PERSPECTIVE OF POWER: The administrative and military elites, pictured here at a Pyongyang parade, vie for influence. Kim Jong Il intensified the rivalry between them to protect his son. REUTERS/Damir Sagoljaption
I figured the best way to start off a controversial journey was with a controversial topic! What better than North Korea, as Kim Jong Un tees up yet another MRBM/IRBM?
We, in the west, righteously label people like the Kims dictators. I believe there is a more fitting title: Kings. Machiavelli called them new Princes and old Princes; he delved deeply into the unique challenges posed to each as they came to power. Today, our day-to-day discourse fails to make these connections. Yet, Kings they are and, invasions notwithstanding, Kings they will remain.
Looking crazy is a carefully calculated strategy for someone in KJU’s position. There was no ongoing transition of power from his Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un, as there had been from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il (a 10 year transition, in fact). Educated secretly in Switzerland, KJU returned home to a heaping pile of responsibility and danger. His dad died quickly, his people did not know him, and his cabinet and family were all greedily eyeing his position. Had he been a gentle ruler, he’d already be dead and one of his relatives, generals, or an western imperial puppet would be in charge. I am in no way excusing what he’s done to his people. I am simply saying that his actions make perfect sense every step of the way. He was a weak ruler attempting to consolidate power among a den of snakes. To accomplish this, he acted strong. He brutally and publicly killed those who conspired against him. He won the favor of his people through propaganda and by show of strength.
Much like the old adage about new inmates in prison attempting to make themselves safe by picking a fight with the biggest, toughest, meanest guy in the yard, Kim has endlessly rattled his saber at the American empire. The show is just as much for his own people as it is for us.
He appears rabid and senseless to us because we are using the wrong metrics to evaluate his actions. He is intelligent and ruthless, he covets his birthright, and he fears death. All of this is clear. The future between our two nations rests on our ability to see him for what he is rather than what we have been told he is.