"No matter what my friends and supporters say,
I retire when my present term of office ends,
and I shall not serve again. I shall be eighty
years old ...
I welcome an opposition party in the
Mexican Republic...If it appears, I will regard
it as a blessing, not as an evil...I will stand by it,
support it, advise it and forget myself in the
successful inauguration of complete democratic
government in the country."
-- Mexican President Porfirio Díaz, Interview
with James Creelman, 1908 --
What could a poorly-written puff-piece interview by an unknown journalist in an obscure magazine with "the greatest man on the continent," the tyrant Porfirio Díaz, over a hundred years ago possibly reveal about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un today?
* * *
The first thing to do in politics is to put yourself in the shoes of your rival. That exercise is all the more vital if your rival is also your enemy.
It is also an exercise at which the FBI, CIA and NSA time and again have proven themselves to be utterly inept. If the bombs start falling, if millions of people die in Korea and beyond, that inability to understand the enemy will be a key cause of the devastation.
Think back to the buildup to the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003. Among the causes President Bush cited on March 22 for going into that country was "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction."
How did Bush know Iraq had those weapons? Interesting question...
In January, 2003, two months before the invasion, British Prime Minister Tony Blair summarized the buildup to war in a manner that no doubt will succinctly refresh millions of memories:
" ... when we went down the United Nations route, we passed Resolution 1441. And I think it really repays reading that, because we said very clearly that Saddam had what we said was a final opportunity to disarm, and that he had to cooperate fully in every respect with the U.N. weapons inspectors.
As Dr. [Hans Martin] Blix said in his report to the Security Council earlier this week, [Saddam Hussein] is not doing that. And therefore, what is important is that the international community comes together again and makes it absolutely clear that this is unacceptable. And the reason why I believe that it will do that is precisely because in the original Resolution 1441, we made it clear that failure to disarm would lead to serious consequences ...
Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with the inspectors, and therefore is in breach of the U.N. resolution. And that's why time is running out."
Indeed, the March 7th UN inspection team report described Iraq´s cooperation as "disappointing" and "inadequate."
Why was Saddam obstructing the investigation of weapons of mass destruction? According to Washington logic, there was only one explanation:
Saddam was guilty. He was hiding nuclear-chemical-biological weapons.
Only later did we discover he had no WMDs. That indisputable fact leaves us with a puzzle without a picture on the box:
If Saddam was innocent, why was he behaving as if he were guilty?
The answer is Saddam lived in a tough neighborhood. To have shown he had no WMDs would have made manifest for all to see the truth: the strong man was weak.
Not only did Saddam have Iran to worry about, he had to watch his back at home. He lived by his army. That meant he could die by his army.
Had he simply thrown open the doors and let the UN look where it wanted, death would have been swift and thorough -- not by the U.S. but by people either just around the corner or at home.
You may doubt that outcome; Saddam did not. Door Number 1 or Door Number 2? He chose death by the U.S. It was probably less certain and definitely less painful.
Washington is incapable of understanding that in governments such as Saddam´s or Kim Jong Un´s -- or Porfirio Díaz´s -- the word might not only means military might but also possibility. You, dear reader, might be a traitor -- after all, anything is possible -- which is why such governments honestly believe it is entirely reasonable to throw you in jail whenever they want; no other reason is needed.
The more totalitarian the regime, the more the two meanings of might coalesce.
Unlike Washington, Saddam understood the situation perfectly. To forestall his enemies, he had to let them think he might have weapons of mass destruction. You are looking at his formula for survival.
The Díaz-Creelman affair brought to the surface the inner necessities of any dictatorship. Díaz´s statement about wanting democracy and an opposition party set fire to a tender box. After he broke his word and announced he was running for re-election, the Mexican Revolution broke out. After over 30 years in power, the weakened strongman fled for his life to France.
What Washington has never understood is that in a dictatorship, there are no intermediate positions to slow, much less prevent, a fall from power. It´s all or nothing.
Kim Jong Un simply cannot give in and give up his nuclear weapons program. Working on China to pressure Kim to stop his program is important and necessary -- "The key to this is China," according to John McCain -- but in the end is likely to be ineffective.
In North Korea today, as in Mexico under Porfirio Diaz and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, everything revolves around the army. To abandon the nuclear weapons program would mean giving into the enemy. Peace, even as a suggestion, would deprive the massive North Korean army of its reason for being; Kim too. Ergo, Kim would have to go.
If Kim miscalculates -- if he backs down and gives up his nuclear missile program -- look for a coup d´etat or a bullet in the head or a hangman´s noose just as surely as Mexico had a revolution.
As did Saddam, I suspect Kim would prefer Death by America to Death by his own generals or, worse yet, by his own people.
That means ...
All or nothing. Everyone or no one. It is what happens when might and might fuse.
May 11 Update.
"Hell, yeah. I would."
That was Jeb Bush´s reply to the question, "Would you kill the baby Hitler?"
We would not kill him. The reason is the same situation which allowed Hitler to be Hitler would have still existed. There were Hitler 2, 3, and 4 waiting in the wings. Who knows how many more.
This morning CNN reported the CIA is setting up a "special unit" to deal with North Korea. For its part, North Korea is claiming the CIA is seeking to assassinate Kim Jong Un.
It´s time to put one and one together.
We oppose Kim´s assassination. The reason is given above -- his replacement would come from the army so North Korea´s nuclear arms program, which the United States says is the real problem, would continue full-speed ahead.
We don´t know if the CIA is plotting Kim´s assassination. We do know that the idea is in keeping with "The Great Man Theory of History" which the CIA, as well as Jeb Bush, adhere to. We saw the theory in action with the agency´s endless attempts to kill Fidel Castro.
Just change the guy; everything will be O.K. That conclusion is the inevitable upshot when you have no analysis.
I must note that I, too, once believed in "The Great Man Theory." Then I turned 18.