“BREAKING: NORTH KOREA TESTS NUCLEAR WEAPON”
Jim Geraghty, the Morning Jolt:
And you thought the Pope stepped on Obama’s State of the Union address.
The seismic magnitude of an “explosion-like event” in North Korea on Tuesday was roughly twice as large as that of a 2009 nuclear test in the country, an international nuclear test monitoring agency said.
“We can assume this is roughly twice as big in magnitude,” Lassina Zerbo, director of the international data center division of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) told a news conference.
North Korea said earlier it had carried out a third nuclear test on Tuesday.
The CTBTO’s assessment was based on its measurement of a seismic event measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale, versus 4.5 in 2009, and 4.1 in 2006. The U.S. Geological Survey said earlier that a seismic event measuring 5.1 had occurred.
Reaction from our president:
This is a highly provocative act that . . . undermines regional stability, violates North Korea’s obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation.
North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region.
The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies.
More “post-modern” presidential rhetoric: all that is necessary is that we speak of what is warranted — in this case, “further swift and credible action by the international community” — and that comes to stand in as the rhetorical pseudo performative that replaces any actual performative, in this case, swift and credible action, either by the US or some collection of countries.
Much like the President talks about the need for a balanced approach without ever having to commit to anything balanced; or speaks of the need for compromise without ever accepting any compromises.
It’s a trick of language, and it is how the left manipulates public perception. But there’s a way to address that, and that is thusly: “if as you say, Mr President, North Korea’s nuclear testing warrants swift and credible action, can you please elaborate on how swiftly the US and its allies plan to act, and what, in your mind, constitutes ‘credible action’?”
Of course, this kind of rejoinder requires an independent and adversarial press interested in speaking Truth to Power, as the kids used to say. But instead, all we have is a propaganda arm of the Democrat / New Left party who stands guard for Obama — and in precisely the way I’ve described: they allow to pass as answers those non-answers posing as plans of action, faux performative statements which carry no actual performative weight save to delay and defer and deflect, to give the appearance of doing something without ever doing something, to state the obvious while pretending you’ve stated the profound or earnest or provocative or solicitous.
In layman’s terms, Obama tells us what he believes we want to hear, ticking off the proper phrases without ever committing to the actions they portend — always keeping them as a future imperative, a point of latent galvanization. Thus, “North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community” is a declarative that includes and implied promise, with no specifics about the promise, and so nothing we can hold the President to. Similarly, the declaration that “the United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies” is a rather empty and obvious statement, with no answer given for just what steps, and no details offered for what comes to count as “necessary.”
This is the language of the academia, filled with hedges and pretend plans of action that we’re to believe are actual plans of action simply because they’ve been vaguely verbalized and coupled to assurances of future action.
Obama and his New Left allies are first, foremost, and solely political creatures. This way of speaking allows them to commit themselves only after events have played out, then to go back, point to their open-ended rhetoric, and either deflect blame or accept accolades — depending on how things shake out.
The progressives call this “leading from behind” and cheer it on, emblematic to them as it is of a change in American posture from one of hyperpower and colonialist / imperialist state to one in which they play Yoda to the world’s many scrappy Lukes. It is just another iteration of their condescending paternalism. Which, frankly — and dangerously — is really all they have.
And don’t think the world’s most savage and authoritarian leaders haven’t already seen the cowardice and opportunism that drives such a posture.
George Lakoff, “Obama’s speeches are not just words — they are political action“.
To the extent that Lakoff would concede that “political action” is not the same as substantive action, or performance of any kind of active leadership, he has a point: Obama’s speeches aren’t just words, they are meant as a way to create political conditions that provides his Adminstration with cover and keeps them from having to act in the way they wish us to perceive them acting.
But I’m quite certain that’s not what Lakoff means. Which makes him full of shit — and his column an objective correlative for the arguments made in my post.