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Can Obama write a new script for North Korea?
December 20, 2014, 9:21 am

Any celebration following last week’s supposed Cuba-US rapprochement was short lived thanks to that other rogue state that has been a thorn in Washington’s side.

On December 18, North Korea successfully launched the equivalent of a thousand nuclear warheads at the US when it forced a major Hollywood studio to back down (at least in the interim) and pull a film that was to be released this Christmas season.

The Interview is a satire about two journalists recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

It should not be taken lightly that North Korean cyber warriors could force Hollywood, which is a major money maker and exporter of American ideals to a global audience, to curtail it’s time honored freedom of speech.

This is especially significant when considering that both Hollywood and the music and arts communities have for years combatted attempts by various domestic lobby groups and conservative politicians to change their tune and become more socially sensitive to audiences.

Freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct in democratic societies and, therefore, any attempt to silence voices no matter what they say or how morally offensive they are, is tantamount to declaring war on US shores.

North Korea has effectively fired the opening salvo at free thinking and creativity.

That is why a large chorus of Hollywood stars, directors, producers, and other heavyweights strongly condemned Sony Pictures Entertainment’s decision to pull the film from cinema release. They sense the dangerous precedent this hack attack presents – if it starts with film, where will such intimidation and pressure end?

Obama fires back

That is also why US President Barack Obama could do little to contain his disdain that North Korea could intimidate American industry with such a brazen move.

During a White House press conference on Friday, Obama said: “…imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.”

He promised to retaliate “proportionally” and at the time of his choosing against North Korea.

That’s valiant speech from a lame duck president who most likely will find his efforts to teach North Korea a lesson dead in the water.

Can't we all just share a good laugh? North Korean hackers found the film parodying Kim Jong-Un, seen in this picture visiting an army barracks, offensive [Xinhua]

Can’t we all just share a good laugh? North Korean hackers found the film parodying Kim Jong-Un, seen in this picture visiting an army barracks, offensive [Xinhua]


There are several options on Obama’s desk:

1. Obama could choose to punish North Korean cyber terrorism by increasing sanctions and isolating the already secluded state even further.

There’s an Arabic adage which says ‘you can keep grinding water and it will remain water’.

That’s exactly the situation here.

Sanctions against North Korea have only hurt a population that could probably not even find Hollywood on the map, and has weakened any civil dissidence against the Pyongyang regime.

Sanctions have not prevented North Korea from intimidating and threatening its southern neighbor – or Japan.

Sanctions have failed to put a dent in the leadership and if anything have pushed North Korea into a corner where it has no option but to increase its defensive and offensive capabilities.

We’ve seen through the celebrated announcement that Cuba and the US are to open and resume diplomatic relations that sanctions are really counterproductive and derived of medieval siege mentality.

Sanctions have not broken Russian power, they have not bent Iranian resolve and – in North Korea’s example – have only made the leadership there more paranoid and unpredictable.

2. Obama could choose to launch a cyber counterstrike against North Korea.

But North Korea is not a Western nation that has all its industry, infrastructure, and energy grid tapped into the Internet. Nor does it have a thriving multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry that can be sabotaged.

Theoretically, a cyber attack on North Korea’s nuclear and weapons facilities is feasible, but there is no way to predict how Pyongyang would react.

North Korea has recently increased its hacking activities targeting its southern neighbor. No one wants to see a cyber war turn into a real war.

If proportionality is to be believed, a cyber counterstrike against North Korea is ill advised.

3. Obama could turn to the Chinese for help. It is by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s own admission that China’s role has been pivotal in containing and negotiating with North Korea over the past few years.

Yes, Beijing could play a role in this North Korean/Hollywood fiasco but that would mean that the White House is ready to work with China, a country it has sparred with over cyber theft, to deal with the issue of cyber terrorism in Asia.

That’s about as laughable as it can possibly get.

Obama is unlikely to reach out to Beijing (according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA had hacked into Chinese telecom giant Huawei) to help in this matter.

4. The Obama administration could mobilize its 28,000 troops in South Korea and invade the northern neighbor for the purpose of regime change, freeing the oppressed peoples, bringing democracy to a former Marxist State, and enjoying the rice krispies thrown at the liberating US Army.

This has been a tried and tested formula in the Middle East, Africa, and South America.

After all, isn’t North Korea one of the Axis of Evil countries named in George Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech?

The American people, in this case, would be asked to forgive and forget similar past scenarios that have only made the world unsafer and more hostile.

Given that the US has not committed ground troops to combat the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria, it is unlikely that the Pentagon would agree to use US troops to punish North Korea. This option, therefore, is a non-starter.

5. With options running out, one shouldn’t dismiss the successful visits of former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Dennis Rodman to North Korea.

Obama could dispatch Rodman to sit down with his buddy Kim Jong-Un to convince him to shelf cyber terrorism in favor of a new reality show called Jiving with the North Korean Dictator.

That could open up Pyongyang to a whole new set of television and film franchises, and perhaps help it develop a sense of humor.

But joking aside, it remains a mystery what kind of retaliation Obama is talking about.

He really does not have that many options; they go from bad to worse – kind of like a bad Hollywood script.

So, as the old year fades and the New Year dawns, it looks like North Korea is going to go up the list of priorities for the Obama administration, and is likely to become the problem for the next president.

In the meantime, just like an author who years ago had the Ayatollah Khomeini to thank for his meteoric rise in fame, The Interview stars Seth Rogen and James Franco will emerge from all of this as unlikely heroes with astronomic celebrity status.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

3 Responses to Can Obama write a new script for North Korea?

  1. hypnocat Reply

    December 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Could it be possible that the situation is as follows: This is a US false flag cyberattack on Sony. Why? So the US can now say, “You see, Asia? This is the despotic leader that threatens you. But, have no fear! We have weapons we would gladly sell to you. And, if you pointed them to China too, that would be just super!” This isn’t about North Korea being a dictatorship (how many countries have they bombed?). This is about causing fear and anxiety in Asia so that China doesn’t emerge as a superpower to threaten US global hegemony. This is the “China pivot” in the making.

  2. Serg Derbst Reply

    January 5, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    I don’t believe the US version of North Korea being behind it. It’s yet another baseless allegation by Washington out of geopolitical self-interest. I dunno if it’s also yet another US false flag (the world has seen so many – who believes Washington whatever they say now?), but I am very sure that it’s not North Korea behind it. First, there is no evidence. Second, what would North Korea gain from such a silly attack? But third, what the US gain?

    Simple.

    The thread posed by North Korea is the only justification for Washington’s military presence in the area. Without it people in South Korea and Okinawa would stop accepting the presence of those pesky US military bases on their turf (they’re not exactly welcomed there at all and can only stay there because both governments are puppet governments).

    Like the alleged slaughter of civilians by Qaddafi, the alleged chemical attacks against its people by Assad, the alleged Iranian nuclear program, the alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine – not to mention the WMD in Iraq – this is just another geostrategic buzz from Washington. What I don’t understand is though – are they really that stupid in Washington to think that people are still believing them?

  3. mahsi k Reply

    January 8, 2015 at 3:56 am

    I am not sure it is a matter of believing what Washington tells them. I have found just plain lack of concern. It only happens other places. If they stay asleep they get the latest cell phone !

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