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Jerusalem Today

“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”

– David Ben Gurion, Israel’s First Prime Minister

Jerusalem is a place like any other city. People live, work and shop, all things that you do in a normal life. But Jerusalem’s Old City is ancient and special in the hearts of Palestinians and Israelis.

The best vantage point is on the Mount of Olives, is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City. The Mount of Olives is a place for several key events in the life of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, it’s described as the place that Jesus ascended into heaven.

From the Mount of Olives, you can see the Dome of the Rock in all its golden magnificence, shining in the noonday sun.  The Dome is a key holy site for Muslims because it’s where they believe Mohammad ascended to heaven. Behind the Dome is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Church is built on the site, where most Christians believe, that Christ was crucified. Out of site from the Mount of Olives is the Western Wall, Jewry’s holiest place. The Wall supports the Mount where the Temple once stood.

Jerusalem’s significance is not in dispute, but it’s status. After nearly 20 years divided by barbed wire, Israeli soldiers took control of the whole city, East and West, in 1967.  The international community did not recognize what Israelis called the “reunification” of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Western Wall

All embassies stayed in Tel Aviv. East Jerusalem was accepted by the international community as the future capital of a Palestinian State. This was the agreement between a negotiated settlement of Israelis and Palestinians. President Donald Trump recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel may undermine the regional stability. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will be rocked.

 

 

 

 

The Korean War- An Introduction

“In the simplest of terms, what we are doing in Korea is this: We are trying to prevent a third world war.”
– President Harry S. Truman, April 16, 1951

What was the Korean War?

The Korean War is often dismissed as America’s “Forgotten War.” Unlike World War II, it did not capture the nation’s attention. There were no dramatic events like the Pearl Harbor bombing to threaten the United States’ national security. The Korean conflict did not arouse the divisive controversy of the war in Vietnam.

In the 1950s, the American people were not inclined to demonstrate against the government. Instead, they mostly ignored the Korean War while it was being fought. The Korean War was not an insignificant conflict.

The brutality of the three-year world had long-lasting military and political ramifications. Unfortunately, the lessons of the Korean War seemed virtually ignored as the United States entered Vietnam a decade later.

For hundreds of years, Korea was dominated by China, its giant neighbor to the north. By the end of the 19th century, the Chinese empire had lost much of its military power. The jutting peninsula would then become the target of Russian expansion. By the turn of the 20th century, imperial Japan had reached across the Sea of Japan to gain control of Korea.

In August 1945, the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The surrender of Japan to the U.S. and its allies seemed inevitable. Almost simultaneously the Soviet Union also declared war on Japan and sought to coordinate an invasion of the Korean Peninsula with American forces. The Soviets entered Korea from the north, and the U.S. invaded from the south.

With the Japanese subdued, it was agreed that Korea would be divided temporarily along the 38th parallel line for military and administrative purposes during the waning months of World War II. The United States occupied the south, the Soviet Union the north. Initially, both the Soviets and the Americans intended to leave Korea. Both sides presumed that elections would be held to establish a single, unifying government.

The Korean Peninsula

However, each side also wanted to leave behind a nation that was favorable to their beliefs and particular ideology. The Soviets sought a communist Korea, while the United States wished for a democratic Korea.

In the years following World War II, a brooding Cold War dilemma planted the seeds of a conflict yet to surface. Unable to resolve their differences, two rigidly distinct states emerged on the Korean Peninsula.

In the north, the Soviets aided Kim Il Sung, a product of the Soviet military machine, to become its leading political figure. In the south, an aging patriot named Syngman Rhee ascended to power.

Although the U.S. did not particularly like him, Rhee offered a strong anti-communist stance and was committed to maintaining civil order. Although the two political governments existed in Korea in 1947, they were still only provisional governments. This gave the Korean people hope for a negotiated unification. Unfortunately, the negotiations eventually reached an impasse.

