« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#88 — Must We Accept a Nuclear North Korea?

2017-07-21 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Mark Bowden about the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today I am speaking with Mark, bowed and mark as the author of thirteen book, Including the number one New York Times best seller black hawk down, he reported the Philadelphia incur timer for twenty years and now, rights for the Atlantic and Vanity, fair, primarily he's also I turn residence at the University of Delaware and his most recent book is way. Nineteen sixty eight turning point for the American WAR in Vietnam, and as you'll hear mark, and I get very deep into the topic of North Korea. He wrote this wonderful article though, if early harrowing one about just how difficult and dangerous and intractable are stalemate with North Korea is this came out the atlantic few weeks ago admit it might still be in the current issue of the magazine. But in this punk ass we essentially walk through the logic of that.
Article and you will know more about why we haven't solved the North Korea crisis. There has been a crisis for decades now, bring. You mark bowed- and I am here with Mark Bounden, mark thanks for coming, I guess we'll thanks remain the same. What I've been a fan of yours for a long time. You I think I mostly see you in the Atlantic Dupe, do publish regularly somewhere else as a journalist. Mostly in the Atlantic. I do occasionally right forum, vanity, fair and also for sports, illustrated known, then why I've missed you in sports, illustrated. I myself more about me than about the rest of the world. Many people be familiar with your book, black hawk down, which became a film but perhaps can describe your career as a journalist and as a writer, thus far. What what? What have you tended to focus on welfare?
Twenty years I was a newspaper report or at the thought of the Enquirer, and there I cover just about everything imaginable, from science to foreign assignments, to transportation, in Philadelphia to politics, the cops but gradually the overarching direction of my career was always to do longer stories in stories that took more time to report and investigate. So I can have graduated from daily newspaper stories to Sunday stories to Sunday magazine stories to Sunday magazine, cereals and then to now oxen Anna Magazine articles, were you involved with the film version of black hawk down? Did you write the screen player? I wrote the original draft, that's free play, which I take a break. Isley threw away, and then they hired have wonderful scream can Nolan who adapted it,
Although I continue to work with cannon, I worked closely with Jerry, Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott. Throughout that whole wonderful experience than very happy with the way the film turned out and are you just released a book on the Vietnam WAR, a right which I haven't seen, but I think I've just read review of in the in the New York Times Book reviews Eric cracked. It's called way. Nineteen sixty eight and it tells the story of the battle of way in Vietnam during the KEN Burns can burns is releasing a big documentary on Vietnam. In a couple of months ago September has condemned the package I might have to do my homework. By reading your book, I was at the screening
can burns how the premier in New York a few weeks ago, and I was lucky enough to get tickets, so I've got to know the folks who worked on that project over the years it. I was working on my way book that it should be a good event for you to duty you and can could be in dialogue somewhere him. Reawaken. A public conversation about Vietnam is
like the moment has arrived well, we'll see. I think there might be some things like that in the works. I want to talk about one of the peace briefly, that you wrote, which you are a piece in the Atlantic in two thousand and three on torture, titled, the dark art of interrogation, where you came to more or less the same position. I did in my first book with respect to the ethics of it, and I have read your peace until much later and have since recommended it too many people. Did you get much criticism for that article because I have encountered more less nothing but pain for even touching the topic is what what was your experience like I know get a good deal of criticism, but none of it very intelligent. Actually, most of the criticism to my way of thinking came for people who either had read this the USA or hand.
Understood the argument that I was making. I think probably the main sticking point was that I argue that whether or not to torture, or course, someone is a moral decision and a lot of people seem to cling to the idea that it is simply a pragmatic decision, because torture never works under any circumstances, which I dont believe it's true, So I think, just by virtue of the fact that I am willing to say that I think torture is casually and effective way of getting information. Lifers doesn't mean you ought to do it, but that was enough to trigger a lot of yeah yeah and your position that it should be illegal, but that we should recognise that there are situations where even good people would be tempted, understandably to break the law? And then, if you can't imagine such situations, your action,
not trying hard enough that that's a very novel argument, and it is one that I agree with that. I think I will spare us both a lot of pain by declining to talk about this topic and it s We can move on to far more cheerful topics like North Korea, and I also say that the ethical implicate Of everything you and I have said on this topic is also shared by the, and this is something I have said before, but the great handbook of EVIL, these Stanford Encyclopedia philosophy. If you look up torture in that reference, work, which really is one of the best reference work,
in philosophy. Do you find a very clear argument for the same position? So if you think we are talking Mata, just you can group us with Stanford as well, so as to be in good company like yeah, so North Korea, you, you wrote this piece. I think it's! It's still in the key. The issue of the Atlantic and the title is how to deal with North Korea. There are no good options, but some are worse than others, and this is as stifling a peace, as you would expect, given how we're central stand in front of four doors. And none of them lead anywhere. We want to go. I want us to walk through this pretty systematically because it stands a chance of being the most consequential foreign policy issue of the present and Andy the indefinite future. First, how do you go about reporting on this? Well, I thought
address to seek out people who had either worked on the North Korea issue in the military turn the White House or in the State Department and who have spent years wrestling with what to do about North Korea and in some cases you know the cases of some of the military commanders that had to actually prepare for the various options and pick their brains. Ask them
because we have a president who plays to the lowest common denominator, and I thought there was a real fear with some of the things that he was saying that he would. He would try to build a a allow groundswell of support for trying to attack North Korea North to pressure at pressure least militarily, and I wanted to try to throw some cold water on the city on the simplistic thanking therein actually talk to people who had wrestled with this issue and lay out when, in fact, the options were all remind people that how we got here so how headed North Korea become this this blank space on the map and the images tat night till so much of the story of South Korea?
