A Libertarian Approach to North Korea


Privileged citizens allowed to live in Pyongyang lined the streets in late 2011 to mourn the death of their “Dear Leader”. People threw themselves down and wailed almost comically in a show of unadulterated passion for the State. I would say the incentive to act with grief was high, considering a work camp or death would be the consequence for anything alternative. North Korea is under the grip of raw, unfiltered Authoritarianism that is starting to mimic a Pharaoh-like hereditary rule of half-god kings. There is no State on earth that is more diametrically opposed to the Liberty Movement.

So, as Libertarians, what do we do about it? It would be one thing if they kept to themselves. However, since assuming his reign, Kim the Third has been saber-rattling at an alarming rate. North Korea has initiated several missile test launches, performed provocative military drills and conducted an underground nuclear detonation to put a cherry on top. Now with threats to nuke a major US city on the west coast, can Libertarians really turn a cheek, be friends and hope they play nice? Where is the line drawn with consideration to the Non-Aggression Principle? The initiation of force is immoral, and self-defense is moral.

To be fair, the United States bullied its way into the affairs of the peninsula in the 1950s to engage in a hopeless and bloody attempt to “contain” the spread of Communism. As you can see, the conflict was so effective that it ended in a perpetual state of war through a shaky cease-fire and the buildup of one of the most militarized areas on earth. Ever since, the US has had tens of thousands of troops stationed in South Korea, kept a strong naval presence parked offshore and set up a grid of air bases capable of bombing the totalitarian regime into oblivion. The North Korean Army has an aged but expansive arsenal of equipment and highly trained ground soldiers. If the Korean War were to re-engage, there is no doubt it would be extremely violent on a massive scale.

The solution that many Libertarians would come up with is simple: Leave them alone! It is absolutely reasonable to assume that North Korea builds up a massive show of force because of the United States. It is an instinctual and primitive reaction to prepare for war when the enemy is pointing weapons at you. It is the height of hypocrisy for the Global American Empire to chastise a nation for being hostile while holding a gun to their head with a round chambered.

Let’s assume a Libertarian gets elected President in 2016 and vows to stop intimidating North Korea. The President reaches out to all disenfranchised nations of the world and promises a new era of world peace. The new President does what Ron Paul suggests and starts to trade with everyone on an equal basis. What does the President do if North Korean tanks roll in as American troops roll out? What if the day the last solider leaves South Korea, the North attacks? Technically, we are not being threatened and we are not being attacked. Where would the justification for helping the South Koreans come from, if any at all?

It is a very hostile and dangerous situation indeed, but there is a silver lining. The American public is weary of war. The US has been at war for over ten years in Afghanistan, Iraq and the indefinite global war on terrorism. The federal government will be hard pressed to sell preemptive war with North Korea. Couple that fact with the nation going through fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis and the continuously slumping economy; it would take an outright attack by North Korea for the US to go to war. As for the here and now, the best thing that could be done is to avoid conflict at all costs. One person dying for the State and special interest is one too many!

3 thoughts on “A Libertarian Approach to North Korea

  1. I’m sure the South Koreans would heartily disagree with you.
    Though I understand the “non-aggression” aspects of the Libertarian ideal, such things are eminently impractical, in real life.
    It would be great, to get every nation, every one, on Earth on the same page, but that is simply not possible. These rosy, “kum-by-yah” ideals do not work when applied in the real world, where power-mad bullies abound, and are not willing to play nice. Often, like it or not, only the larger powers-like the US-are capable holding them in check, in turn, then, being taken to task in “armchair quarterbacking” articles like this one, for being bullies. themselves.
    It was, after all, American-led “aggression” that pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea in the first place; otherwise, as history would suggest, the entire penninsula might have been united, today, under that same ultra-authoritarian, paranoid, “pharoah-like” state.
    Sometimes, doing the right thing means getting your hands dirty and acting pro-actively in the best interests of others, BEFORE it becomes your problem, because by that time, it’s very often too late.
    Should the US have sat out the European war against Nazism? Under the values expressed here, no. After all, Hitler didn’t attack us, the Japanese did. However, England was on its last legs, Japan was blowing its natural resources wad and would likely soon have reached the extent of their capabilities; that left Germany as the bigger threat.
    America did not relish the thought of fighting a war in the Europe and the Pacific, on its own, however. Therefore, equipment, and then troops, were sent to England to keep her in the game. Beseiged Russia was supplied, as well.
    Under these ideals, however, Russia, England AND America, today, might likely have been speaking German 9and/or Japanese) and saluting their Fascist overlords since the late 1940s, at least.
    The presence of the US in South Korea and Japan is very likely the only thing which has kept the peace for over 60 years.

  2. Sorry; this site needs an “edit” function. That should have said “yes” the US should have sat out the European war. Apologies; changed the approach of the reply, but not that word.

  3. I wrote the article to frame a debate, to be true to the situation and not to advocate for one side or another and I believe I succeeded in that. It is true that DKRP wants to unite the peninsula under their rule and that would be devastating for the South Koreans (obviously). However, where does the question come into play of it being our fight? Are the South Koreans not capable of defending themselves? Why should American tax money and blood be used to defend South Koreans? Surely you could not argue that if the North united the peninsula, that it would threaten the entire world and we would be speaking Korean.

    In contrast, we pulled out of Vietnam and Communism took over. We are now perfectly peaceful and trade with the nation. Dare I say splitting the peninsula in half and creating a constant, hyper-militarized environment facilitate the isolation? And that isolation allowed the psychopathic leaders to brainwash their population into a mass Stockholm Syndrome? I’d say it certainly did not help.

    You mentioned WWII, we were legitimately attacked and were completely justified in our entering the war. Same goes for the war in Afghanistan (If you believe the official 9/11 story) but the jump to aggression led to the war in Iraq over aluminum tubes and phantom WMDs. The Libertarian philosophy calls for a strong DEFENSE, not preemptive offense. Sure, we are not all speaking German now because Nazis were defeated, but what is the world currency and language instead? The Dollar and English.

    But alas, to hit on the less philosophical points you raised, the US military industrial-complex is heavily invested in the area. Also, there is a great dependance by the South Korean government on our protection. In my opinion, the best case Libertarian scenario is to have the US phase out our military presence over a period of time.

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