The frustrated United States presented the problem before the United Nations. The U.S. asked that a general election be held to resolve the issue. At the time, the United Nations was only a five-year-old organization established in the waning days of World War II. The chief goal of the U.N. was to promote world peace.

The suspicious Soviet Union refused to allow the election to be held in North Korea. Meanwhile, South Korea’s elections legitimized Rhee’s government to the western world. In a separate election, North Korea declared Kim Il Sung the President of the new Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Soviet Union and other communist countries recognized this election and the creation of North Korea as a country. The separate election of 1948 only served to set the stage for an almost certain civil war.

By 1950, both North and South Korea sensed the inevitable. Not only were their armies preparing for war, but both Syngman Rhee and Kim Il Sung declared on several occasions that military force would be necessary to unify Korea.

In the United States, the drama began to unfurl on June 24, 1950.  The American Secretary of State Dean Acheson telephoned President Harry S. Truman. Truman was visiting his home in Independence, Missouri. Acheson said, “Mr. President, I have very serious news. The North Koreans have invaded South Korea.”

How dangerous is North Korea, really?

Is North Korea Dangerous- or Desperate? Both. How Kim Jung Un has backed Western leaders into a corner.

Yesterday President Donald Trump designated North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism because of the rogue regime’s repeated support of terror and continued nuclear threats. The three other nations on the list are Iran, Sudan, and Syria.

In the past, North Korea is a country that Americans love to hate, with good reason.

A United Nations Force led by the Americans fought a costly war on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea troops poured over across the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.

North Korea

The Korean War (1950-1953) ended in a stalemate and cost over 33,650 American lives.

President George W. Bush made North Korea a charter member of his “Axis of Evil” in 2002. Later in 2008, Pyongyang was taken off that list by the George W. Bush administration to ease nuclear deal negotiations. Fifteen years later things haven’t gotten any better with a younger and more insane dictator at the helm.

North Korea is a secretive police state led by an “unreasonable” dictator. Now it’s believed to possess chemical and biological weapons, along with nuclear missiles capable of hitting America’s West Coast.

President Trump’s extravagant fears would appear to have some basis in fact.

The United States military is certainly acting as if North Korea were an imminent threat, a massive show of American firepower has three carriers in the waters around Korea. This impressive display of military might includes fighter jets, nuclear submarines, cruisers, and destroyers. There is a hint that a military strike against North Korea’s nuclear facilities may be coming sooner rather later if Kim doesn’t stop with the nuclear threats.

The reality is that North Korea right now is more desperate than dangerous. Its economy is collapsing under the weight of brutal, but justified U.N. sanctions. Its principal ally, China, seems to be backing away from North Korea amid growing U.S. pressure.

What is the deal with North Korea?

North Korea is the worst and weirdest place on earth. North Korea is a place that is a constant source of frustration, fear, and amusement to the United States.

North Korea is a convoluted place. It makes you cringe in disgust, yell in frustration look at with bewilderment and laugh-out-loud with its singular vision as a Communist paradise. North Korea is a country that suffers from its own internal contradictions.

North Korea is anything but a utopia. It’s one of the cruelest, most controlled and isolated countries on earth. North Korea is ruled by a violent, repressive regime.

Its internal politics seem to be fractured. Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam was killed by a highly toxic nerve agent in Malaysia in February 2017. Investigators suspect Kim killed his brother to remove him as a possible threat.

Kim Jong Un drawing

North Korea’s attempts to cause mayhem in the world- by test-firing long-range missiles into the Sea of Japan and threatening the West with nuclear annihilation.

Sandwiched between China, Japan and bordered by South Korea, North Korea lives in a complicated neighborhood with a variety of security issues. Ineptitude and failure have marked North Korea’s nuclear program. Some outside observers see the North Korean nuclear program as a pathetic cry for help for a nation on the brink of starvation with a nuclear threat as its own bargaining tool.

The American-led coalition is justifiably intimidated by North Korea’s retaliatory capabilities.

