Tuesday, April 9, 2013

North Korea: Crazy Like a Fox?

Have you ever used public transportation on a regular basis? I used to when I was younger. Fortunately I don't any longer. The problem with public transportation is the public. Most people are okay but there is often some joker at the back of the bus who stinks of excrement and body odor and spits when he talks. This person will often be carrying on a complex conversation with nobody in particular. Of course like most sane people you try to ignore this person but every now and then this person notices you. And they start a profane commentary about you, what you look like, who you're probably sleeping with (or not sleeping with), how much money you make or what a loser you are and how (occasionally depending on your gender) they would either sleep with you or knock you the f*** out. This last can escalate into threats and fights. Remember the epic bus man video or the woman who thought it was a good idea to hit the bus driver after a torrent of insults. But in most cases the person who's running his mouth all the time is generally harmless. His right hook is usually not as dangerous as his unwashed aroma. So you keep your eyes to yourself or laugh it off as the ravings of a lunatic and curse yourself for not getting a new BMW so you won't have to share rides with idiots like this. Often it's not worth getting into it physically with the crazy nut because the police might put both of you in jail or you might be late for work or the nut might have even crazier friends. Unless of course this person either assaults you or makes a credible threat to do so. Then, well you f*** with the bull, you get the horns.

In the world today that crazy bus vagrant with the killer bo would appear to be North Korea or more precisely its new leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has long had a reputation for unstable behavior that appears odd to those outside its borders. The new dictator, Kim Jong Un appears to want to keep up the family tradition.
He has been making threats against the US, Japan and South Korea and speaking of war as a distinct possibility. He's told foreigners that he can't guarantee their safety. He has taken more steps to put his country on high military alert. All in all he's been talking a LOT of smack, sounding similar to an East Asian Jim Jones. His neighbors Japan and South Korea are getting VERY nervous and starting to ramp up their own military readiness. Even the US is flexing muscles to show off its much greater capacity for organized violence. Everyone wants to be ready...just in case. As Sonny Corleone said in The Godfather "I don't want him [Michael] to come out of that bathroom with just his d*** in his hand!". If it's about to go down hard you probably want to get in the first shot. That's what I was always taught anyway. That's what Han Solo and Raylan Givens would do. And that's how nations tend to operate too if they can.

The problem however though is that North Korea has nuclear weapons although it may not have consistent delivery devices. So if anything like a nuclear exchange or conventional attacks did happen, it would likely be limited to the Korean peninsula and the surrounding area. As much of the surrounding area includes a little place called China, the Chinese government rather atypically released a statement that was interpreted by most observers to be a warning, or as I like to consider it, a collar pop, to North Korea.
The new Chinese President Xi Jinping, appeared to make an unusual veiled rebuke of North Korea on Sunday. "Countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, should all contribute their share in maintaining and enhancing peace," Xi said at an international conference, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported. No one should be allowed to throw a region into chaos for selfish gains, he said, according to Xinhua.

The question then is why would North Korea act in a seemingly "crazy" way? Well there are a number of hypotheses, some of which overlap with each other.

  • Kim Jong Un really is crazy. Full Stop. He is someone that should have been locked up and pumped full of thorazine and ritalin every 6 hours. 
  • Kim Jong Un is young and unproven. He hasn't made his bones. As a result, similar to some Western politicians, he's searching for an easy "win", one that will prove to his domestic military establishment and any ambitious subordinates who may be considering a sudden and permanent change of leadership that Kim Jong Un is no punk. He's got guts and isn't going anywhere.
  • Kim Jong Un is peeved about increased sanctions against North Korea and is throwing a temper tantrum to attempt to get these sanctions reduced or only enforced in theory.
  • Kim Jong Un has been deliberately let off leash by the Chinese to show the Americans that there are costs to confronting the Chinese about their own massive hacking and spying operations, financial manipulations, economic protectionism, intellectual piracy and nationalist expansionism in the Pacific Ocean.

I tend to lean towards the last explanation though the second makes a lot of sense to me as well. I don't think that Kim Jong Un wants to be vaporized in a nuclear exchange or see his toilet bowl nation routinely bombed with impunity. But in diplomacy it can often be useful to give the impression that you're crazy just to get what you want. Over the next 6 months let's watch US and UN policy very closely towards China and North Korea to see if there are any alterations or tips toward those two countries. This all may be a big game. As anyone who's ever been in a serious verbal conflict knows sometimes a person says things that can't be unsaid or does things which require a physical response. And the next thing you know you're either on your way to jail for hurting someone or experiencing the wrong end of a brutal beatdown, simply because you couldn't let something go. I hope this doesn't turn out to be the case here. Let's hope that Kim Jong Un is just running his mouth. This is why I sometimes think we should have let General MacArthur finish the job all those years ago but that's life...

What are your thoughts?

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