Let me start this by saying there is no “easy” answer to North Korea based on the current state of affairs. Ever since Bill Clinton gave them the technology to start a nuke program in 1994, we’ve been headed down this path into the tangled briar patch. But despite the complexity, plenty of analysts seem to have answers to how to approach the situation. Unfortunately, most of the solutions being thrown around in the media seem to forget a very important point:
We’re not dealing with a rationale actor in North Korea’s young dictator, Kim Jong-Un.
By which I mean, he’s not the typical dictator of a powerful Communist nation. He’s a sadistic, spoiled brat, who inherited power from his father. He has no leadership experience and no clue what he’s doing.
Growing up, he was taught he was essentially divine. In North Korea, his grandfather and father were revered like gods, and he has no less of an opinion about himself. Arrogant and aggressive, he has always gotten away with everything in life. He has never had to face the consequences of his bad behavior. He’s a bully, who no one has ever hit back. And if any person ever tried to punch him back, his daddy fed them to the wild dogs.
So Kim doesn’t think like a normal person. He doesn’t consider what happens after he strikes. He doesn’t know what comes next. This blissful ignorance likely extends to what happens after a nuke launch. There have never been consequences to his temper tantrums before. In his mind – Why should there be any now? This makes him irrational and unpredictable.
The Communist leaders we’ve dealt with in the past were very different. They were evil, but not nearly so unstable and irrational. Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Gorbachev, Mao, Kim Il Sung, and others had to kill their way to the top. No one handed them power. This is an important distinction. During their careers, they learned the dangers and consequences of their decisions. If they grabbed for power and missed, they would be killed. This taught them the risks and rewards of their actions.
Kim Jong-Un doesn’t have that life experience to give him perspective. He fell into power and used it to gleefully kill family, friends, and enemies alike in cold blood. Taking human life doesn’t bother him. In fact, he seems to enjoy it.
Donald Trump does not have any background to understand how someone like Kim thinks. Trump is used to suing real estate moguls in New York City. Meanwhile, the fat little monster sends people to the firing squad. Despite what the American Left may think, there is a big difference.
Herein lays my concern with Trump’s “trash talk” about “fire and fury”. Not because of Trump specifically, but because those words are directed at an irrational punk who plays with mini-nukes instead of GI Joe action figures. (Directed at anyone else, Trump’s comments wouldn’t bother me nearly as much.) Kim Jong-Un likely hears Trump’s words as a challenge and threat. Without life experiences to give him pause, he may decide to answer that challenge.
It’s doubtful Kim realizes the gravity of the situation. He has the temperament of a fussy child, and there’s no indication that he understands gamesmanship or bluffing. In fact, in his interpersonal interactions, he doesn’t seem to bluff at all. He sees a problem and eliminates it.
This is the folly of youth, and the pudgy dictator is quite young. I fear some analysts are underestimating the North Korean threat based on past experiences with more rationale, mature dictators. Unfortunately, those parallels may be creating a false sense of confidence. I don’t know if we’ve ever dealt with anyone quite like Kim Jong-Un before, which is why this is all so dangerous.