Two interesting things happened in North Korea this weekend. First, third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un presided over a parade to honor his grandfather Kim Il Sung. There were lots of missiles, including the ostensibly intercontinental Pukguksong pictured above. The next morning, apparently as a show of defiance as American ships approached the Korean Peninsula, the North tested another ballistic missile that failed within seconds of liftoff. Let that be a lesson to you, Kombat! Kids. When you become dictator of a secretive rogue state and want to show off your military might, schedule the parade after the missile test. Otherwise, you risk embarrassing yourself. On a completely unrelated note, here’s US President Donald Trump on his revised opinion of China’s relationship with North Korea, which President Xi Jinping explained to him over the weekend:
After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy. It’s not what you would think.
Ah, yes—our new president, who insisted throughout his 18-month campaign that China had absolute control of North Korea and its belligerent foreign policies, changed his opinion after considering the subject for 10 minutes. This news raises a fun question: Which of these egomaniacal stewards of his family empire will keep us out of war?
I think we can agree that Kim has attained a level of crazy Trump can only approach. Our guy never had any of his relatives killed, while their guy offed his uncle in 2014 and probably did his half-brother last month. The closest the Trump family ever came to such behavior was through Jared Kushner, whose father paid a prostitute to seduce his sister’s husband and then sent her a videotape of the act, in retaliation for testifying against him. But Kushner is an in-law. When it comes to sheer murderous insanity, President Trump cannot touch Leader Kim.
And yet the two men seem similar. They both have unique hair. Each inherited vast privilege from his father, although Trump seems to have done more to expand on what he got than Kim. Perhaps most importantly, both men operate in worlds that have inflated their ego beyond what normal human psyches experience.
Trump has worked for the business that bears his name his entire life, and for the last three decades he has also been a celebrity, first in the New York tabloids and then on a television show where he pretends to be even more bombastic than he already is. Now he is the President of the United States.1 Kim Jong Un, by comparison, has a degree in physics from Kim Il Sung University. He, too, has spent his life running the family business, which happens to be an absolute dictatorship and/or cult of personality.
One of these men spent his whole life surrounded by people whose jobs depended on making him feel smart and important. The other did the same thing, but replace “jobs” with “lives.” It is possible they are qualified to hold the positions they occupy now, but it is also likely that any other person you put in their places would be about as good. What we have here are two nepotism cases who have been asked to prove, against each other, which one is the better leader.
What does “better leader” mean to them? From our perspective, the better leader is probably the one who does more to avoid conflict. But from Kim’s perspective, the better leader is probably the one who gets away with more, the one who proves the other guy doesn’t have the guts to retaliate. In his mind, Kim probably wins this interaction by defying Trump.
And what does Trump win by doing? The first 100 days of his presidency were an abject failure. His national security advisor resigned. His promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act melted down. The wall seems DOA, whether paid for by Mexico or otherwise. Our new president spent his first months in office getting savaged by the media, right up until he launched a cruise missile strike on Syria. Then people started calling him presidential. Shortly thereafter, he dropped the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan—killing an estimated total of 39 ISIS fighters—and reaped plaudits again.
What has this silver-spoon reality TV star who has never held public office learned during his first months as president? What have we taught him? And between him and Kim Jong Un, who will decide that war is a bad idea?