The news out of the Koreas is overwhelmingly positive. Many are giving President Trump praise for precipitating denuclearization and accelerating peace talks. Not long ago, we were on the brink of nuclear war with the North Koreans.
One particularly precarious time occurred on January 13th in Hawaii when a false alarm for an incoming ballistic missile went off. Before everyone learned it was false, social media was ablaze with vitriol for President Trump. People blamed him with the seething hatred that social media seems inextricably linked to.
The fury emanated from the belief that the false missile alarm was related to Trump’s instigation and hardline stance on North Korea. The prevailing anger based supposition revolved around the conviction that had Trump been more peaceful, Kim Jong Un would not feel threatened, and would therefore himself pursue a willingness to demilitarize and pursue peace. Unfortunately, due to Trump’s grandstanding, Kim Jong Un felt threatened, and therefore needed to protect himself and his people. If only Trump was more compassionate and peaceful, then the world would be a safer place.
Ultimately, there are two issues at hand in this conversation that liberals and conservatives clash over. The first is military strategy of appeasement vs. deterrence (Sowell, 1990). The second concerns postmodernism/nominalism/relativism/constructivism- call it whatever you like- contrasting with Russell Kirk’s first conservative principle, “that there exists and enduring moral order” (Kirk, 1953).
The issue concerning military strategy involves conflicting visions about the nature of human beings. Appeasement, as a military strategy, is the idea that human beings are naturally good- an idea that comes from Rousseau and therefore they do not actively seek violence, fights, and wars (Sowell, 1990). The proponent of military appeasement believes that by deescalating, reducing our military, and showing a friendlier disposition, potentially hostile and threatening countries and enemies will see our willingness for peace, and they in turn will follow our lead.
The second military strategy, deterrence theory (Sowell, 1990), is the opposite of appeasement. Essentially, deterrence strategy says we’re going to strengthen our military, increase our military presence around the world, and let everyone know that when push comes to shove, we’re ready, willing, and able to fight. The idea here is intimidation and the notion that should someone step out of line, there will be swift and intense consequences.
Deterrence is the strategy the United States used with the Soviet Union after WWII. As President Kennedy said, “We dare not tempt them with weakness” (Kennedy, as quoted by Sowell, 1990, p. 117). We wanted to let the Soviets know that we meant business. The reason we adopted this policy? The failure of the appeasement strategy famously- or more appropriately, infamously- used by Neville Chamberlain with Hitler and the Nazis. Chamberlain spoke of peace, consistently met Hitler on his terms, and showed what he thought was kindness (Sowell, 1990).
The results? Hitler took Chamberlain’s kindness as a sign of weakness. Hitler mobilized his Nazi soldiers and waged war on Europe and the world. We all know how the rest of the story went.
Chamberlain’s appeasement answers the question of how Hitler was able to take much of Europe, but it fails to answer the question of why? Why did Hitler do the unconscionable things he did? How could anyone perform such unspeakable atrocities and feel justified in his actions?
The answer is simple: because Adolf Hitler was an evil man. Hitler was the very embodiment of evil. Evil exists in this world, and Hitler is its posterchild, as with other 20th century villains like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. We understood this after WWII. The wounds of a violent and bloody conflict were still open and undergoing the long and painful healing process. President Kennedy knew that evil existed, and we couldn’t take the chance with the Soviets. We had to let them know that we meant business.
So why was there so much anger directed at Trump in mid-January? Could people not see the evil in Kim Jong Un? Could people not understand that we need to be firm, stand tall, and protect not just our own interests, but those of our allies threatened by him?
The answer to this question is in the second of our two issues: postmodernism/nominalism/relativism/constructivism vs. the enduring moral order of Russell Kirk. Postmodernism and its various iterations are predicated on the idea that there is no objectivity in the world. Everything is subjective, everything relative, and everything is some sort of arbitrary social construct that has meaning only in maintaining power structures. Postmodernism is the ideology that Professor Jordan Peterson has become famous for fighting.
Society? An arbitrary social construct. Traditional gender roles? Meaningless ideas meant to preserve and maintain power for men. Race? Complete fabrication designed to keep White people in power. The worth of culture, ideas, and things when compared to each other? All relative and their worth predicated on the individual’s perspective. There is no good, there is no bad, there is only a person’s subjective opinion relative to someone else’s.
