Sorry I missed this reply, and therefore my response is so tardy. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.
I agree that the current state of affairs on the Korean peninsula is the logical and predictable result of the past sixty-eight years of history (and indeed far longer). I also agree that the US bears some blame, which is not to exonerate or excuse the unconscionable actions of the Kim dynasty — not by a mile.
I am not an East Asia expert so I cannot speak to the relative welfare of the North Korean people under the DPRK as opposed to Imperial Japan, but if it was ever any worse than it is right now, that is a jawdropping thought.
I don’t begrudge North Korea self-determination in the slightest; on the contrary. However, Western imperialism notwithstanding, whether or not what the Korean people have under the Kims can be called “self-determination” is another matter.
As I’ve written, I can understand the strategic pragmatism of everything Kim and his father and grandfather have done. The morality or immorality of their actions is a different kettle of fish. I’m not as sanguine as you in saying that “They chose to immunize their society against imperialist subversion and cultural contamination campaigns by creating a very effective unifying ideology and system of social organisation.” With all due respect, that strikes me as a bloodless rationalization for the creation of a police state. Was it not possible to resist imperialism without setting up domestic concentration and forced labor camps?
You write: “It is undeniable that this ideology and cultural system has been highly effective at preventing cultural contamination by European Imperialism. It is not without its drawbacks.” Gee, ya think?
“The use of censorship and violence to control dissent is a downside.” Again, that is a rather massive understatement, wouldn’t you say? To argue that imperialist aggressors did likewise does not excuse it. Can’t say I go along with the notion of a god-emperor as inoculation against foreign aggression either, at least not in the 21st century.
That said, as I wrote in my essays, there is no doubt that obtaining nuclear weapons has given the DPRK very desirable leverage. That is a fact of realpolitik that most Americans cannot get their heads around. It remains to be seen whether that leverage will trickle down to better living conditions for ordinary North Koreans, as you suggest. (An ironic analog to American supply side economics.) In general, I am leery of your notion that the DPRK is going to somehow evolve into a Western European style liberal democracy; typically cult-of-personality police states don’t surrender power except by force or accident. I am also skeptical about how much independence and self-governance Beijing intends to allow nations in its sphere of influence. We shall see.
In any event, the easing of tensions of the Korean peninsula is of course more than welcome; what follows from here, however, is a very open question.
I’m not at all sure I buy your argument that long range precision guided missiles are going to bring the Pentagon to heel, but I do agree that the US is badly trailing Russia and others in cyberwar….thanks in part to the current administration’s disinterest in pursuing it, and eagerness instead to roll over and expose our soft underbelly.)
As for the twilight of America as a hyperpower, Mr. Trump is hastening it. Sadly, I don’t think we are witnessing a transition from Cold War-era hegemony to a reasonable, benevolent participation in the community of nations. On the contrary: Trump’s idiotic and chaotic “America First” mentality is doing untold damage to the global order and the whole notion of interdependence and mutual security. It is not progress to go from Nixonian (or Reaganite) domination to a feudal system of every-nation-for-itself and might-makes-right…..especially with a volatile, amoral manchild with his finger on the button.
Thanks again for writing. I’ve enjoyed our conversation.