Under Siege

As I was working today, a news alert showed up saying that North Korea had fired a missile only two weeks after its latest nuclear test.  Some time later the missile was reported to have sailed over Japan and sank in the sea.  This is not the first time this has happened.  As someone who is interested in naval history, it is striking how much the actions of North Korea resemble those of a ship with violent intentions that is firing a shot across the bow in an attempt to terrorize another ship, especially a merchant vessel.  Perhaps this may come across as an odd metaphor, but as Japan is a series of islands and North Korea operates as if it was an island of its own, it does not take too much effort to see nearby islands operating like ships in the sea.  At least it does not seem odd to me to make that connection given my interest in the merchant marine [1].

This is not the first time that North Korea has sought to terrorize its neighbors through military provocation.  As I mentioned, this is not even the first time in the last month this has happened.  For the last few years, even [1], North Korea has acted in such a fashion as to invite being beat down by other nations.  It has antagonized South Korea, Japan, the United States, and even China.  The United States has responded with a mix of encouragement to other nations closer to harm’s way, attempts to build a coalition of the willing to deal with the problem, and insult-based humor about the young and bellicose ruler of North Korea, and even some compassion for those poor souls who are in the country ruled by such a madman.  One can have sympathy for a people without having much regard for the people who rule over that country–I wonder if that is how people feel about my own country these days.

What is it like to feel that one is under siege all the time?  It must wear on one immensely.  I have, mercifully, never been in a literal siege, but these things happen from time to time.  In warfare, of course, they are far more common and I have been fortunate enough not to be involved in them in a literal, military sense.  Yet I have seen it in a variety of ways.  When I traveled to Israel, for example, I noticed that the people there had a wariness about them, a suspicion about strangers, and other people picked up on it as well.  I was a little more understanding, I think, than most of the others I was with because I tend to be a fairly wary and guarded person myself who does not trust easily, which is the sort of demeanor you develop under siege.  In my own life, I have certainly felt under attack for a large part of the time I have spent on this earth in one form of another, so I can relate to others that feel like they are under the same sort of threat of assault.  It is an area where I definitely have empathy with others.

Yet ultimately one does not want to remain under siege forever.  A siege is a test of wills between the besieger and the besieged.  In a full siege, defeat is inevitable for the defender if no help comes because of starvation.  However, in many cases the besiegers themselves are in a dangerous position as well, because the defender has denied resources over an area or because an army has eaten out an area and has shaky logistics of its own.  In this case, we have a rare example of a besieged nation seeking to besiege others in an asymmetrical fashion.  The sanctions on North Korea have greatly harmed its people, as has the skewed priorities of its rulers, and so North Korea has sought to besiege others in a psychological fashion by presenting itself as a dangerous nation and therefore one which must be respected.  In this case we have an example of besieging and being besieged simultaneously, until someone blinks or until someone is starved out.  This is, obviously, not the most appealing option to be in, but we live in a world full of unappealing realities that must be dealt with as honestly as possible.

[1] See, for example:







[2] Nor is this the first time I have written about this.  See, for example:




About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, International Relations, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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