The first hostages

The other day, commenting on North Korea’s announcement that it had tested a nuclear weapon, I wrote:

And it’s a hostage situation, as well. The North has long been prepared to destroy Seoul, the capital of South Korea, should any pre-emptive action be taken against it.

It was implicit to an earlier sentence in that post, where I called North Korea a Stalinist gulag state, but I should make it clearer that the first hostages of the North Korean regime are the North Korean people. Not just because they live in North Korea, which would be sufficient, but because the regime would be content to use North Koreans as its “human shields,” making it impossible to overthrow the regime without killing innocent people by the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands.

This is the great dilemma in dealing with the terror state. The Israelis face a variant of it when they need to deal with Hezbollah, for instance. Everyone around Hezbollah becomes a hostage, and no matter how Israel retaliates, Hezbollah will make sure that someone who can at least be claimed to be innocent will die. The propaganda value alone makes it irresistable to the terrorist outfit.

In North Korea the people would suffer before the regime. I think that’s pretty clear. It’s a luxury for the U.S. to be at sufficient distance to wait for the regime to eventually turn to dust. But far less of a luxury for Japan and South Korea, which have North Korean artillery and missiles trained on them. It is no luxury at all — it is a living hell — for the North Korea people, who lose in a dozen different ways on every angle, before they get out of bed in the morning.

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