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If one were to summarise the last 25 or even 40 years of US foreign policy, one can point to the following pattern:
1. Ingratiating the Pentagon to forces and governments that US diplomats do not fully understand
2. Withdraw support for the aforementioned forces or governments
3. Sanction the foreign partner into oblivion
4. Go to war for regime change
5. Keep re-igniting the initial war through nearby proxy conflicts to cover the original mess with a new one
This was the model used on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Luckily for Syria, the combination of a solidly supported and capable Syrian Arab Army combined with assistance from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, stopped Washington’s plans at a half-way point, thus ensuring Syria’s survival.
In post-1953 North Korea, something even more extraordinary has happened. Decades after Jimmy Carter’s landmark 1994 visit to Pyongyang which was heavily criticised at the time by the emerging neo-con/neo-lib elite in the US, North Korea became consistently demonised for re-starting its weapons programme even though it was Barack Obama’s government in 2009 which ultimately killed the six-party talks format for Korean peace which once had the good faith participation of both Korean states in addition to China, Russia, the US and Japan. Thus, one sees contemporary US leaders, destroying the good will that Carter helped a largely incompetent Clinton administration accomplish in 1994.
Since April of 2017, Donald Trump began intensifying a demonetisation campaign against North Korea in spite of the fact that the situation on the Korean peninsula was one of an uncomfortably frozen conflict, rather than a hot war such as those in the Middle East.
Then came the inevitable sanctions which are still coming and of course the accompanying threat of war. But with China publicly stating that Beijing will not tolerate a first strike on the Korean peninsula by the US or anyone else and with North Korea now achieving a full nuclear deterrent capable of striking anywhere on the US mainland according most independent experts and according to both the US and DPRK governments, the US will not be able to go into North Korea the way it did in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Having detailed the methods the US uses to make war, one must also address the goal of these wars and provocations. The primary objective of US foreign policy in 2017 is to retard the progress of China’s One Belt–One Road. This can be seen in Eurasia, the Middle East, Africa and of course in Asia. Far from a theoretical concept, Steve Bannon has openly admitted what the conflict lines of the world-map clearly reveal: that the primary goal of the US is “screwing up” China’s One Belt–One Road. For all of Bannon’s virtues and vices, at least he is forthright about a subject that many in Washington prefer to obfuscate.
Now though, North Korea has become the ultimate stumbling block for the United States to start a conflict on China’s doorstep. As unhinged as leading US policy makers sound, I cannot believe they would be literally insane enough to trigger a full-scale nuclear war that could kill millions of Americans in many cities, though of course I could be overly optimistic about this.
China and Russia therefore stand at the precipice of what can either go back to being a prolonged frozen Korean conflict or an opportunity to build new pragmatic economic partnerships where the US has filed to destroy the status quo with another regime change war.
In this sense, China as the inventor of One Belt–One Road and Russia, as China’s top global partner and one with an historically healthy relationship with Pyongyang, are in a unique position to take Washington’s greatest regime change failure and turn it into One Belt–One Road’s least likely but most symbolic, as well as economically prudent success.
Russia has used its rapidly growing relations with Seoul and its historically warn ties with Pyongyang to propose a tripartite cooperation initiative between Moscow and the two Korean states as a means of incentivising both sides to engage in the Sino-Russian double-freeze peace proposals. China will not directly involved in these proposals has expressed full support for Russia’s initiatives.
As China’s peace plan for Maynmar and Bangladesh proves and as Russia’s multi-faceted Middle East diplomacy makes clear, sanctions, threats and blackmail will always fail while positive economic incentives for mutual cooperation through mutual economic benefits can and usually do succeed.
North Korea has proved that American sanctions and the accompanying threat of war is a failed model. The US has not received any concessions from North Korea and apart from the military industrial complex benefiting from increased weapons sales, peace in East Asia hangs by a string thanks to threats from Washington.
By contrast, the Sino-Russia model for economic cooperation, which One Belt–One Road is emblematic of, is the only option left for turning a conflict that is about to re-freeze, into a win-win situation for peace and prosperity among all the countries of East Asia and indeed for the people of the United States as well. The best part is that the anti-ideological nature of One Belt–One Road style cooperation, helps insure international partners that there are no negative strings attached to doing deals with countries like China and Russia. The opposite is of course, the rule when doing deals with the United States.
Due to North Korea’s 60+ years of prolonged shell-shock, such a process cannot happen overnight, but the model for peace exists and the willingness of the South Korean leadership to pursue de-escalation is clear under the Presidency of Moon Jae-in.
America’s model has proved to be a colossal failure. It is time for China and Russia to show the world that their model can be a colossal success.