“Dear man, you do not seem to understand, we cannot sleep through the night without a good beating.” – Bill Cosby, stand-up routine
I remember watching the movie The Sum of All Fears with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. (They were in the movie – I didn’t watch the movie with them.) There was a scene in the film where a rogue Russian general had launched an assault on Chechen rebels using chemical weapons (if I recall). At this point, the Russian president declared to the world that he had ordered the attack, even though he had not. His reasoning: it is better to appear a brutal tyrant than to appear not in control.
The behavior out of North Korea is just odd of late. The sinking of the submarine was a cry for help – a little child stamping its feet demanding to be relevant again. Launching artillery shells into the water after South Korean military exercises also seems a bit childish: “see, we can hold exercises too!” Then there was the seizing of a South Korean fishing vessel, with four South Korean sailors and three Chinese sailors. Oops.
I’d hate to start ascribing too much rational behavior to Kim Jong-Il. He’s a petulant child who insists on getting a seat at the “big boys’ table” while also demanding that he be allowed to mutilate and destroy his own people. These provocations seem odd though. Why risk anything like a sure-loss conflict?
I’ll offer two conjectures. They are both likely wrong – I’m way off the beaten path here.
First, it is possible that Kim is frightened of preparing his whole life for a sacred war and then dying without taking on the world. He knows that his successor probably won’t hold out long under international pressure. Perhaps he figures he should go ahead and roll the dice before he assumes room temperature of natural causes.
The second possibility (among many) is that Kim did not order the fishing vessel incident. Perhaps there are some military forces inside North Korea who are attempting to provoke the South – either to bring on the final fight themselves or as a cry for help, realizing they cannot free the country from within. Either way, it could be the case that ole Kim isn’t really running the show, the generals are, and they may be working against him.
We may never know. We certainly hope and pray that the collapse of the North Korean gulag (the whole country is basically a work camp now) will come swiftly and that the oppressed people of North Korea will be free. If that can happen without a dust-up, all the better. The most important thing though is that the victims in the North be freed of communist tyranny.