Thursday, April 4, 2013
Our Cuban Missile Crisis?
The impression I would get of the image above, if it were not of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, would be of a young Asian guy who is most likely a college student, or a geek who sits in his bedroom in mommy and daddy's house coding Web sites 24/7. The cherubic face and affable expression belie the fact that this kid thinks he's going to initiate a nuclear holocaust and incinerate most of Asia and "strategic targets" in the United States. Oh really? Has anyone told him it's not wise to play a game of "chicken" if you don't have the goods to back it up?
Unfortunately, Kim, who is rumored to be about 29, doesn't remember what it was like to live through the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, if he is even aware of the historic significance of that event. Nor does he have any recollection of the Korean War, even though he is the grandson of Kim Il-sung. No one is really sure what exactly Kim is aware of, but if he considers Dennis Rodman a friend, it can't be much.
The reason I bring up the Cuban Missile Crisis is because that is the closest we've ever come to nuclear war. After the Bay of Pigs invasion failed to remove Fidel Castro from power in Cuba, Castro got on his sassy horse and gave Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev a few empty spots in which to park some nuclear missiles aimed at the United States. This action resulted in a very tense two weeks for Americans.
As anyone who lived through the cold war remembers, the Soviet Union was truly a force to be reckoned with. North Korea, however, we're not so sure about. At this point, we're not clearing out the old bomb shelters or dusting off the post 9/11 gas masks and duct tape, but we should be concerned. The so-called "hermit kingdom" of North Korea is more like a shy wallflower at the senior prom, despite all the bombastic rhetoric that's been spewing forth lately. Reports of legitimate firepower, juxtaposed with reports of rampant malnutrition among its people, make North Korea a nation to be pitied, rather than feared. The same might have been true of the Soviet Union, but it was a different time, and the United States was a very different place.
I get the feeling that the powers that be in Washington are laughing at Kim, rather than looking for a way to shut him up. We know our military might is legitimate, but we also have a dangerous amount of hubris to go with it. It took decades to achieve detente with the Soviets, because we knew what they were capable of. Now, however, it seems that all the years, lives, and money sacrificed trying to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan hasn't taught us much. We still think we're capable of firepower and diplomacy, even though neither has worked very well in the recent past.
What should be done about Kim and his threats of annihilation? Well, if the United States was able to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden for his acts of terrorism against us, maybe Kim deserves the same fate. It's been my own personal experience that when dealing with people who are a few cans short of a six-pack, swift, decisive action is the only way to shut them up. Reason; diplomacy; sanctions; anything short of a bold move, is worthless. And I'm sure you know what I mean when I say "bold move."
More Americans need to be aware how we are perceived by the rest of the world. Our isolationism has become our worst trait, by far. Make no mistake - we are not a hermit kingdom - we are an ignorant one. And that ignorance will be our undoing.