I know it is fashionable to make fun of Kim Jong-Un of North Korea as a crazy spoiled brat, but just think for a moment what is driving him.
We are pressuring North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons program. However, we don’t have a very good track record of how we treat foreign leaders we don’t like, especially when they bend to our will.
In 2003, Muammar Qaddafi of Libya (at our insistence) agreed to get rid of his nuclear weapons. Eight short years later, NATO helped overthrow and murder him. And that wasn’t the first time. We supported Saddam Hussein of Iraq for a while, then we didn’t. Dead. We supported Manuel Noriega of Panama for a while, then we toppled him. And the list isn’t limited to brutal dictators. We supported the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, until 1953 when we got rid of him and installed the despised Shah of Iran in order to increase our profits on Iran’s oil. And there are others.
Kim Jong-Un would have to be beyond stupid to not see the writing on the wall. As long as he holds his nuclear trump card (brandishing it noisily) we are less likely to quietly get rid of him.
Every experienced observer in the world notes that North Korea’s erratic behavior is mainly an attempt to be heard, acknowledged, and respected. As Kim Jong-un told basketball star Dennis Rodman, he simply wants Obama to call him, “because if we can talk, we can work this out.”
But we continue to insist that we will not talk to him until he surrenders the one thing that is likely keeping him alive and in power. So why are we surprised when he acts like a cornered animal?
Do you know who said this?
And above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.
It was JFK, back in the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the heat of the cold war. It is time to listen to our own advice.