Complexities: Madam Secretary and North Korea

I am a big fan of Madam Secretary, the TV series on CBS Sunday nights.  I like the show because it paints the complexities of our politics and foreign affairs with characters who are smart and intelligent, and my I add, even the “bad guys” (Republicans) are played with complexity.  You get they care, they just have it wrong.  They like simplicity in a world of complexity. But the mid-season finale was one that even twisted my brain a little.

In this fictional plot, the story line is pushing women empowerment and the fight for women’s rights around the world.  The plot thickens when the U.S. is planning a major strike on the Taliban to “finally put them away,” or seriously damage them to make them negotiate from a weakened position. Where have we heard this before?  Light at the end of the tunnel in Vietnam for starters and of course every surge we have every had in the Middle East.

The side plot is that the Afghan foreign minister is a woman who is speaking at a woman’s conference about the rights of women in her country and the world which she is a passionate fighter for.  Just as all this is happening, two things change the potential outcome.  It turns out a high-ranking Afghan official is collaborating putting in doubt the Afghan’s military support after the attack, and more importantly, that (and this is a real number) 68% of the Afghan people support Sharia law, with the Taliban willing to negotiate.  As one high-ranking official points out, the Taliban are not exporting their violence, while others see a lost opportunity if the military strike is not carried out.

To make a long story short, the Taliban are willing to accept women going to school, but cannot drive and cannot participate in government, if they can have a seat in the government.  So do we launch a strike that will kill thousands of civilians and the war goes on (standing firm on our principles, or do we negotiate away the rights (some) of women in Afghanistan? The moral dilemma is real.  The very woman who is giving the address at a conference on women’s right will lose her job.  Yet can we really change a nation by war or  do they have to change themselves and the only way that change will work is through their evolution?  The Saudis are now going to let women drive.  It’s a start.

Enter North Korea and the real world.  The country itself is a living hell, morally repugnant to any modern-day human being.  Yesterday Kim Jong-un showed up in a coat and tie and played nice-nice with South Korea.  Yet he made the point that he had the nukes to hit the United States.  Allowing this regime to continue is morally repugnant and presents a danger to the world, but the alternative is death and destruction in Asia and unknown complications with all our allies throughout the world.  And those who have been there say the Koreans are ready for war.

So that moral thing presented in Madam Secretary stares us in the face in the real world in North Korea.  It is very complicated.  Clearly I see our only choice is to accept a nuclear armed North Korea and try to slowly change them (See Iran today) and bring them into the 21st century. Expectations are the fuel of revolution. Yes we allow injustice totally in opposition to our own fundamental beliefs to continue, but will war really change anything unless we are attacked?

The only problem with all this is that we have a President and a Secretary of State who do not think we should be pushing our beliefs in democracy and freedom on the rest of the world when it comes to “business” (foreign policy).  How can we change the world for the better if we give up trying to beat them into submission if we don’t continue to push for a more just world through our basic fundamental values?  See, it’s complicated and simple solutions from President DFF may play well with the unwashed, but successful policy is a long complicated process.  Oh, and art in the form of a TV series really can be about deep important ideas.

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