I am not a political scientist, but I felt compelled to coin a new term to describe the new form of governance we see emerging around the world.
I refer to this model as “psychopathocracy” a term which describes the rule by psychopaths, those who are mentally unstable in a sense that strips them of their humanity and makes them incapable of determining what is in their own interests, or in the interests of others.
This state often features paranoid obsessions.
When Donald Trump’s National Paranoia Advisor John Bolton spoke with Martha Raddatz of ABC News and stated that he was convinced that not only Russia, but Iran, China and North Korea would meddle in the Midterm Election, he was giving voice to precisely such paranoid views (granted their political value to him).
“I can say definitively that it’s a sufficient national security concern about [in addition to Russia] Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling [in the coming election] that we’re taking steps to try to prevent it, so it’s all four of those countries, really. I’m not going to get into the – what I’ve seen or haven’t seen, but I’m telling you, looking at the 2018 election, those are the four countries that we’re most concerned about.”
We have to wonder whether that election will ever take place.
I also want to mention Thomas Mann’s insight:
“The insipid is not synonymous with the harmless”
Mann suggests that many mistakenly assume that because the actions of certain people are foolish, dreary and banal they are therefore of little consequence. But as Mann learned in Germany of the 1930s, the banality of political discourse has nothing to do with its potency, or with its destructiveness.
The Korean peninsula faces a daunting array of security problems that will require tremendous efforts, especially long term, to overcome. The primary problem is not the threats themselves, however, but rather the complete inability of Koreans to conceive of those threats, or to respond to them in any meaningful manner.
The problem is true for those of both progressive and conservative political orientations. There is a very little concept of how serious a security challenge the collapse of the ecosystem or the rising inequality in Korean, and East Asian, society is becoming. In fact, even extremely liberal groups do not offer any opinions on the problems of industrialized society or the privatization of banks — issues that would have been taken quite seriously by even conservatives back in the 1950s.
A consumption- driven culture has taken over Korea for the last twenty years, a culture in which the immediate satisfaction of the individual through the eating, drinking or watching of things that give a short-term thrill is held up as an ideal. The media in Korea is today run for profit and faithfully generates fantastic myths about what “security” means that have more to do with video games than reality. Read more of this post
President of ProGlobal Consulting and Host of AsiaEast
“The Role of the New Administration in promoting Peace on the Korean Peninsula”
STEPHEN COSTELLO is a policy analyst with 20 years of experience in Korea and Northeast Asia as political consultant, policy analyst, think tank program director, and tech-sector business consultant. Mr. Costello specializes in policy and politics in Korea and Northeast Asia as well as US policy and policy-making toward the region.
My former student at Kyung Hee University, Meaza Gidey, one of the most thoughtful young activists that I have met in recent years, recently took the time to explain to me a bit about Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, candidate for director-general of WHO (World Health Organization) from Ethiopia.
I had a chance to read a bit about Ghebreyesus, including his lucid statement about his role, and was sufficiently impressed that I thought I would share what I learned.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
“The scientific, technological and social progress over the last century has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The World Health Organization (WHO) has played a crucial role in this progress – achieving major milestones including eradicating smallpox and bringing polio eradication within reach. During the Millennium Development Goal era, WHO also drove tremendous progress towards combatting HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and reducing maternal, child and infant mortality. It enacted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Thanks to the actions of WHO, more people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before.
However, we live in a changing world, and WHO must be able to change with it. For all the progress we have made and improvements we have witnessed, daunting challenges – new and old – lie ahead. Climate and environmental change pose new threats. Unhealthy lifestyles are giving rise to non-communicable diseases that imperil public health. Globalisation has made it easy for infectious disease pathogens to spark pandemics that threaten lives and economic security. Antimicrobial resistance is threatening our ability to effectively treat common diseases and infections, and widespread population movements, global trade and inequities in access to basic health care and social protection are leading to complex global health challenges.
I envision a world in which everyone can lead healthy and productive lives, regardless of who they are or where they live. I believe the global commitment to sustainable development – enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals – offers a unique opportunity to address the social, economic and political determinants of health and improve the health and wellbeing of people everywhere.
Achieving this vision will require a strong, effective WHO that is able to meet emerging challenges and achieve the health objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals. It will require revitalised WHO leadership that combines the public health, diplomatic and political expertise needed to address the most pressing challenges of our time.”
A visionary leader, he guided Ethiopia and numerous global health organizations to achieve game-changing results and increase their impact. An experienced reformer, he transformed Ethiopia’s health system to expand quality care and access to tens of millions of Ethiopians, and helped key global actors like The Global Fund and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness. And, a skilled diplomat, his collaborative, context-specific, and solutions-oriented approach to global health and international relations is respected worldwide.
Our world has changed. Today, we face unprecedented health threats – from pandemics, to antibiotic-resistant infections, to climate change. We need a strong and effective World Health Organization to meet these challenges. As Director-General, Dr. Tedros’ vision, collaborative approach and proven effectiveness will help WHO better protect the health of all people.
