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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Korean Unification: Do Not Be Surprised If It Comes Soon

The most significant geopolitical events of the past half century have been unanticipated. Not that we did not expect them, but they were supposed to happen in the distant future, not now.  The North Korean regime could collapse in the same unexpected way, leaving shocked politicians, diplomats, and pundits to fend with its consequences.

While it is comforting to believe that predictable rational calculation and self interest determine the course of human events, the timing of the most significant changes in the world order is  heavily influenced by chance, personalities, emotions, and miscalculations. We expect the two Koreas to muddle along in a shaky equilibrium that will result in the end of  the Hermit Kingdom in the distant future. A collapse of the North Korean regime in the near term would send pundits in vain searches of past writings for hints they saw it coming.

Unfolding events in the Koreas and their respective mentor states, the United States and China, resemble the run ups to the collapse of communism in the USSR and Central and Southeastern Europe and the reunification of the two Germanys. Few foresaw that both would collapse as abruptly as a house of cards. The intelligence community did not foresee the end of the USSR – an intelligence failure greater than its weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco.  Likewise, it will likely categorize the near-term collapse of the North Korean regime as a “highly unlikely” outcome.

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