"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong."- Thomas Sowell
Earlier this week, the South Korean government finally acknowledged what most observers had long suspected: that a North Korean torpedo sank the ROK Navy corvette Cheonan in late March. In a televised address to the nation, President Lee Myung-bak outlined the South's response to the sinking, promising, among other things, to take the matter to the UN security council, to cut almost all economic aid to North Korea, and to bolster the ROK's military posture against future North Korean incursions. While a few people in Seoul have grumbled that the response is not firm enough (i.e. that there should have been retaliatory strikes against the North), most South Koreans seem to believe that, as abominable as the North's actions may be, South Korea simply cannot afford to risk an all-out war with its northern neighbor.
And there you have it: the reason the two Koreas have been separated for sixty-plus years, despite the fact that South Korea has for some time been the stronger military power and, what's more, has been backed up by the U.S. military, the strongest the world has ever seen. As South Korea has become wealthier and more stable, the South Korean appetite for stirring up the North Korean beehive - and, as a result, likely absorbing 25 million raggedy-ass North Korean refugees - has declined. And that scenario presumes that all goes according to the best laid plans. Northeast Asia, however, is an historically rough neighborhood, so one can understand why South Koreans would be nervous about launching a war that could provoke the involvement of China, Russia, and Japan, in addition to the United States. The South Koreans have the most skin in this game, as it were, and if they're nervous about a war, it might be wise to follow their lead.
And yet, here we have, in the Bloggingheads video above, Professor Charli Carpenter suggesting that a "quick and decisive" war would be the most "humane" solution to the long-running Korean stalemate (as though Asian wars have historically been "quick and decisive"). Easy for her to say, esconced as she is in the bucolic serenity of Amherst, Massachusetts. After all, the North Korean artillery presently trained on Seoul doesn't threaten her family, her job, or her life. But, claims Carpenter, "we" just need to find a way to evacuate everyone in Seoul. Clearly, she's never tried to get out of Seoul, with its legendary traffic jams, on a normal Friday evening, let alone while being chased by the NorKs.
Carpenter, in this instance at least, exemplifies that which irritates me most about academia: there is seldom any consequence for being wrong. If enacted, her proposal would throw the Northeast Asian economy - presently one of the most vibrant in the world - into chaos, while potentially killing millions of people, yet she herself would still have a cozy professorship at UMass.
Surely, a special place in heaven awaits Daniel Drezner for enduring this episode over at BhTV.