Entry 6: When the Juices Don’t Flow

December 21, 2017

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?


Got very little writing done, probably 150 words of text and 50 or so words of footnotes.  Really need to pick up the pace.

I’m at the point with Chapter 3 where I’m constructing North Korea’s beliefs about coercion in a generally accessible way.  I think this won’t be as difficult as I thought it might initially.  Re-reading through some of the history today and last night, I’ve found a lot of episodes that will prove useful in conveying how deeply ingrained in North Korean strategic culture two ideas are: going on the offensive for the sake of defense and meeting pressure with pressure.  The combination of the two is what makes Trump administration policy right now uniquely dangerous.

The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos went to Pyongyang not long ago and came back with a long-form essay for his magazine confirming that the “I die, you die” mindset of North Korean elites has endured from the 1960s to today.  As I write this, it dawns on me that the Osnos reporting might be a useful primary source of evidence to incorporate.

I have to admit I never got the juices flowing today.  But after I finished writing for the day I read a piece in The Telegraph that the Trump administration is preparing to give Kim Jong Un a “bloody nose” with a limited preventive strike.  This is the height of insanity against any adversary because achieving deterrence through compellence isn’t a “thing,” and no negotiation premised on cowing the other side through violence can hold for long.  But given what North Korea believes about coercion, it’s even more assured to end badly.  Wanting to give someone a bloody nose is a bad reason to end up with a nuclear war.

Needless to say I’m pumped now, and plan to kick some ass on tomorrow’s writing.  Will try to get an early start.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks.

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