What Is Kim Jong Il Up To?

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I have no answer to that question. But here are a couple of interesting articles that address it. Thomas Lifson of the American Thinker blog thinks Kim Jong Il is in desperate straits, threatened with a rebellion by the North Korean military. He argues that trade sanctions, like those Japan just announced, will push the military to oust Kim. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute takes a more somber view. He sees the North Korean regime as "revisionist":

The North is better understood as a "revisionist state"–bitterly dissatisfied with the international environment it faces and intent upon overturning that order. Its main grievances with the international system are: (1) the predominance and success of the capitalist world economy, particularly its global trade and financial arrangements, which are fundamentally incompatible with Pyongyang's Stalin-style economy; (2) the Northeast Asian security structure of military alliances built and maintained by its superpower enemy, the U.S.; and (3) the florescence of a prosperous, democratic South Korean state on the landmass that the Kim family claims the right to rule unconditionally.These grievances are not merely aesthetic. Since each of these features of the international system places the survival of their own system in jeopardy, North Korea is exceedingly unlikely to be reconciled to them through "international dialogue." Making the world safe for Kim Jong Il requires nothing less than upending the contemporary economic, political and military order in Northeast Asia–preposterous as such an outcome may sound to South Korean, Japanese or American ears.

If Eberstadt is right, then there is no making any deal with North Korea. The regime in his view is as thoroughly opposed to our whole way of life as Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Only the destruction of our civilization will satisfy him. And even if Lifson's speculation is right, one wonders whether the North Korean military shares Eberstadt's "revisionist" view. After all, that view makes them the most powerful institution in Kim's totalitarian state.

I know that a lot of Americans long to return to the holiday from history that we enjoyed from the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But, alas, while we were on holiday, the forces of evil determined to destroy us were gathering strength.