which has just totally illuminated like a twenty first century society and the north is just this sea of blackness outside of Pyongyang. So, if so, in what is going on north of the DMZ you know that country North Korea, which was created after World WAR two when Kimmel Song was the korean leader who helped with the Chinese to eviction, Pan ended up in control and north korean. He established certainly one of the most bizarre regimes of modern times, it's really kind of a throwback to were seventeenth century Imperial stay in Europe. Where you have it
Jerry Dynasty, whither com. If allergy around him fell silent since then his son, and now it is granted who are prepared to be innovative, divine divinely, selected leaders of the korean people. They're all raise on data is to enable the Kim family to remain in power and to benefit from that position, and so there you know about the very dry Coney Island to tell a terrier state that focuses most of its resources on building up its military and in the last twenty or thirty years to developing nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons and missile systems that
They know that we have now seen are capable of potentially reaching Alaska and very soon will be capable of reaching the United States mainland, and I think that that effort has been so all consuming and costly than it has dreamed North Korea of nearly every other option and it's been through long periods of very near starvation. Were you know it's estimated the mines? People start to death in the ninety. Nine is those conditions. Are these somewhat out of necessity? I think the regime is allowed the black market to flourish a little bit, which you know, people
eating anyway there, but there is very little else going on outside of the other capital city of Pyongyang, which is kind of their became family showcase. As you point out, this is almost a religious cults. Unease is not other worldly, the way normal religious cults, but it clearly personality cult that a tributes magical powers to the dear leaders, but these are almost the the most confused people on earth in terms of how they view their place in the world. Chris religions used to say this is a a nation of racist dwarves. There like three inches shorter than the South Koreans, and yet they think they're a master race, and I got to imagine that the spell has been breaking for for some people somewhere in the society over. Oh, you have over recent decades, but apparently they have thought that are the food aid they see. Coming from us is just like an awestruck offering to the genius of their dear leader for you by,
the west end, I think of them is kind of like a cargo called armed with nuclear weapons. Do we have any sense of what percentage of north korean society the leaves the mythology? We don't have skipped says that, because there is not a lot of interaction between the western world in North Korea, the journalists ignore their and our given attempt can village tours. I have spoken to a few who have time longer, terminal wire reporting and their sense of it is that most North Koreans are very cynical about the government. The way people are about governments everywhere, but that they dont dare say what they think her speak out against it I mean. The one thing we have mentioned is that North Korea is a very romantic love stating that they have millions of people
prison for the slightest of offenses than you know: we've even selling the clap loudly enough at a public appearance of the dear leader can get you executed or thrown in jail. So you know whatever North Koreans, think they're smart enough to keep it mostly to themselves. It seems to they most successfully engineered or well in experiment. The earth has ever seen an interest in terms of its isolation and the totality of the totalitarian control and ages the level of informing against family members and is just did it. Have you seen at the book the cleanest race? Yes, I have at some Myers bought Correia, yeah, that's it. You know which really does lay at the racists underpinnings out there of their philosophy and the bizarre nature. Is you
you described there quasi religious worship of their dear leader. I realise the news has moved on a little bit since you publish your article even just a couple of weeks ago, because that was right. Before this seemingly successful, I see the m test. How big a problem is North Korea at this point for the rest of the world, and how would you rank order it in terms of our concerns for our own well being and the wind the wellbeing of the other implicated societies. Will I think that is far and away the largest national security concerns, the United States and everybody, I think, largely because of media. You know: has its outsize fear of terrorist attack by islamist fundamentalists, which suitable hangover from nine eleven, which was sixteen years ago com. I think that you know that threat of terror attacks will be with us always with North Korea poses a
threat on a completely different scale? They have weapons that could kill millions of people right now. There are the primary threat they pose to South Korea and to Japan. But as their reach extends with them. I see the atoms, Nay United States is also, actually target, and while they don't have the kind of original to pose an existential threat to the United States, I do think that the prospect of a nuclear weapon day exploded over LOS Angeles or any other american city is a pretty terrifying prospect and one that frankly, as this article goes on, to explain how there is little we can do to help prevent short of deterrence. The implication of their reason, missile test is that
agree. They can probably reach Alaska Hawaiian now, but not quite LOS Angeles or the rest of the United States. But that, should become in pretty short order in then, and then you are talking about. There really is no words to describe how crazy and irresponsible these statements are of the regime, whatever you think their actual motivations are and whenever we think their level of suicide reality could, but we have a completely maniacal regime which, in what's the outside estimate a few years. Five years should be to land, they knew on a city like LOS Angeles, San Francisco, what I wrote the peace
just a few months ago, the estimate was three or four years that this most recent I see the enlarged successful one came much earlier than anticipated. So my guess is that we can probably even dial back the three or four years and might even closer than that. So in your article you talk about for possible responses to the problem and they all suck. So, let's, let's move through these first. Just tell me briefly what are the four and and then we can just run through them, while the first would be an all out attack what I called prevention, which would essentially crush the Kim regime, were destroyed, military wipeout, its arsenals and, essentially, you know, reduce North Korea to a stateless humanitarian
the second I called turning up the screws, then that would be applying pressure through. Some form of military attack or embargo? That would really hurt North Korea and wood would be short of attack and that would seek to essentially prove too to give just one that we mean business and and hopefully get him to recalculate his plans and back away. The third option is decapitation, and that would involve targeting Kim himself or maybe came and a few other key people around him, probably to assassinate them, or possibly, I guess even More- was even less likely to arrest them and and thereby com.
