North Korea’s behavior was, is, and remains bad. It has not improved a whit in the decades that followed. They kill, cheat, lie, torture, steal from, and starve their own people, and they spew their venomous hatred without surcease. Should we then negotiate? Talk? Find common ground? I say, no! Talk is cheap, and in this case, most demonstrably fruitless. In truth, the North Korean government ought to be destroyed, lock, stock, and barrel. General MacArthur was right, Truman wrong. No good can come of North Korea’s continuance. Lawyers—who comprise an inordinately large percentage of our three branches of government—endlessly argue this. That’s what they do, argue.[i] Yet it remains true that “the law‐abiding pace is a cold, deliberate, and constrained one, and is not the kind that can hold up against a lawless and unbridled pace.”[ii] North Korea is a lawless and unbridled pacer, forty-six thousand square miles of trouble, controlled by an undeniable, demonstrably evil dictatorship—yet legal thinkers, politicians, continue their endless protests. Their trifling language, wholly foreign to the rest of us, is nothing more than full employment for lawyers. Montaigne saw this with great clarity more than four hundred years ago.[iii] Lawyers like to claim they are concerned with justice and truth, but what does that mean? Are not justice and truth the same? Wiser, more astute, and more knowledgeable people than I have considered this question in great depth, and happily, they agree with me: No. Justice and truth are not the same, not at all.[iv] Even so, because few understand this completely, I record it here in the fervent hope of improving understanding. I do so with as much objectivity as I can muster, presenting it unvarnished, undecorated, and unadorned. I have concluded that the word “negotiation” ought to be removed from our language. It is more trouble than it is worth. It is, in fact, mere talk—and again, talk is cheap. North Korea=unmitigated poverty, South Korea=unimaginable prosperity. Which embodies virtue? Which would you choose?
[i] “Probabilities and plausible arguments involve no knowledge concerning truth, but trial and disputation and wrangling conflict and contentiousness and everything of that sort.” Philo, Volume I, Book III, edited by G. P. Gould, The Loeb Classical Library (LCL 226), Page 459, year 1991.
[ii] The Complete Essays of Montaigne, Translated by Donald M. Frame, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California; Copyright 1943 by Donald M. Frame, renewed 1971. Copyright © 1948, 1957, and 1958 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, Page 89.
[iii] “Why is it that our common language, so easy for any other use, becomes obscure and unintelligible in contracts and wills, and that a man who expresses himself so clearly, whatever he says or writes, finds in this [the legal] field no way of speaking his mind that does not fall into doubt and contradiction? Unless it is that the princes of this art [lawyers], applying themselves with particular attention to picking out solemn words and contriving artificial phrases, have so weighed every syllable, so minutely examined every sort of combination, that they are at last entangled and embroiled in the endless number of figures and in such minute partitions that they can no longer fall under any rule or prescription or any certain interpretation.” The Complete Essays of Montaigne, Translated by Donald M. Frame, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California; Copyright © 1943 by Donald M. Frame, renewed 1971. Copyright © 1948, 1957, and 1958 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, Page 816.
[iv] “Here is the essential difference between historical and legal evidence―or between historical and legal thinking. Law (at least in a state governed by a constitution) can deal only with actuality, not with potentiality. ‘The law is a coarse net; and truth is a slippery fish.’ Yes, but the purpose of law has nothing to do with truth: it is the establishment of justice. Truth and justice are not the same things, even though the pursuit of truth and the pursuit of justice may, on occasion, overlap. But besides the question (or, rather, the obvious primacy) of truth over justice, there are other important differences between historical and legal evidences and thinking. One is that law, after all—inevitably and necessarily—is a closed system, within its own definite rules and regulations. For instance, it does not and should not allow multiple jeopardy: a case, when and if properly tried, is decided once and for all. History (and our memory) is open and never closed; it specializes in multiple jeopardy: its subjects and people are rethought over and over again, and not even necessarily on the basis of newly found evidence… Another great difference—I am again referring principally to Anglo-American law—is the one between motives and purposes. These two are regrettably confused because of the vocabulary and the practices of twentieth -century psychology and thought, the attribution of motive having become a pestilential habit. But we must distinguish between the two. Motives come from the past; purposes involve the pull of the future. At its best, Anglo-American law will admit only a ‘motive’ which has been, in one way or another, expressed; in other words, an actuality, not a potentiality. (As Dr. Johnson said: ‘Intentions must be gathered from acts.’) At its worst, unexpressed motives are sometime attributed and accepted in some courts on the basis of psychological characterization and other dubious ‘expertise.’ A proper comprehension of the essential difference between motives and purposes is an essential condition of the pursuit and of the protection of justice and of truth—and of all historical thinking and speaking and writing.” Remembered Past; On History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge, by John Lukacs, Chapter I, Page 8, edited by Mark G. Malvasi and Jeffrey O. Nelson, ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, © 2005 ISI Books.