In the Led Zeppelin song ‘Stairway to Heaven’, there’s a lady who knows sometimes words have two meanings. BFF means Best Friends Forever, which was my original intent, but it can also mean Big Fat Fuck, which fits nicely.

During the Korean war, Mao famously quipped that for the USA, one dead soldier is a tragedy, but for China, one million dead are a statistic—and at that time, the Middle Kingdom had only six hundred million people, forty percent of the current population.

It strikes me that one of the many reasons why business tycoons shouldn’t be trusted with the destiny of nations is that corporate deal-making is essentially bilateral.

CEO’s are ill-equipped to solve multilateral issues, whereas politicians can be pretty good at bringing parties together, generating consensus, and walking away with substantive agreements—Thatcher once said that consensus is the opposite of unanimity, and I would add that in world affairs, consensus is the art of the deal.

The US position on Korea reflects this blatant lack of understanding. In the first place, the position should be on Korea, rather than North Korea, because the problem can only be solved holistically. And secondly, it involves six nations at the very least.

Of these, the US is a superpower, and Russia and China are world powers. Japan is an economic powerhouse and a military eunuch. South Korea is relatively similar to Japan, and North Korea is the opposite.

If you check the historical Hate-O-Meter, then Japan and China hate each other, Japan and Korea likewise, the Koreas dislike each other, and US moods have shifted. And deep down, most all the Asian nations resent or dislike America.

In this six nations tournament, the teams are not all going for the same trophy. South Korea wants to stay wealthy and safe from the armed robbers next door; China wants to be the regional superpower, and will not accept nuclear weapons on its back porch—just as the US wouldn’t tolerate them in Cuba.

Japan wants to be rearmed or reassured, the US wants to be the lead and to be loved, and the Russians want to screw the Chinese, Americans, and Japanese, though not necessarily in that order.

Does this sound complicated enough? From a military viewpoint, this isn’t a theater, it’s a multiplex. As an example, increased commitment in the Korean peninsula weakens resources in the Mid-East, so there’s a trade-off in Syria, Iraq, and yes, the evil twins, which puts a smile on the face of the Russian bear.

Cartoon of a train wreck. Award-winning entry in a recent competition in Tehran.

And at the center of all this geopolitical mayhem is a little country with less that fifty thousand square miles, twenty-five million people, a per capita GDP under 600 bucks, and an insane, multi-generational dictatorship.

So the idea that there’s a deal to be made between the USA and China to solve this bilaterally is a monument to stupidity—and Xi Jinping sure ain’t stupid.

Somewhere between the golf course and the chocolate cake, the Chinese president must have realized he was talking to one of the resort’s signature idiots—a man, possibly even a BFF, who didn’t understand that insulting the celestials repeatedly, calling them currency manipulators and worse, would never result in them becoming BFF—to the Chinese, loss of face is like terminal cancer.

Examples of the Middle Kingdom buffering its borders are numerous—the China-India border is the mother of all disputes: Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, and India itself.

Vietnam is another example of a key buffer—a country the Chinese supported militarily until the USA finally lost that war.

China will not abdicate its perceived right to a Korean buffer, unless the trade-off is a sympathetic Korean peninsula and no American troops. In other words, ‘solving’ North Korea by turning it into part of a US-supported Korea is  a non-starter.

Japan certainly wouldn’t welcome an American pullout—it remembers its gigantic neighbor too well. Nor would Russia, who is quite happy tying Uncle Sam down in East Asia while making hay in Syria, and keeping an eye on Iran and Saudi Arabia, the evil twins.

Complex problems rarely have simple solutions.

What part of this problem does the BFF not understand?

All of it.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.



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