Off the head of that statement and hope that something more reasonable would follow, and the last option which may be the hardest to swallow but which I think is probably inevitable, is acceptance which is recognising that nuclear technology missile technology is old, stuff It's been around for more than a half century. Lots of people know how to do it, and north is eventually going to figure these things out in gonna. Have these weapons the paragraph your article, I want to read, which is concerned, central to why the first three options or seem to be more or less unthinkable, and it is not necessarily would everyone would expect- is not dead.
The North Koreans already have nukes, and then they can nuke, South Korea or Japan or or one of our allies. Even their conventional arms makes this situation seemingly totally intractable from a military one of you into your text. For years. North Korea has had extensive batteries of conventional artillery, an estimated eight thousand big guns, just north of the Demilitarize zone, the DMZ, which has lessened forty miles from soul, South Korea, capital, a metropolitan area, more than twenty five million people, one high. Ranking. U S military officer who commanded forces in the korean Theatre, now retired told me. He heard estimates that if a grid were laid across soul, divided into three square foot blocks these guns could within hours, pepper, every single one of them
ability to reign ruin on the city is a potent existential threat to South Korea's largest population centre is government and its economic anchor shells could also deliver chemical and biological weapons. That's the end of your your text there. So the thing that makes, any kind of military response. Saying, however, much of a surprise attack we could muster so impractical. Is that slight within minutes. The moment anything starts happening. They can This annihilate saw soul with their completely conventional artillery and save you had evacuated. Millions of people from saw you'd be tipping your hand as to what is happening. Is this really the issue this is no way for us to knock out his capacity to harm soul quickly enough so as to make any kind of prevention or decapitation or or turning screws approach. Practical. Yes,
That is the main reason why the United States hasn't it. Something like a long time ago when Richard Nixon was present at the North Koreans, shot down an american warplanes, kill believers. Thirty one american service members on Board Nixon was not known to the attendant soul. When it came to me, use of military force, and he chose not to counter attack North Korea to punish them militarily for doing that, and that was back and what the early nineteenth Seventys, when this capability is already in place to attack soul. So the capability of North Korea to punish you're, to inflict deafen room on South Korea has up and up and up and up. I think it's even a little cynical and probably sadly correct that Kim and is regime calculate that this would have to wait,
be enough of a deterrent for the United States, because after all, those are yourself careers living in South Africa. Most part, and so in order to have the level of security that he feels he needs the ability to attack the United States. Mainland, as you know, been their great quest in the last twenty or thirty years, so in other states have gone up so high at this point that I think for any sane person, the only policy priority ought to be to prevent conflict from break here. I must take this the prevention case. First, though, this is the all out attack that attempts to prevent anything, even a single shell emerging from North Korea
headed toward the south. In your reporting on this topic. Did you encounter any serious person with a good reputation in the military or policy circles who thinks that we should just attack North Korea all out and roll the dice with with a prevention strategy? No, I didn't, although some other people, I thought you said there. There are people who hold that opinion and who have voiced it come at the Pentagon, but I believe that the that the highest levels that it would be something seriously considered This is because to do anything like that is synonymous with what a minimum of some hundreds of thousands of deaths in so are we or or a minimum of a million and how? What one of the estimates
a minimum. I would say yeah would probably be hundreds of thousands and that's a very optimistic minimum. If North Korea was gonna felt, it was under all out attack on the chances of it doing nothing but why conventional shells- that's all I'm an american bases in South Korea, is fairly small. I think that them far more likely totals Whitby millions. So that this is one problem with the the second and third option. While so it looks just like the second option. First, turning the screws, mind, are listeners what that is in and why it's problematic to consider. The first, if I could see him, I'd like to go back to the first option, were sure if we
So when I think it's everyone, I talk to your Greece, who knows anything about that. The actual weapons involved that its unrealistic faint antecede goal is a word I heard use that we were completely successful. We were able to attack north destroy all of its capability without them getting off a single shot without being heavily. It was single american or software. We would then be left with a totally stateless, North Korea, which would create one of the greatest humanitarian crises in modern times with flood China with millions of refugees, it, fled South Korea with millions of refugees and would leave the United States with the responsibility Shall I moving again and trying to govern a North Korea that would have because it's a very rugged terrain, pockets of resistance likely.
