For the last seven years, my family and I have lived in Ireland. So for the most part, my children have grown up abroad. That has had some lasting effects. The history they study at school is Irish history, European history, and Western history—it is not focused on American history, except insofar as American history impinges on the greater world. The French & Indian War (as I learned it) is taught as the Seven Years War, or the Pomeranian War, or the Third Silesian War, and occasionally as the First “World” War. Likewise, when I was their age, my family vacations—along the East Coast (of the U.S.)—was peppered with visits to Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields, cemeteries, museums, and re-enactments. Not so for my children—America is too far away. We take our modest vacations in nearby Great Britain and Europe. But still we do what we can. This year we visited Bayeux. We saw the tapestry—not quite American history. We also visited Normandy—its museums, cemeteries, and, of course, its beaches.
On Omaha Beach, the French have put up two monuments—one traditional and one more modern. The beach itself is open and used. People traverse the beach and dip their feet in its cold water. Small children play in the sand. There is ample parking for tourists. There are places to buy souvenirs. And not so distant from the epicentre of the beach and its monuments—people have private homes. Maybe some of those homes are condominiums—I don’t know. What this means is that at some point, temporally and geographically, the mourning and the monuments must run out. Yes, the dead are buried. But the earth belongs in usufruct to the living.
At the outbreak of the Korean conflict, MacArthur believed the U.S. should engage in total war and defeat North Korea and its communist allies. For better or worse, his advice was rejected by the political authorities. Since then, more than half a century of containment has failed—miserably. The only path that remains open to us to wean the North Korean state off totalitarianism is peace. That could mean (among other possibilities) that North Koreans will need attractive homes (like the French at Normandy) and tourists (like the French at Normandy)—and that they should exploit that bit of the earth that is (North) Korea’s. For all the sacrifice of the Americans and others who fell at Normandy, I would not sneer at the French for living in attractive homes in their own country and doing business with tourists. For the very same reasons, we should not sneer at North Koreans should they choose to abandon barb wire and making instruments of war in order to build condominiums. Not only should we not sneer, we should applaud their doing so.
People sneered at Trump for telling Kim Jung-un to build condominiums on North Korea’s beaches. They were wrong; Trump was right.
Seth Barrett Tillman, Some Reflections on Trump and his North Korean Condominiums, New Reform Club (Sept. 4, 2018, 4:15 AM), https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2018/09/some-reflections-on-trump-and-his-north.html.