The postmodernist ideology has permeated our universities and has seeped into our K-12 institutions and curriculums. The postmodernist thinks everything is relative and subjective, including the struggle for good and evil. To the postmodernist or relativist, they think that, “yeah, Kim Jong Un is the bad guy to us, but to him, we’re the bad guys!” These educated fools- and many of them extremely intelligent and highly educated at elite universities- cannot seem to tell the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
They believe Donald Trump is the epitome of evil. He’s a fascist, a racist, a misogynist, and basically the American version of Kim Jong Un. They cannot see that Kim Jong Un prohibits free speech while Trump reaffirms it; People are not free to leave North Korea without governmental permission; North Korea prohibits free practice of religion; private enterprise is illegal; interracial relations are illegal (Wright and Urban, 2017). A report in 2017 said that there is “evidence of systematic murder, including infanticide, and torture, persecution of Christians, rape, forced abortions, starvation and overwork leading” (AP, 2017, para. 2) to deaths. Kim Jong Un incarcerates not just political prisoners, but
Family members of individuals accused of political wrongdoing – a form of collective punishment against “class enemies” that dates back to the 1950s. Such victims are subject to arbitrary detention, torture, summary execution or life sentences. Hundreds of thousands of inmates are estimated to have died in camps over the years. (AP, 2017, para.6)
Some of the abuses these political prisoners are subjected to:
"Starving prisoners are regularly executed when caught scavenging for food; abortions being performed by injecting motor oil into the wombs of pregnant women, according to a former North Korean army nurse; and firing squad executions of prisoners who attempt to escape." (AP, 2017, para. 7)
An international war crimes committee reported that:
"The dictator committed all but one of the 11 recognized crimes against humanity, according to the International Bar Association War Crimes Committee's report: murder, extermination, enslavement, forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearances and other inhumane acts." (NBC News, 2017, para. 2)
Say what you will about President Trump, but he is certainly not on this level of evil. Imagine what Kim Jong Un would do to the women protesting Trump in their little pink hats? Those women would be promptly executed, incarcerated, or perhaps something even worse.
The reason so many of our students and citizens cannot tell the difference between Trump and Kim Jong Un is because of the poisonous ideology known as postmodernism/relativisim/nominalism/constructivism. This ideology is the exact opposite of Russell Kirk’s first conservative principle: “that there exists and enduring moral order” (Kirk, 2007, para. 6). Kirk understood that there is a firm line in the sand between good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice. Kirk, the U.S.’ most prominent disciple of Edmund Burke, understood what Burke meant at the trial of Warren Hastings when he said, “The laws of morality are the same everywhere; and actions that are stamped with the character peculation, extortion, oppression, and barbarity in England are so in Asia, and the world over” (Burke, as quoted by Stanlis, 1986, p. 63).
There exists and enduring moral order. No matter where we go, no matter what we do, and no matter who the participants are, right and wrong are universal; good and evil are non-negotiable. Kirk said:
"A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society . . .while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society." (Kirk, 2007, para. 7).
Because our youth and intellectual leaders believe that everything in life is relative, the line in the sand separating good and evil is on the verge of becoming fully indecipherable. This blurring of morality will lead only to our own demise.
It should be painfully obvious that what Kirk, Burke, and the advocates of deterrence as a military strategy understood: there is evil in the world, and we must be firm with it. As Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minster of Australia, said, “I’ve given him that credit because Donald Trump has taken a very, very strong, hard line on the denuclearization issue and he has been able to bring in the support of the global community and, in particular, China” (As quoted by Hayes, 2018, para. 3). According to Turnbull, it was “Trump's hard-line approach on the Korean Peninsula helped lead to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un open up to peace talks and the meeting” (Hayes, 2018, para. 2).
South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, “has credited his US counterpart Donald Trump with making a ‘huge’ contribution to bringing the North and South together for landmark talks” (Griffiths, 2018). And President Trump tooted his own horn when he tweeted:
"With all of the failed “experts” weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total “might” against the North." (Trump, as quoted by Griffiths, 2018)
Trump helped bring peace talks about through deterrence, not appeasement. Trump understood that there is no way to reason with evil. And make no mistake about it, Kim Jong Un is the embodiment of evil.
President Trump, as did Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke, recognized that the concepts of good and evil, moral and immoral, right and wrong, and justice and injustice are the same everywhere. Only by valuing Kirk’s enduring moral order and eliminating the perfidious influence of critical theory, post-modernism, and relativism, can we bring a resurgence to peace, order, and opportunity in the world. Without an enduring moral order, we are left with chaos, war, and the sad reality that evil can and will triumph over good.