Throughout the country also very likely possessing nuclear material, chemical and biological weapons. Duration, that would make our occupation of Iraq seem like a taking your kids to for a walk to the local playground comparison. So there is no way either through you know and attack that would result in only a few chemical weapons exploding to an all our successes. No calculation of this works to our benefit. The I'm really glad you you made that point, because you did the best case scenario is so horrible once you think of the implications be there, and you can add to what you just said. The fact that are perfectly targeted, surprise
back, we'll have killed hundreds of thousands or millions of North Koreans right and now now occupy in them. Having created that devastation and then to add to the other that obvious grievance, whatever percentage of people are truly brainwashed and incorrigible, and still think, though, the master race been invaded by barbarians that occupy She is not going to be a pretty one, but if you're, one of the reasons why the answer to your question, whether I had encountered any person in authority here who has actually seriously looked at this, who would argue in favour of a preventive attack? The answer is: no. I don't know anybody sensible who would advocate such a thing, but moving to your second question about turning the screws, this would be the actually frightens me more as something that could happen, and that is that we would attack North Korea in a limited way.
But it would have to be in a way that would hurt. I may we would have to like take out their nuclear reactor or destroy a fairly large number of their missile sites or enough water. Cyber attack that would shut down their electrical redder or correct, or a an embargo on all shipping. Not a North Korea. There are steps. United states could take short of all out war. That would create serious pain in North Korea. And the idea there would be that it would force him to think before taking the next step and possibly. Retreat. But I think a far more likely outcome would be retaliation at some sort which wine sent off. It seems to me very likely a an escalating tit for tat that good, I think, rapidly lead us to the disaster scenarios.
The first action yeah even before that. I think it's a point. You make your article more limited attack could be indistinguishable from their point of view, from an all out attack they wouldn't actually know we were just going for a limited attack. They could think we're trying to annihilate them and respond accordingly sure, and then I think it's one thing for us to and ten A limited strike that therein the limit his ragged look very much like the real thing, and you know it easily trigger the varying response that is designed to prevent. Did you talk? anyone any representatives of the South Korean government. Here we await it was just through the lens of of how they, the? U S military thinks of it. I was just looking and talking to me taken military people. Although I visited South Korea three years ago, and I
get alot of interviews softly and military intelligence people. I was working on a profile of Kim Jong Plan and we spoke a lot about what their pastures then toward on North Korea, and if anything, they would be even more disinclined to to begin any kind of military conflict with North Korea, since obviously their country be the ones doing the die. So door number three decapitation decapitation is the kind of thing I would appeal to a Hollywood. Screenwriter desert you no magic bullet. It would be extremely difficult to accomplish, given that the entire military apparatus with North Korea in one sense exist.
To protect Kim Jong on solar, penetrate a country like that with secrecy to turn someone in his inner circle to enable same launching a mark, a missile striker drawn striker, especial operations unit that what it says in aid him is just very implausible, but if it were to succeed, let's say you know: the military is all out war clutter. Then I think they are. They could do this. We would be basically gambling that, first of all, North Korea Wooden immediately respond with a counter attack on South Korea alone. King had some metals, because this would, after all, be an attack on the most important single person or a feature of their regime, and secondly, it would be the kind of attack it wouldn t leave their arsenals in there.
Batteries completely intact, chose to respond. They would be able to respond in full force, at least with it, this afternoon: have you no potential but it is ninety percent. There came a body before they could you no fire. The first shot in this case that around two percent year do we know much about him. Dragoons habits as he's the kind of person who I would imagine he is who sweeps in a different place every night or a? How crazy is it to think that we could ever target him directly from afar, it's crazy, but its implausible is the word I would use a date. They do move him around a lot. They keepers, his location in his appearances, are very closely held there are very paranoid state. They even asked many times the you're sensible efforts to assassinate Kim, some of which may actually
Than real- and so you know, they know that he's a target and I dont think they're stupid you that, you were not encountering serious people who were advocating prevention, that is an all out attack. Are you encountering countering serious people who advocate turning the screws or decapitation Yes, some of the military people. I spoke to seem to think that. North Korea may perceive? The United States has a paper tiger that we bluff all the time and that we are not willing to engage in a militarily and that still open because of the consequences. So the thinking is that if we administer a heart dose of reality to them, Jim, that they might pause and now decided the corset pursuing is unwise
So how do you do here? Those voices here there, so that would be an example of turning the screws or decapitation one or the other food. If we targeted the regime and successfully that would be decapitation, and then we would just be waiting to see how crazy thee the next regime turned out to be it really it matters which side of this you, you emphasise because they leave the paper tiger. Concern also does seem to be a real one right of the facts, that we are sitting on our hands and have been for now more than a generation and one we dont acknowledge how helpless we are really in the were not weak. We have president's on their side of the Isle, who have spoken forcefully against whatever? He was in power there and warn them that
It was on the table, but is pretty obvious that not much of anything is on the table right. So what do you do with the concern that the perception of us, as a paper tiger in this case, seems to be It is true that, as you know, the logic behind those who argue that we need to do something like take out their nuclear reactors, strike a blow that would make it clear that we are willing and able to hurt them again and had intact hurt them so one person. Then I think I call him the story saying the way the wind show that you're not bluffing is to stop blocking a so that that is be where you will find some special military people who believe that it is time that we started to return the screws.
Did you in those conversations here any details of how we might do that beyond bombing stuff? Is there any possibility of turning the electrical grid or or something that would would be paralyzing to them, technologically, without blowing things up. Yes, I didn't include all the potential options that I discuss, but among them, you know, would be. If you were going to launch a military strike, it would have to be something that would hurt them that was set back their program either for missiles or news. That's obviously flirts with the worry that they would proceed an all out attack. If a cyber attack is another possibility, doing something like you know, destroying whatever in Pyongyang, because that would be the only place where they would be a significant electric.
