The Cat’s Paw:
The Monkey and the Cat (French title, Le Singe et le Chat) is best known as a fable adapted by Jean de La Fontaine that appeared in the second collection of his Fables Choisies in 1679 (book IX, No. 17). Although there is no evidence that the story existed before the 15th century, it began to appear in collections of Aesop’s Fables from the 17th century but is not included in the Perry Index. There are popular idioms derived from it in both English and French with the general meaning of being the dupe of another (e.g., a cat’s-paw). Usage of these and reference to the fable have been particularly employed in (although not limited to) political contexts.
In La Fontaine’s telling, Bertrand the monkey persuades Raton the cat to pull chestnuts from the embers amongst which they are roasting, promising him a share. As the cat scoops them from the fire one by one, burning his paw in the process, the monkey gobbles them up. They are disturbed by a maid entering and the cat gets nothing for its pains. It is from this fable that the French get their idiom Tirer les marrons du feu, meaning to act as someone’s dupe or, deriving from that, to benefit from the dirty work of others. It is also the source of the English idiom ‘a cat’s paw’, defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as ‘one used by another as a tool’.
As North Korea continues on its course of heightened bluster and… well, I guess we’ll have to see if there’s an ultimate and that this is leading up to, many people are wondering when China will lean on its client state to keep them from going too far and triggering a war with South Korea and maybe the United States.
So I got to thinking: why would China not?
Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Swedish history recently and have its collection of abandoned defensive pacts in mind, but…. In a scenario coming from my wildly creative mind, North Korea invades South Korea, and the United States, led by a feckless leader who disdains allies of the United States, does not come to the aid of an ally bound by treaties. Or the military of the United States, diminished by defense cuts, does not prove adequate to the task of quickly saving its ally. Or a combination of these things.
If North Korea attacks South Korea and the response of the United States is tepid, what might China think about its prospects in an invasion of Taiwan and the United States reaction to that particular endeavor?
It costs China nothing in this scenario to let North Korea do what it would like and to see what the United States does.
Another thing I’ve taken to saying like it’s true around Nogglestead is that it’s entirely possible that World War III might take place in Asia, and the United States might only have a walk-on part.