Friday, June 4, 2010
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What the North Korean and Israeli Gaza Flotilla Clashes Have in Common
As Usual, The Usual Protestations Hide the Usual True Motivations, With the Usual Results
Two Quasi-Parallel Relationships
North Korea stands accused, on very hard evidence, of sinking a South Korean ship in an unprovoked surprise attack on March 26, and killing 46 South Korean sailors. South Korea promises that North Korea “will pay” at the hands of ….wait for it …the United Nations. China promised it will “protect no one” but has otherwise remained quite circumspect on any action against its client state North Korea. Israel is now accused of killing nine pro-Hamas, pro-Palestinian activists after they boarded a ship that was trying to run an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, itself part of a larger effort to stop arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Much outrage has been expressed from around the world regarding these two events, as they dominate world news coverage. These two separate events have much in common. For one thing, in North Korea, we have a delusionally paranoid regime that seeks to arm itself with nuclear weapons against international agreements, while in Israel, we have a justifiably paranoid state that has already allegedly secretly armed itself with nuclear weapons against international conventions. Another common element is that both events will have the eventual long-term consequence of doing little more than re-asserting the status quo.
Both of these events are governed by a fundamental axiom of human behavior whereby interested parties adopt their views entirely based on their own motivations, and not at all on the facts of each case. China is not going to support any real, punishing action against North Korea, no matter what is done under the “Dear Leader’s” direction – short of an outright nuclear detonation. And, practically the same can be said about the United States and Israel. Of course, we don’t mean here to draw a moral parallel between the two relationships, or the four actors. But the parallel between the two relationships in terms of how they work and how they impact world affairs is real.
No Surprises Here, All Went as Planned
China has no interest in bringing North Korea to heel. In fact, having a slightly rabid dog at its side that only it can control has it benefits. When it comes to Israel, those that are outraged at Israel’s actions were most certainly already outraged at Israel’s existence prior to the attack; and the imperatives that are the basis for the U.S.-Israel alliance are impossible for any U.S. president, even pro-Palestine Barak Obama, to ignore. As it was, Turkey, the geographical source of the flotilla, has been a hotbed of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and anti-American propaganda for the last few years, and the government there had no illusions about what the Israelis might do to the protesters it was facilitating out its ports. They were eager to put Israel into a lose-lose proposition (undermine blockade, or PR disaster). For its part, Israel has a long history of not shying away from harsh tactics that offend everyone’s sensibilities, when it perceives its security is at stake. Israel even attacked a U.S. navy ship in 1967, killing 34 American sailors. What happened this week was nothing more than the usual suspects poking the sleeping tiger to see if it would still bite. The Israelis, fully aware of the temporary PR costs, made sure they found that it still does.
Whatever one thinks about the guilt or justice of these two separate events, we see nothing in either of these events that represents anything significantly new in the realm of world affairs, and thus, nothing new of any significance will come from either event.