There's a method to the madness of both Kim Jong-un and Trump

While the US president wants to deflect attention from his shortcomings by talking tough on Pyongyang, North Korea wants to prevent Western incursions by building up the nuclear stockpile.

 |  5-minute read |   22-09-2017
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Diplomacy is "the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way". But sensitivity and tact have gone out of the window ever since Donald J Trump has assumed office as president of the United States (POTUS). Now imagine that he is the author of Trump: The Art of the Deal.

Forget the "leaks" from his presidential palace revealing his conversations with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull about accommodating Syrian refugees or the Mexican president Peña Nieto on the Border Wall, it was a no-holds-barred attack on North Korean president Kim Jong-un during his debut as POTUS at the UN General Assembly.

Trump took stage and took off on a scripted or unscripted speech saying that "Rocket Man was on a suicide Mission" and if he went further than the route he has gone - "US would destroy North Korea". The word that Trump possibly did not use was "annihilation". That may only be because he "had a limit on vocabulary", as a wag put it.

But his visceral speech was unbecoming of a dignified leader of the free world.

Trump had tweeted his Rocket Man comments:

The Twitter-addicted commander-in-chief must be surely getting on the nerves of US diplomats and the military brass must be wondering whether their commander will choose to "tweet them into offensive action" and launch a missile or two and trigger an Armageddon.

Even during the campaign, candidates from his Republican party and, of course, Hillary Clinton kept worrying/wondering how the nuclear triad would be handled by a bazooka president and a possible use of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which Kim Jong-un has been proclaiming North Korea has and could reach San Francisco. It would be South Korea and possibly Japan which may face the brutal assault, if the "two mad men tangle" as a foreign policy expert put it felicitously.

Considering the troubles at home on Russiagate with several House panels starting parallel investigations and a Robert Mueller-led independent investigation from Trump's own justice department closing in on his heels/financial affairs - not to forget the media's "leak/scoop a day storyline" - Trump is "under siege".

The I word (impeachment) and R word (resignation) à la Richard Nixon in the aftermath of Watergate scandal - are now passé. Trump's closest aides, from campaign time and even White House staff have enlisted private lawyers to defend themselves if a "smoking gun" like the Nixon Tapes emerges from the investigations.

In such a scenario, there appears to be a "method in the madness" in Trump going after the "Rocket Man on a suicide mission". Trump seems to be itching for a conflict to display the military might of US. (Of course, the defence industries in the US may be wanting to exhaust their new stockpile to give a boost to the economy too). This will help him distract attention from his own shortcomings. Yet it is a dangerous path that Trump seems to have chosen. His security advisers are constantly on their heels disabusing the public of the debate over the "terror tweets" and "action laced quotes" from their boss.

Kim Jong-un is no puppy. He may be baby-faced but there surely appears to be a method to his madness. He is after "acquiring" nukes and demonstrating its availability to ward of the possibility of any Western incursion led overthrow. It appears that China is playing along with Pakistan as the "supplier" - at China's bidding - and Kim is comfortable in this environment to exhibit his bravado like never before.

kim1690_092217015652.jpgIt is surely prayer time for the world hoping that the "methods" of the "two mad men" may after all not lead to a "tangle".

Kim Jong-un is fully alive and aware about the fate of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, whose madness never had the "method" to acquire nukes or weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which would have prevented Western invasion. It was the absence of WMD and nukes that cost Saddam and Gaddafi dear. For these "mad men" were more insane than Kim Jong-un or Trump.

So, Kim Jong-un has learnt his history well and therefore is on the path to acquire and display WMDs. Sanctions have rarely, if ever, compelled a nation to "fully behave" (Russia is under sanctions and so is North Korea. Both seem to be surviving fine).

Thus far, the US has held out so many threats - Rex Tillerson, secretary of state; Nikki Haley, US ambassador to UN; and many a statement from the Pentagon have warned North Korea of action, but it has been only "tall talk" for they all know it would be too precipitous to pull the trigger.

Aware of the limits of "diplomacy" - Kim Jong-un has set out indulging in "madness" by displaying his missiles one after the other - letting South Korea, Japan, the neighbourhood and the world know that he is a "mad man" who can be expected to play dirty, if need arose.

Faced with a "mad man" in the White House, who is hemmed in by institutional curbs as a functioning democracy, Kim Jong-un himself has no such constraints in a dictatorship.

With The Washington Post counting over 400 lies from President Trump, one can only hope and trust that the "Rocket Man" and "destruction" threats from Trump was one more in the line of lies/damp squibs. But it is surely prayer time for the world hoping that the "methods" of the "two mad men" may after all not lead to a "tangle" or be "allowed to tangle" by "sensitive and tactful" diplomats on the world stage.

Also read: Why did Times Now flash photos of JNU students Shehla Rashid and Kanhaiya Kumar in a story about ISIS?


Vijayaraghavan Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan Narasimhan @narasimhan6

Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court.

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