North Korea’s nuclear project has been severely compromised over the years by an ongoing, joint U.S. – U.N. blocking effort with sanctions banning imports of coal, minerals, and seafood.

The North Koreans have rebuffed President Trump’s effort to negotiate with the rogue regime. The failed negotiations served a larger purpose: it made it clear to the Europeans, Russians and most important to the Chinese that North Korean’s leadership was inflexible. This made Chinese and Russian cooperation on U.N. sanctions possible.

Now North Korea is nearly isolated. Pyongyang is extremely unpopular in the world, but its nuclear rhetoric has not ebbed. The martyrdom of the Hermit Kingdom is reinforced as it stands alone in the world.

There are signs that even North Korea’s long-time ally China is growing impatient with Kim.This is augmented by America’s heavy military presence in the region, as Kim continues to issue threats. Kim Jong Un has backed the West into a corner.

Kim’s only reasonable option is to negotiate with the West. But as his erratic behavior has shown, Kim Jong Un is not a reasonable man.

A year ago the UN Security Council passed sanctions that cut North Korea’s main export by 60 per cent.

Every day Monday through Saturday, more than 24 million people work to maintain the communist machine of North Korea. North Korea is a unique political experiment that has been running for almost 70 years. It’s all at the expense of an isolated and subjugated people. The North Koreans see themselves as being protected from the outside world by the Dear Leader.

Kim Jong Un’s exact age is a mystery even to North Koreans. Like his father and grandfather before him, the young general is head of state in a country at war with the outside world. The country is exhausted and decimated by four million deaths suffered from earthquakes, famine, and starvation in the 1980s and 1990s.

North Korea is obsessed with what happened to the Soviet Union in 1991. Pyongyang believes that if you compromise with the West, you collapse. Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather never compromised. From this example, Kim is unrelenting and unengageable.

In April 2017, President Trump started working with China to deter Pyongyang from developing more nuclear weapons. That same month the U.S. installed a missile defense in South Korea. The Chinese hate having the system’s capabilities in their backyard.

China is North Korea’s only significant trade partner. China has suspended its coal purchases from North Korea. China is reluctant to push too hard because it doesn’t want a collapse of the North Korea government. Meanwhile both South and North Korea have hundreds of thousands of troops on either side of the border.

President Trump’s visit to China last week was an attempt to thaw the chilly relations with North Korea. President’s Trump’s trip was a calculated move to drive a deep wedge between the world’s two remaining communist powers.

Closer diplomatic relations with China is significant leverage to deal with North Korea, particularly on the issue of nuclear weapons. Despite claims of solidarity, North Korea, and China are, at best, strongly suspicious allies due to the aligning of China with the West.

President Trump plan is to use China to contain North Korea. Diplomatic overtures to the Chinese might make stubborn North Korea more malleable to U.S. policy requests. China might be able to pressure Pyongyang to sign a peace treaty and de-escalate their nuclear threat.

North Korea seems to be following another more compelling model: Pakistan. As soon as Pakistan gained nuclear weapons in 1975, the world treated Pakistan with more respect. North Korea is getting clobbered by sanctions. Its economy may collapse before any concessions can be reached.

North Korea has a long history of escalating and deescalating tensions over the last 60 years. Pyongyang does this game of cat and mouse to broker deals of economic and concessions of U.N. sanctions.

This leaves the U.S. and its allies in a tricky position. Most diplomatic situations call for a carrot or stick approach. Unfortunately, for NK, neither the aid in the form of a carrot or stick in the form of sanctions has worked in the last decade.

What are the options?

Ever stronger sanctions. The downfall of the Kim regime or military confrontation that risks enormous casualties. Doing nothing is dangerous especially considering Kim’s erratic behavior. Kim has executed top advisors including his own uncle. As long as Kim is in power, North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons.

North Korea faces its greatest crisis since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Kim Jong Un faces the defining choice of the future of his nation: compromise, collapse or possible nuclear war. One way or the other, his time is running out.