I think that, however, you know the further the longer I discussed this because your hours talking, but these things and when you get into a conversation, you're kind of thinking than through, but everyone seems to agree that in this day and age, the precursor to any all at a time, would be a cyber attack, no matter who we were attacking. So there is a very real possibility that a cyber attack, even though it will blow up anything actually wouldn't anyway, would still be perceived as the opening on several can an all out, attack and other. Possibility would be, as I mentioned, will earlier in embargo, to basically shut down all shipping in and out North Korea. Which would have a very damaging effect. It would be a step short of a straightforward military.
Right. The problem there is that that would put us in a position of confrontation with Russia and China who were engaged in trade with North Korea. We we also are facing higher. I said about a paranoid heritage regime in North Korea. That could very well react to an embargo by attacking american ships, and then we gotta shooting war. Say you mention Russia and China here now in the best possible world, if we had Russia and China, as are perfect allies, and all they wanted to do was help with this situation. Does that transform it? Is there a path forward with, in particular, China does in a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable. Or would China in that case essentially be in the same situation
wherein I think it would help alive if we had. If we could rely on China alone, they could pressure North Korea a lot more than ten. North Korea has been pressure. China trades extensively with North Korea. In fact, from what I know of that country, most of the goods that people buy in North Korea, Chinese made China supplies fuel oil and electricity to North Korea. Russia is also selling boil to North Korea, so, to the extent that there is a growing and afterward the sort of upper
class in Pyongyang, they could be made to feel the pressure in a big way if China and Russia, where to get on board. But of course neither has been particularly willing to do just from a kind of a game theoretic point of view. I don't actually see how that changes. The situation much because you can see how it we at first would think it would change, but again now, you're just successfully applying pressure to a lunatic regime that is threatening to kill Its neighbour is, if you apply too much pressure to it, why couldn't north Koreans just say that point you know: give us our oil or our food or both or we're going to annihilate soul. Well, I think that there are quite a lunatic, even though this is crazy regime. Without doubt I think that apply economic pressure and you could, with the cooperation of China,
That would really begin to hurt the relatively well to do North Koreans in Pyongyang. It would I think he would do that in conjunction with a Cara. Are you would say in a you would make it clear how those sanctions could be eliminated or lifted, and that would it could possibly focus the question very effectively for Kim Jong on that it should continue to pursue an icbm with a nuke on board would mean you know that inherent collapse of their economy and in other tremendous dislocations that would occur in Pyongyang. If that were to happen it and that may be call shorter of a military strike and also, if it was me applied by China, they were. Have their book you man to blame necessarily for at least not wholly so to me, if you're my reply
pressure that would possibly make him back down. But the only avenue I can see that would be unlikely or less likely to result in open conflict. Yeah gasket, as my perception is that North Korea has already been terribly oppressed by Economic situation of this is a or talking about is a society where at least Emily, people what were two million people have starved and- and it's just there's their food shortages- all the time but the reality is that, given China's enabling of this situation, the people in power haven't felt this pain and that there is still drinking any action and making their their weird movies and one of them besides for them to, is that the success that they have had in creating a relatively good standard of living for an increasing. We large number p
one young man, albeit this- we're talking about only a tiny fraction of the whole population of North Korea but people in Pyongyang as you grow that as you grow, that cast that is benefiting by the policies of the regime. In the end they could do- existence of the camp dynasty as you grow that number of people, you increase the potential for someone like China to apply pressure, As you know, these are you know we're talking about standard family of Kim himself again and all the people who live and work in young aim is that the only people who matter in North Korea Oh, if you hurt, then you could that's about saved me only reasonable way to apply pressure to Canada's those people prosper that opportunity arose. He hasn't point. So how do you view this conflict with Trump in the driver's seat so give
you just this great feeling that we have the world's greatest negotiator in charge and he's gonna make a deal. They can't refuse. Well, you know he. He scares me because he is an irrational actor. He isn't someone who, at least in his path, has shown any real moral comparisons hasn't done, thank through things strategically or are seriously. In my experience actually know him he's. A man will pose to you that he's never read a book in his life. We're gonna go back to that mark. Will you just set my hobbyhorse rocking I'm probably into my twentieth, our talking about Trump on this spot. So so I wanted to. I want to know what you know about him, but please continue. He is Also, the one thing he does IRAN has done very effectively is play to the lowest common denominator and his posting that he will prevent Kim Jong from dollar, and I see him
You know if he would be without restrains around and without more sensible people around him, having perfectly capable of doing so really foolish. That could lead to millions of people being killed and how he is due, not least competent person, I think, to ever be elected to the White House. I think he's he's a jerk, and now it's a bad joke. I just steel is very very dangerous where North Korea is concerned, yeah. I guess I totally agree with. You is one of those, but it is very strange to encounter the perception on the other side, because people imagine that huh is that a breaking of the mould of the professional politician and they professional president, is a real strength. You know you this wrecking ball swinging all over the surface of the earth right now and all
are enemies now need to take notice because there's no telling what Trump will do- and this is a good thing across the board- we're at work shaking things up. I guess I could imagine a situation where it's a good thing or conceivably a good thing. For your president, to be perceived as the the craziest person in the room, I guess it gets good conceit the when your adversary really doesn't want to be attacked really doesn't want to die and is really concerned that you will use force, but when you get to regimes that are not quite as rational, the extreme case would be a the jihadist version of this. Where you have people who claimed to be suicidal and Andy, I think you should take them at their word. What is the most charitable reconstruction?
