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The rationality of Kim Jong Un

  • 15 August 2017


The ongoing talk of war with North Korea and the threat of nuclear weapons has everybody dusting off their copies of Dr Strangelove and rewatching that classic black farce of innuendo, misunderstanding and paranoia in an age of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Ironically, for all the rhetoric about Kim Jong Un as crazed tin pot dictator with his finger on the button, he may just have got this one right. He is undoubtedly a cruel dictator presiding over a deprived wasteland but, for all his bluster and viciousness, it would be a mistake to regard him as an irrational actor. It is entirely reasonable for him to detect a pattern in recent US diplomacy and military activity.

 Saddam gave away his chemical weapons under UN supervision in the aftermath of his expulsion from Kuwait - and the US invaded again to finish the job and hang him in front of a jeering mob of his political enemies.

Libya halted its nuke programme - and the US, France and UK invaded, resulting in Muammar being sodomised with a bayonet while futilely pleading for his life on the streets of Sirte. Syria gave up its chemical weapons - and is knee deep in foreign invaders, including the US whose “moderate rebels”, including Al Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir Al Sham would have burned the country from end to end were it not for Russia’s reluctance to lose its sole Mediterranean ally.

Then, too, there is Iran – where euphoria at the conclusion of an historic nuclear agreement has now turned to talk of US repudiation of that agreement and a growing drum beat for war. One might certainly argue that there were complex factors at play in each case and some might even say, as the US often has (remember Ms Clinton’s famous “we came, we saw, he died” quote on Qaddafi) that many, if not most, of these worthies had it coming to them.

Nevertheless, viewing things from the point of view of a stated enemy of the US being asked to disarm, you have to admit that the precedents (regardless of which major party holds power in the US) do not point to a happy retirement on the Costa del Sol for those who comply with the indispensable world power’s demands.

 On this basis, I suspect that Kim believes, not unreasonably, that the current threats from the US of “fire and fury” and an army “locked and loaded”