How the United States can work together with Korea, Japan & China
The Asia Institute
Deputy Secretary General
Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat
Although the media is full of reports about increasing tensions in East Asia, the rapid development of technology and the impact of climate change is such that there is increasingly a need for global cooperation in security especially in the fields of non-traditional security. This seminar brings together a group of experts and world citizens to discuss how the United States and Korea can cooperate with China and Japan to respond to new security challenges such as cyber attacks, drones, organized crime, immigration challenges, spreading deserts, and other risks related to the onset of climate change. The seminar will also touch on the possible uses for an East Asian arms control treaty and other general agreements on emerging technologies.
South Korea is continuing to feel the aftershocks of the impeachment and ouster of its conservative president, which followed months of protest after she was implicated in corruption. On Wednesday, South Korea’s prosecutor summoned former conservative President Park for questioning in the country’s far-reaching bribery scandal.
All this comes at a time when tensions are escalating between North and South Korea and the United States. South Korea, under pressure from the U.S., agreed to deploy the controversial THAAD missile defense system and is carrying out joint operations, which includes hundreds of thousands of troops with the United States. This prompted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Ye to question, quote, “If the two sides — referring to the U.S. and North Korea — are really ready for a head-on collision.”
A snap election must be held in two months and the Liberal Party is highly favored. That said, it’s still unknown what other factors may play into the process.
INTER: Describe what the scene is right now, because on the one hand, you have domestic instability in South Korea, there’s going to be a new president elected within two months. At the same time, things are… some have described it as the worst situation between North Korea and the United States and South Korea in some time now. What does it feel like to be there? Describe the mood and the scene there.
EMANUEL PASTREICH: Well, I think, of course, the protests have died down and people are back to work. So, it is normal in that respect. However, these two aspects, both the increasing tensions with North Korea, and also combined with U.S. relations with China, which have of course become much worse under the Trump administration. And China has responded by limiting economic business interactions with South Korea, which has had a tremendous impact on the economy. You can see the economy, I think, is being seriously affected now. So, I think there’s a lot of anxiety and concern about what will happen.
There is a little bit of hope that a new president, and may be the end of the 10-year Conservative presidencies in a row, that this might bring some new opportunities. But I think over all, its overshadowed by a certain degree of angst and foreboding concerning the future particularly of the Korean Peninsula, but also that as the Trump administration is increasingly had to take some more bellicose view of China. And has downplayed, I think, the previous efforts to engage and encourage cooperation, that there are deep, deep worries.
INTER: And so, what party does this favor, this instability, favor? Because we’ve seen in many elections around the world instability leads to the rise of the right. And, of course, the right seems to be quite discredited now, although, you know, supporters of Park remain steadfast.
So, I want to ask you: what could the larger geopolitical implications be if there is a liberal or progressive candidate that wins the election coming up?
EMANUEL PASTREICH: Right. Well, Korea, I think, is somewhat different from the United… well, I wouldn’t say it’s different fundamentally, but that there hasn’t been the rise of a charismatic right wing crypto-populist candidate in Korea yet. We don’t see anyone like that. I think Korea as a whole has undergone a very serious issue of superannuated society. One of the most rapidly aging societies in the world, and that support for President Park now or former President Park is really limited, and primarily with people in their say, over 60, who remember how her father, President Pak Chong-hee, who was a very authoritarian and also charismatic political leader built Korea up, that there’s a certain nostalgia for that.
But I think the odds of a Conservative win — the parties, by the way, in Korea, change rapidly. It’s not like the United States, where we’ve had Republican and Democrats for the last 130 years. But rather… or more but rather, depending on the election, people will make out new names. But the politicians don’t change. The conservative side seems unlikely to win, but there is a scenario, because there are two large parties. There’s the People’s Party of Ahn Cheol-soo, and then there’s the Minjoo, or Democratic Party, and if both parties run, both field candidates, and they both do well, you have a three-way split, there is an opportunity or a possibility that the conservatives might be able to win a third term.
INTER: And so, you know, to be clear, what would the impact be? What would the result be if there is a hot conflict between North and South Korea? Because we’ve seen these rising tensions — the North Korean missile tests, which are happening. Now there are these joint operations that are happening between South Korea and the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of troops are taking part in that. So, if there is a hot conflict, even with this missile defense system they’re testing now, from what I’ve read it’s only about 50% effective.
So, just for our viewers to understand, what would that impact be?
EMANUEL PASTREICH: Well, I think people are more concerned about it now than they have been previously, in part because the Trump administration is both inexperienced and, unfortunately, unpredictable. Being unpredictable is a positive if you’re in pro-wrestling. But in international relations, and other fields, it’s much better to be predictable.
So, there is an increased risk. I think we don’t know, there have been incidents on the DMZ previously, right? With shootings or the use of artillery. And so, some small contingent incident is possible. But something larger, a bigger conflict, certainly cannot be ruled out. But actually, since we haven’t had one on an enormous scale since the Korean War, doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and there are forces that… I think what’s most worrisome is the United States used to have a much more stable policy.