of the pro trump line here that you can put forward. Is there any that is there? Any way you can see Silver line into Trump. These heavy, the North Korea is a joy The only way I could see it positively working to our benefit is, if it somehow Kim Jong Plan, would fear what our trump with I don't think he would. I dont think he cares rightly about most North Korea. He doesn't answer to an electorate is in power. For as long as these breathing and every effort will be made to protect him home and he is, it seems to me very capable of watching attacks. South Korea, how he would be far less reticent. Certainly, then, South Korea
Also. There was american military leaders to engage in this kind of a conflict, so you know I just thought I do not see the unpredictable and Donald Trump working to anyone, benefit here in that region and when you're talking about nuclear weapons? Predictability is important of you know it's swell and good. In in a world of convention, arms that your enemy is off, balance and worthy. You might attack him, but a miscalculation in a nuclear age in the nuclear age is just the consequences, just so thank you for awful, and that's why, for most of my lifetime, the major thrust of military policy or worldwide has meant to prevent the use of nuclear weapons and and also chemical and biological weapons, so any unpredictable actor and withdraw
into that makes is really bad, not just for the United States and career, but for humanity, and so what is the the lesson here with respect to proliferation, Is it that it really matters that you get nukes, because once you do the world really can't do. With you, no one can really successfully coerce you and it's really both sides of it. I got what we can't they do anything with our nukes other they're kind of unusable. I guess there's a an argument for disarmament, that level or or drawing down to the absolute minimum required to respond to a first strike but nobody's contemplating the first use of nuclear weapons apart from the maniacs and the maniacs have learned that if you have nukes, you have paralyzed the rational actors of the world. I think you're right. I think, however
and think I think you might using the using the word maniac loosely you know it actually makes sense what you're saying I can see someone like him, John, I'm very rationally. Arriving at that conclusion, in this case I'm talking about moral maniacs, the kind of people who would say, We're going to annihilate these innocent people over here without a qualm you, unless you give us what we want. That's fair But I do think that an order put yourself in that position. You have to be willing to completely isolate yourself an while China and Russia has continued to train somewhat. With North Korea. The reason that we can't bring sufficient
pressure on them are we have been able to is that they don't have ties with the rest of the world. They've had to make themselves into an outlaw regime, and you know IRAN is a good counterpoint. Iran is a country which also has pursued nuclear weapons and believe they need them to prevent, you know being attacked and would help prevent them from being attacked, but they also have extensive trading. Eyes in baking ties throughout the world and They made the calculation during the Obama administration, and you know when Obama was able to get many countries around the world and the key trading partners with around to get on board with that with the EU. Nuclear pact that we signed with them and we pressured IRAN into halting their nuclear programme for at least fifteen years. So there are very susceptible tried to stop
There are many regimes that, like the one the king John, has, that would find it acceptable to sell completely isolate themselves, for it one reason, and that would be another weapon that they couldn't use without being destroyed themselves I swear it. Really. Integration with the rest of the world is key. Here is a key strength, obviously, but it is also a weakness if you suddenly find self, the adversary of all humanity. Insofar as you care to get your next shipment or you will you like being connected to the internet or else goes to how this regime is and how impoverished. That country is. Any other. I think form of government in North Korea would have to be someone interested in the welfare of the people of the
true, but this is a purely totalitarian draconian stay and you know our position or even The sparkling wine is now so I just don't see too many places like that emerging. It's just a gigantic hostage situation. Then the hostages, to whatever degree, are brainwashed. You know they have Stockholm Syndrome to the ultimate agree, and I think China is largely to blame for it may back in that real war. The reason the United States in the South Koreans halted at the do military is always the thirty seven pearl was beat the Chinese intervene to the to prop up can also and to perpetuate regime and I think they could have predicted how weird it would become over the generations, but dough
It has really become these strangers. It can nations among nations in the world in the modern age, and I do think, I'm a great advocate of non proliferation. I think it's the only sensible policy to pursue. I disarmament, but I know North Korea is north. Korea is just the sort of the exception. Approves the boy. Did you know what percentage of South Korea the hope for a? U reunification of the peninsula. Many that's a pop. It's a popular issue in South Korea You know we will be talking just about the United States posture toward North Korea, but did not the South Koreans are com far less warlike than the United States in their posture toward North Korea
I think what they fear more than anything, is the collapse of the Kim dynasty, because it would stick South Korea with responsibility for essentially care and feeding of a disabled in a country that roughly the same size as the one they had. It would be devastating their economy and I think that it's a fantasy and its one that you know down the road of people like happened, but, but that's something they want right away. You I would make the reunification of Germany seem just trivial by comparison. Amount would be an amazing thing to witness, even if it was done not as the consequence of a war or even though even if everyone agreed this is what we want to do is time time to reunify all Koreans be amazing to behold.
