photo by Flickr user siamesepuppy
I recently re-watched “Caddyshack” in an effort to help our friends and allies in Seoul.
You might wonder how a beloved 1980 comedy about hijinks on a golf course could be of much use in international relations. It’s a fair question, but hold that thought.
South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye was impeached in December. In early May, the country elected Moon Jae-in as its new chief executive. Moon won largely by harnessing public outrage against the political influence-peddling scandal that led to his predecessor’s downfall. In the interim between Park’s ouster and Moon taking office, escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States led to equally escalating rhetoric, with South Korea itself largely sidelined due to its political situation.
Once he took office, however, Moon was quick to announce a softer line toward North Korea, including more engagement between the neighboring countries and even a potential meeting with Kim Jong Un “if the conditions are right.” Moon also expressed skepticism over the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, known as Thaad. China has pressured South Korea to abandon the system, which it believes impinges on its power in the region. While Moon’s election campaign largely focused on domestic problems, he also suggested from the first that Thaad should, at a minimum, be put under review. After he was elected, Moon did promptly call for a parliamentary review of the defense system.
Since Moon has taken office, North Korean missiles have traveled on a more regular schedule than the Long Island Railroad (though, at present, that is a low bar to clear). The most recent launch as of this writing, on June 7, represented the 10th test this year and the fourth since Moon’s election.
The Thaad system, or at least part of it, was installed on an abandoned South Korean golf course (donated for the purpose by a private company) prior to the presidential election. The system includes six anti-missile launchers, two of which have been installed so far. The U.S. declared the system operational as of early May. Moon Sang-gyun, a representative of the South Korean Defense Ministry, confirmed that the battery “has acquired an initial capability to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat,” The New York Times reported.
The other four launchers have been delivered to South Korea but not deployed. The country’s Defense Ministry initially withheld the information that the other four launchers had arrived from the incoming president, presumably in hopes that they could be deployed before he could stop it. The plan didn’t work, and the president was – not without reason – furious to discover his own military had hidden critical information from him. His response has been to declare that the rest of the launchers will remain where they are, in storage at a U.S. army base, until there has been a “full-blown environmental impact assessment.” Such an assessment could delay the installation of the four remaining launchers by more than a year.
Thus “Caddyshack.” I wanted to brush up on golf courses before I offered to provide such an environmental review myself and save Moon’s administration some significant time.
As I see it, there are three major scenarios to consider when evaluating potential environmental impact. Option one is that North Korea drops a missile armed with a nuclear warhead somewhere in South Korea. Environmental impact: very, very, very bad.
Option two is that North Korea drops a missile armed with a conventional warhead somewhere in South Korea. Depending on the target, the environmental impact could range anywhere from bad to very, very bad.
Option three is that South Korea installs the Thaad system as planned on the golf course earmarked for that purpose. The environmental consequence? Arguably bad for gophers, but much better for everyone else than options one or two. An observant reader might even point out that being bombed by North Korea would still be bad for gophers, creating a lose-lose gopher scenario. I wouldn’t worry, though; cinematic evidence suggests gophers are highly tolerant of explosives.
After this exhaustive environmental review, I recommend that President Moon install the remaining launchers as soon as possible. And, incidentally, if South Korea is having any trouble with its trains running on time, it can always call North Korea for help.