Could we just hit “Pause” for a second and think about this thing? Maybe stand down the Stealth Bombers, unlock the lock and load and tone down the rhetoric? I realize that when a punk like Kim Jong whatever-he’s-calling-himself-this-week is kicking sand in your face, it’s difficult to calm down – but let’s give it a try. We need to remember a few things before somebody forgets what we’re dealing with and all hell breaks loose.
Okay, folks! All aboard the reality train.
First of all, don’t let the tough talk fool you. Ever since Dougie MacArthur, Truman’s ten-star general, threatened to turn Pyongyang into a mud puddle, the Kim boys of North Korea have been yipping a good fight without ever throwing down. That’s not to say they won’t, but history has shown us that, like the elementary school bully, these guys are professional bum biters. They pick their spots and never do anything serious enough to risk major retaliation. They might talk like hard men and take a few cheap shots, but grandfather, father and now son are smart enough to know just how far they can push it. They realize that if they ever did take a real run at the United States or any of her allies, they’d be out of a job by close of business Tuesday. Cold War stalemates may have been all the rage in the 50s, but they’re pretty much passé these days.
Secondly, anybody who thinks Kim Jong-un is running the show north of the 38th parallel has got another think coming. Yes, he’s the current Glorious Leader and latest member of the Kim dynasty that Stalin put on the throne back in the 40s — but that doesn’t mean much. There’s an entrenched state apparatus in North Korea that’s been calling the shots for over sixty years. These folks are the descendents of Kim il-Sung’s (Un’s grandpa) original band of gangsters revolutionaries. They keep everything that’s worth controlling firmly in their grasp, and they’re not about to lighten up on that grip of steel any time soon. In short, Kims may come and Kims may go but the high-end folks of The Hermit Kingdom have a pretty good gig, and they’re not going to jeopardize it by taking a flyer on this kid’s nuclear adventuring.
Finally, and most importantly, North Korea is a “sovereign state” in name only. In theory, it might have a flag and a national anthem, but in practical terms, it’s about as independent as Nebraska. I doubt very much if the powers that be in Pyongyang go to the toilet without telling Beijing what they’re up to. Unless you flunked history, economics and current events in high school, you realize that North Korea is China’s surrogate. It is North Korea’s only serious trading partner, and, as such controls over 70% of its economy – such as it is. Besides, it’s not even close to plausible that the Chinese would allow a nuclear arsenal within spitting distance of The Dragon Throne if they didn’t have it on a leash. And speaking of nuclear weapons, how does a “nation” without enough hard currency to buy a Happy Meal™ get its mitts on weapons-grade plutonium, never mind build the facilities it takes to make it work? It’s obvious that China is pulling the strings south of the Yalu River. This latest bit of sabre rattling may be nothing more than a no consequence test of American resolve in the area. Personally, I think it’s more than that (remember: China just launched its first aircraft carrier into the South China Sea.) But then I’m not getting the big bucks from the State Department for my opinion.
However, if I was, I’d mention that this new kid in the Petty Little Dictator Club is trying to impress the neighbours and make a name for himself with the locals. He’s talking a good fight, but like his daddy, he isn’t likely to launch anything more than his mouth — if he does, China spank. We need to let him know, in no uncertain terms, he should back off before somebody (mostly he) gets hurt. However, we also need to take our fingers off the trigger just in case somebody gets twitchy and this whole thing blows up – by accident.