Well, we remove J when the new in that the new president of South Korea is so, he asked Trot tried to restart negotiations with Pyongyang Form unification. It must be more recently just made an offer to combine the South Korean North Korea's all come athletes to former near a single korean entry into the Olympic Games. You know these are the level at which South Korea is willing to engage with them North Korea, and I we do know that you know when the anti missile system the fad system was may installed earlier this year, that there were hundreds of thousands of South Koreans. Protest in the installation of Anti missile system Caesar vessels over dinner said you know any north korean missiles that would be aimed at South Korea, so that was considered by many south grants to be too perhaps
Steph. So you know there's a real moral question here I mean where the United States, may you know, fetus belligerent as it once and you know, Donald Trump's tweet, but our allies in South Korea are the ones on the front line and the ones who are going to be in OB shot at. So I don't think United States can act independent of their wishes. Yeah yeah, so talk me through acceptance. To whatever degree you can hear is doubtless fast forward a couple years, and now North Korea has a missile that we know is kept within an appropriately miniaturized nuke. They can reach at minimum, leave the entire West coast of the? U S so LOS Angeles San Francisco Seattle. What does acceptance look like this? It did you think we can just
a recalibrate and suddenly see this as no different than the world? We were living in under the cold war, or is this a new sword of Damocles over our heads that we really can't quite accept and this this is a kind of long term Susie. I do think that we will end up in that's. A terrible situation is a bitter pill to swallow. This is something that the United States has been committed to preventing, for forty years and we haven't been able to prevent so I mean acknowledging that this is likely going to be the case What is it me on what I am I mean it really does it changed the situation all that much when you consider that North Korea has had this capability of killing millions, the South Koreans are not to mention the thirty thousand,
our contributory stationed in South Korea. You know unless some their allies are inherently less significant, then the lives of Americans living in LOS Angeles, her poor San Francisco. You know the consequences. Of North Korea. Using these weapons are the same thing. You know how many I think I wrote somewhere Armitage's guinea multiply infinity may when you're Talkin but millions of people it just it's beyond conception the level of tragedy that would be entailed. So I think that it doesn't really alter the strategic dynamic all that much- and It's a sum: if a much less dangerous situation than the one I lived through growing up in the fifties and sixtys when you know that I can remember the cuban missile crisis, were you know the projections were twenty minutes? You know that within twenty minutes we could have incinerated most of the northern hemisphere.
That was a far more dangerous period of american life in and we were able to torrents work that is mutually assured destruction, This case whirling, taking about assured destruction, because this terrible as it would be for North Korea to strike an american city with a nuclear weapon. It would not be the destruction of the United States of America as it were men during the cold war. It would be a terrible thing, but it won't be the total destruction of North Korea without a doubt so, What is the likelihood that North Korea is going to take that step? I think that as much as people like to disparage Kim Jong learn as being crazy, his steps have been very predictable since he took power. What four years ago now for five years ago in some ways, is far more predictable that our current president,
put a great deal of trust in him more in the north korean regime, but I dont think they're suicidal and I do think using a weapon like outwardly. Suicide. Well, there's been a barrel of laughs. Mark lighter taken by something more light hearted someday before I let you go on with with Urim. Very productive life has a long form journalist. Tell me what you know about Trump Well, I've got a long weekend with down once it borrow logger. I did it back in eighteen. Eighty six. I think it was a profile for Playboy magazine and at the time you know the dawn who is very, very proud to have been the only man ever teacher on the cover of Playboy magazine in a big fan of the whole playboy concept was willing to physical, inviting
and who is life and I flew down tomorrow. I go with him and his then wife Marilla and their little girl, Tiffany others Jack, and I hung at it. Moral. I go with him and I had the chance to really talk to them and observe him in and I came away feeling like this- is one of the most loathsome human being I've never met him. I lie. Ah, you know just what I I would recommend that you read the story, but someone who throws you know temper tantrums to lies about everything. I'm just with everything you told me turned out not to be true. I just witnessed him throw a big temper tantrum out on his tennis courts, where you didn't like the way that the electric pumps were mounted on the water fountains between beautiful clay courts that they have done their MAR a Lago, so he started kicking and pulling and yanked up to the motor and broke the water lines and flooded all the court.
And then he was embarrassed any new that I witness, so he came up to me. And he said well, I guess you know they'll have to be in the store- and I said, yeah pretty much. That's going to be in the story. It sunny So to worry about it- and I remember on the flight home, he is actually just offered me the opportunity to write his next book, which is clearly a bribe because he knew that He probably wasn't like the story that I wrote about it. Some even under anybody behave like that. Me an enemy. He was on his best behavior. I presume As you know, I was there to observing and write about himself, To me, the idea that point that he would someday be present United States is just so laughable, like life just continues to throw curves that I would never from it yeah. Why that has always been always been my perception of heaven again right.
