Where in the World is Kim Jong Un?
If there is one thing those of us who read left wing blogs get used to, it is seeing the plain truth right in front of us, and finding that not one of the supposedly brilliant pundits and columnists (with the exception, of course, of Paul Krugman) is willing to say what is so obvious.
Here's another example. Do I have absolute proof for what I am about to say? No, I don't, but it is so overwhelmingly likely that I have no hesitation in stating that something very much like this explains the goings on in North Korea, for many years in the past, and right now.
What is vitally important to remember about North Korea is that it is a dictatorship, pure and simple, like those run by Gaddafi, Mugabe, the Saudi "Kings" and so many others. The North Korean government may dress themselves up in the trappings of Communism, or some deranged sort of God-King cult, but in the end, all it really amounts to is a plain old garden variety dictatorship.
North Korea is also a horribly impoverished country that devotes an insane portion of its wealth to the military. Now, here is something that we know without question about every dictatorship: a large part of this military expenditure ends up in the pockets of top politicians and generals. Like all dictatorships, North Korea is a kleptocracy, with the "leaders" squeezing every drop of blood they can from the populace.
There is only one way to get the North Korean people to go along with this theft: by keeping them in such a constant state of quivering fear that they will tolerate their impoverishment- not, incidentally, unlike the tactics that Republicans in this country, well aware that no one really supports their agenda, have taken to using.
And that brings us to Kim Jong Un's role in this whole sick spectacle. Is there anyone who could be so naive as to believe that all of these corrupt leaders, who are benefiting so massively from this system, would really put the continued success of their whole criminal scheme in the hands of a fat, out of control thirty year old of dubious intellectual capacity? No, he has one role and one role only- to be the lead propagandist in keeping his people so terrorized that they do nothing to free themselves from this colossal fraud of a government.
This, incidentally, is why it is foolish to take all of North Korea's threats and saber rattling seriously. None of it is intended for anything but internal consumption- the generals and politicians who benefit from things as they are know perfectly well that, if they started a war with the United States or South Korea or Japan, their country would be quickly wiped off the map, and they would be trading their mansions in on prison cells. All they care about is to keep the scam going.
However, it has been clear the last couple of years that things are not going so well. Kim is demonstrating that he is not capable of carrying out even his limited assigned task without developing delusions of grandeur in which he believes he is actually in charge of the country and can do whatever he wants, whether that consists in having his uncle and ex-girlfriend murdered, pushing the country into military confrontations that really could explode into war, or just eating lethal quantities of cheese, dropping dead and precipitating a power crisis which could topple the whole scheme. This represents a threat to the real rulers of North Korea, and they cannot tolerate it.
I suspect that Kim is off being taught a lesson in just how fragile his current position really is, being shown that the country can get along just fine without him, that his current choice of number two leader and his own sister will quickly and willingly take up the gap that would be left by his disappearance. If this is the case, he will reappear before too long, and basically the Korean government will pretend that nothing happened. Kim will undoubtedly make an effort to control his behavior, given his knowledge of what the alternative is, but it is doubtful that he will really change that much, given what we have seen of him. So, after being given another chance, he will, in a couple of years, disappear one way or the other, and things will go on as usual in North Korea, providing a sorry spectacle, but very little real risk to anyone else.
I want to end by reiterating something I said at the beginning: Can there be any doubt that something very like what I have described above is what is really happening in North Korea? And yet our mainstream press, trained as it is to assiduously evade the truth at every opportunity, can't even bring itself to make a straightforward statement like this. What we are seeing is like the runup to the Iraq aggression, when not a single member of the press could bring themselves to report the truth about our own ignorant boy-king. Well, luckily, what happens in North Korea will not represent the kind of disaster for us that Bush's behavior did, but relating to world events by systematically pretending that something else is happening is not a good way to prepare for the future.