Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What, exactly, does Jonah Goldberg want us to do in North Korea?

Eventually this dynasty of misery will end and North Koreans, starved, stunted, and beaten, will crawl back into the light of civilization. My hunch is that it will not be easy to meet their gaze, nor history’s. No one will be able to claim they didn’t know what was happening, and very few of us will be able to say we did anything at all to help.

Jonah Goldberg, via

Jonah Goldberg has a really annoying -- one might even say cowardly -- way of suggesting policy choices without explicitly advocating for them. He's well-remembered for wondering out loud why nobody had killed Julian Assange, but then (implausibly, in my mind) denied that he was making the case for killing Julian Assange. He's defended torture in similarly convoluted fashion, saying that waterboarding is bad, but is it such a big deal if it only happened to three people?

Here, Goldberg seems very much to be advocating for a U.S. invasion of North Korea. He's dismissive of opposition: "After all, America, we are told again and again, is overextended. And we all know that the concept of regime change — the only conceivable remedy for North Korea’s plight — is out of favor."

But he never tells us precisely how that regime change should come about. And good thing for him! Because if it *was* an invasion, he'd have to start wrestling with questions about the likely impact on South Koreans, or about China's likely reaction if the United States acted on its own initiative to bring down one of its client states. He'd have to grapple honestly with whether the United States actually can afford the blood and treasure that would be expended in pursuit of bringing down the Communist regime.

Instead, his vagueness allows him to act as though the choices are made in a vacuum. North Koreans have it bad -- and, lordy, he's right about that one, their plight is a very real tragedy -- so somebody should do something. Fine, Jonah. What should we do? What should we do?

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