All of the animals. I have expressed toward him about him on this. Podcast is driven by an impression that certainly predates his throne. Four offers. You know. I've. I've never met him, and I haven't really focused on him, but he's always he's been famous for decades now, and he has always struck me as just the most morally shallow person in the public sphere and also just out registry incompetent. I mean here at the time I was hanging out with him, had destroyed his business and save them we run by corner appointed businessman because he had run them all. Into the ground and the fact that the time he told me that you know he lost all his money at once when he was like the poorest man and Fifth avenue
That is the reason that he survived. That period was not because he was bright, but because so many people had invested so heavily that hit sinking tunnels. Thinking would have destroyed a lot of other people. So they basically short in back up and at that point he stopped me a businessman completely. He was just is the real estate version of north yeah yeah something MRS Mary became just a brand name and then We boast about that. You put my trunk on something you don't become. You was the, and that in fact has proved to be true, and then you know things like. I could go on about I'll drop deeply. Entire intellectual person by which I mean he's not hateful toward enlarging. People actually know something. You just feels there's no point to because he believes he has gifted with a gut feeling about things
right and that he has this honour and instinct and no amount of failure in his life from personal failure to professional failure. Just abuses, him of this notion and now in Europe, and yet you yeah it's so hard hard to see him running for president to see people telling us. This is a great business genius in ever him telling himself. His is the largest proponent of himself,
the world is just applied. The irony there is that a sufficient degree of delusion leads to your success and it is. It is self confirming you know that, because he is, he is president really as a result of being that incorrigible, you know, there's nothing. They can cause him to visibly doubt himself and he managed to take in nearly half of the society. With this perfect conjugal yeah, I think, is also dropped into in some ways: a perfect storm political union year. You have this big tall, blind, supposedly successful business man. You know right for president to replace the first, african american president in american history and not don't tell me that didn't strike a chord in this country and that racism is still very much alive, and I see race is a big factor that asks where you know the.
The failings of the Obama administration in the economic hardship set up in a blue collar Americans everywhere, and I I think this is a kind of like you know your fucking mind already, let's just because you know get rid of everybody and start over again. Who cares who's in charge ass, the wrecking ball concept? You know, you know that that's a strain in America, politics, its long been there, I just think frankly, not always lose them as he is as a person, and I didn't really just like him all that much. I felt these kind of harmless. You know in his worldly York he's harmless. One is not run in the world Now you know how a world. Did this happen sooner,
Are you view the current Russia scandal, and it was so we're not having this conversation a few days after Don Jr had to release of emails, I'll probably release this a weekend. So I would we don't know how the the investigation will have moved on in the interim, but at this moment it seems like there is a lot to talk about with respect to to the narrow case for collusion with Russia in this general messy picture of not been forthcoming about all the ways in which Trump and the family and the surrogate send the campaign had dealings with Russia and liberal. Second to disclose them, and they do. They only disclose them under the direction of more stuff leaking out. What is the connection to Russia? In your view, if you had to bet if
The bet I would say the Russians very smartly, played Trump, definitely try to influence the outcome of the election, and recognise, probably early on that they were not dealing with the very shrewd actors. Someone like Donald Trump Junior Ball, man afford these are people with no writer to guide them. They just, I think, just like Donald Trump SR o you no doubt trumped junior. Reacts to that, and you know when you're running for president. You know I have no doubt that Donald Trump itself would have welcomed the help of Russians if there were hurrying Hilary, in the campaign. It would never have occurred to you that this was an unpatriotic thing to do and that there was an obligation. You know The United States citizens not to try to undermine our election process
I dont think is that diatribe actively would have actively colluded with Russians in doing this, because, frankly, they wouldn't be stupid enough to start to him exactly what they wrapped. It will be interesting. Do you think we're gonna have trump for four years or eight years rethink impeachment is a coin toss away? I don't think there will be an impeachment and frankly, as much as ninety despair with dollar shop in the White House, I think it would be a bad thing to happen because any in our effort to take out I'll drop, you know through appeasement with just throw fuel to the fire that there's this deep state and there's the sir you no secret
Conspiracy in watch was all over the United States to create some sort of left wing autocracy, I think, far better than he continued to stumble his way through for years. You know to my democratic friends. I tell him, instead of green for impeachment european recruiting people to vote, start winning the elections and twenty eighteen in the general good candidates to put forth in three and a half years, which is coming down the days. So my hope is that the structure and will be brief. They will get through that train, triggering nuclear war on the ground Peninsula, and there was something left of our economy and our dignity when those for years are interesting. I'll have to think but that because I've been rooting for impeachment, but now you you put me back on my heels I'll, have to invite you back on. It it becomes clear, go in one way or the other, but it's hard to know what to hope for at the moment, it's
Just keep your sense of humor SAM is really important, because I need that reminder from time to time. I will listen. Mark has really been good. To talk to you and I just tell our listeners where they can get your most reliably online or you on twitter. You give a website, you want them to know about now. A dinosaur I can I right through the Atlantic it. So if you go to the annex one site, which is the lack of common pick up the magazine, see my story so then any fair, I frequently contribute to them minus book his way. Nineteen sixty eight it's on sale everywhere. I might monitor great well. Keep it up. Mark has been a pleasure, my pleasure. If you find Comcast viable. There are many ways you can support it. You can review Itunes or stature. Whoever you happen to listen to it, you can share on social media with your friends you can buy.
About her discuss it on your own podcast or even supported directly, and you can do this- subscribing through my website at SAM Harris, DOT, Org and there fine subscriber only content, which includes my ask me anything episodes. He also get access to advance tickets to my live events as well streaming, video of some of these events- and you also get to hear the bonus questions, for many of these issues,
Transcript generated on 2020-03-23.