But we’ve been invading a lot of countries, as you know, recently, so it’s sort of stable architecture of a divided North and South Korea, and a mutually economically engaged United States and China, and a relatively peaceful and not militarily ambitious Japan, that these sort of set factors for the last 50 years are all in play now. None of them are guaranteed as stable.
If there actually was a conflict — I’m not a fortune-teller, so I can’t tell you what would happen — but I think the danger that it would lead to some confrontation including China or that the United States’ response, like THAAD, for example, THAAD of course is not an active attack on North Korea or on China, but it’s very present. It’s perceived as a threatening decision by Beijing.
INTER: And, finally… I’m sorry to interrupt, but we just have a minute left. We wanted to ask you, it’s on a lot of people’s minds. Why impeachment removal of a conservative president in South Korea, but not the United States yet. Talk about the parallels and the differences.
EMANUEL PASTREICH: Well, it’s a fascinating question. And Korea has been relatively transparent, and the Constitutional Court that rendered the ruling, was all made up of appointees by the conservative government. So, I think there was a real responsiveness to the overwhelming anger and outrage among the population. And there were continuous, very well organized demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations. The United States, we hear a lot about impeachment, but the actual process, or the potential, you just don’t really see anything happening, at least that’s my impression.
So, however, the larger geopolitical implications of this shift, because Korea is both divided in North and South, but also conservative, progressive within the country, we still don’t know, and there are some worrisome aspects of this.
Wilhelm Foerster, Georg Friedrich Nicolai, Otto Buek and Albert Einstein signed a “Manifesto to the Europeans” at the start of World War I in which they took issue with the drive for military solutions promoted in Germany at the time. They were responding to the so-called “Manifesto of the Ninety-Three” issued by prominent German intellectuals giving their full support for Germany’s war aims. These four men were the only ones who dared to sign the document.
Its content seems most relevant in our own age.
“Manifesto to the Europeans”
While technology and traffic clearly drive us toward a factual recognition of international relations, and thus toward a common world civilization, it is also true that no war has ever so intensively interrupted the cultural communalism of cooperative work as this present war does. Perhaps we have come to such a salient awareness only on account of the numerous erstwhile common bonds, whose interruption we now sense so painfully.
Even if this state of affairs should not surprise us, those whose heart is in the least concerned about common world civilization, would have a doubled obligation to fight for the upholding of those principles. Those, however, of whom one should expect such convictions — that is, principally scientists and artists — have thus far almost exclusively uttered statements which would suggest that their desire for the maintenance of these relations has evaporated concurrently with the interruption of relations. They have spoken with explainable martial spirit — but spoken least of all of peace.
Such a mood cannot be excused by any national passion; it is unworthy of all that which the world has to date understood by the name of culture. Should this mood achieve a certain universality among the educated, this would be a disaster. It would not only be a disaster for civilization, but — and we are firmly convinced of this — a disaster for the national survival of individual states — the very cause for which, ultimately, all this barbarity has been unleashed.
Through technology the world has become smaller; the states of the large peninsula of Europe appear today as close to each other as the cities of each small Mediterranean peninsula appeared in ancient times. In the needs and experiences of every individual, based on his awareness of manifold of relations, Europe — one could almost say the world — already outlines itself as an element of unity.
It would consequently be a duty of the educated and well-meaning Europeans to at least make the attempt to prevent Europe — on account of its deficient organization as a whole — from suffering the same tragic fate as ancient Greece once did. Should Europe too gradually exhaust itself and thus perish from fratricidal war? Read more of this post
I know that many have approached you about the possibility of your serving as president of Korea after the anticipated impeachment of President Park. You have a unique set of skills and a broad range of friends in the international community that would serve you well. Today, you are surrounded by people asking for your help in this moment of tremendous uncertainty in Korea. But I hope that you have a moment to step back from the crowd and contemplate your role in history now that you have become such a critical figure.
There are several people out there who are entirely capable of serving as the president of the Republic of Korea. But there is an even more critical job, and you are the only one who is qualified to play that role as the former Secretary General of the United Nations.
Last week Donald Trump was sworn in as the president of the United States, someone who has openly opposed a commitment to universal standards on human rights and who has taken as a central advisor John Bolton, a man who is committed to taking the entire United Nations system apart. In addition, President Trump has nominated for secretary of state Rex Tillerton, the former CEO of EXXON, , a man who has no interest in the response to climate change and who has advocated that the United States move to stop all Chinese actions in the South China Seas—an act that many experts think could lead to nuclear war.
The scale of the geopolitical crisis today cannot be overstated and Korea, located at the center of Northeast Asia, with close ties to both the United States and to China, will be one of the first victims of such a new cold war, or hot war. Korea needs you, and your network, to start an entirely original and powerful initiative that will offer an alternative to military conflict, get the focus back to climate change, and set the foundations for long term solution to address this crisis head using a coalition of the committed throughout the region.