC:

More than 75 years after Adolph Hitler’s commissioned a dream tourist destination nestled near the Baltic Sea, the Nazi-era resort has been redeveloped for the general public.

Prora, which is located on the north eastern German Baltic coast on Rüegen Island, was originally commissioned by Hitler as a massive, 4.5 kilometers long beach holiday resort complex for German workers, under a program called “Strength through Joy.”

The original plans called for a festival hall and rooms located in eight, 450 meter-long blocks to accommodate 20,000 guests, with each room facing the sea. However, construction halted in 1939, and during World War II the complex housed Soviet soldiers. Decades later, the German government, which assumed administration after 1989, sold the five existing blocks to private investors.

Fast forward to 2017, and Prora is now a massive real estate development. While some parts are still in ruins, others have been rehabilitated to include a hotel, holiday apartments, a museum and a youth hostel.

“Strength Through Joy” was the world’s largest tourist program in the 1930s but fell by the wayside due to the Second World War. The massive project had a pragmatic goal in spurring the German economy and an ideological goal in fostering the Volksgemeinschaft, the National Socialist ideal of bringing Germans of all classes together into a single national (and thus racial) purpose.

Go here to check out Prora. Plenty of pictures!

Is WWIII Drawing Nigh?

Syria is back in the news. The US shot down a Syrian government jet over the weekend, claiming that it was dropping bombs near Kurdish-led forces fighting ISIS.

That has provoked an angry reaction from Damascus and Moscow. They claim the jet was actively engaged in a bombing campaign against ISIS fighters. The Syrian government called the U.S.’ attack a “cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty” and an “actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.” Russia suspended a communication line with the U.S. and has vowed to treat all US-coalition aircraft as targets (which, I should point out, is not necessarily synonymous with vowing to shoot them down).

Forget my Saturday post about a Sino-American war. A war against the Russo-Syro-Iranian alliance seems even closer. I was worried about one after Trump’s airstrike back in early April, though the conflict thankfully didn’t escalate. Now with the U.S. shooting down a Syrian jet and Iran ramping up its involvement in the area, tensions are rising once again.

Both sides accuse the other side of hampering their efforts against ISIS. Who’s really telling the truth? It’s hard to say. All I know is that misunderstanding and poor judgment is a recipe for conflict. And given the remarkable complexity that is the Syrian Civil War, is it even possible to avoid misunderstanding?