If you’re not familiar with Pod Save the World from Crooked Media, it is where Tommy Vietor and Ben Rhodes, both of whom worked in the Obama administration, discuss world politics and all sorts of other affairs.
It’s consistently interesting and informative, one of my favorite podcasts and I recommend it to you without reservation.
Embedded below is the episode from January 10, 2024. If I’ve done this right it’s cued up to 51:35, towards the end of a discussion of Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the fact that North Korea is currently supplying Russia with a lot of heavy weapons in support of that war.
Rhodes then segues into a serious issue that hasn’t gotten much attention, but which everyone should be aware of as we move into this election year. We already know that Trump has said that he doesn’t like our alliance with NATO and there is a lot of speculation that he might well pull the US out of that crucial alliance. What else might he do?
Ben asks the next obvious, dangerous question: Do you think that the U.S. would come to the defense of South Korea in a Trump administration?
Ben has no answer to that question and neither do I, but the implications are obvious. No matter what the US public or the rest of the world thinks, you know Trump would gladly turn South Korea over to Kim Jong Un, a despot he considers a dear friend and a role model for the type of government Trump himself would like to impose. The US public and the rest of the world would fight him on it, but you know he’d try.
I’ve transcribed the segment below. Any errors are my own.
Ben: The last thing I just, you know, ruminating over the break, unfortunately not about positive things because the world doesn’t seem that great. This North Korea piece, there was some, like, North Korean escalations, provocations towards the South Koreans over the break. Who knows what they are getting from the Russians in exchange for all that artillery? They must be getting something.
And the thing I was thinking about, okay, the world’s on fire and the thing we talk about a lot, a lot of people talk about, like, Ukraine, you’ve got the Middle East on fire, and then you’ve got Taiwan… Like, “Hey, let’s not forget the Korean peninsula here!” Because if, if Trump wins, okay? Do you think that the U.S. would come to the defense of South Korea in a Trump administration?
Tommy: I hadn’t even thought about it.
Ben: This is the man that literally… I hadn’t thought about it either until for some reason over the break, but like, this is a man has ‘love letters’ from Kim Jong Un displayed on his wall.
Tommy: That’s a big accomplishment.
Ben: Who boasts about how tight he is with the guy… You’ve got Kim Jong Un feeling emboldened by the support he’s getting from Russia and China. I’d watch that one! You know, another reason for Trump not to win because… I kind of feel like suddenly the Korean Peninsula becomes a hot spot.
Tommy: Yeah, it’s a good point. It’s easy to mock North Korea’s sort of backward Potemkin cult of personality but they have a military-industrial complex that is…
Ben: Yeah. That’s all they are!
Tommy: that [crosstalk] right? They’ve got a lot of shells they can transfer over. And also the, you know, in the United States there’s still this big question about this supplemental funding bill and frankly the entire fate of the Ukrainian war effort probably rides on it, so…
Ben: A lot up in the air in 2024.
Edit 1/17/24: Today there was another Pod Save the World episode and North Korea was once again a topic of discussion. I won’t embed, but the conversation starts at time marker 48:00. This time the subject arose because of yet another hostile action by Kim Jung Un, as discussed in this New York Times article. (gift link, no paywall).
North Korea Says It Is No Longer Interested in Reunifying With the South
Abandoning the longtime goal, however unlikely, Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, instead threatened to subjugate South Korea in war.