Posted on 23-02-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men.
–    Roman Emperor Septimius Severus to his sons just before his death.

Keeping your soldiers happy and loyal has been the surest way to a ruler’s survival since antiquity.  The Roman Republic ultimately collapsed because the the oligarchs in the Senate could not control the loyalty of the troops in the field.  When rulers like the Byzantine Emperor Michael VI forgot this maxim (on the advice of his bureaucratic cabal the emperor publicly humiliated his generals) the military coup and fall promptly followed.

In most of today’s dictatorships the armed forces occupy a favored position.  Business contracts are steered towards the generals.  The troops are showered with generous fringe benefits not available to the general populace.  Above all, since an army “marches on its stomach” it never ever starves.

It appears that the crumbling North Korean regime is losing the ability to feed its soldiers.  People have noted that decades of starvation has stunted the growth of North Koreans – who are now markedly smaller than their South Korean kin.  Now it appears that North Korea has had to lower the height requirements for military recruits who still remain malnourished.  Were he alive today, Prussia’s King Frederick William I would have shuddered at the sight of North Korea’s diminutive and underfed soldiers.

Which begs the question posted above.  At what point do hunger pangs (and the worse experience of their families) trump the decades of brainwashing North Korea’s soldiers have undergone?  Starvation helped speed along the German collapse in World War I which toppled the Kaiser.  Will the same occur in the Hermit Kingdom?  And what will be the spark that triggers the uprising to sweep aside North Korea’s obese rulers?

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