At least wacky North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has managed to unify reality and metaphor: His apparent test of a nuclear bomb last night was an earthquake in both the geological (See that red bloom in East Asia on this seismic map? That’s it.) and geopolitical sense.
The fact that the big boom was underground means there was no mushroom cloud, which is good, because as Condi Rice said more than three years ago, “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Of course, that was about Iraq, but the logic applies to the Korean Peninsula as well—once your opponent throws the bomb on the table, the game gets a little trickier. Wonks of the world will be buzzing today with debate over what policy to take now that Kim has pulled the trigger. Essentially, global policymakers are confronting the same dilemma as a parent whose kid screws up when he’s already been grounded and sent to bed without supper: North Korea is already starving, so how do you starve it out?
If Bush, Blair, Annan, Putin, and other big shots had scored success in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, the Middle East—in other words, anywhere—a man in the street might have more faith that everything will be alright, and that New Yorkers will still have more to fear from the Boulevard of Death than from a souped-up Taepo Dong missile.
But the record of the past five years inspires little confidence. Maybe it’s time for the rabble to take things into their own hands: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Permanent Mission to the United Nations can be contacted via fax at (212) 972-3154; it’s mailing address is 820 Second Avenue, New York, New York 10017. Sure, sanctions, isolation, and promises of civilian nuclear technology haven’t swayed the boys in Pyongyang. But maybe a simple angry letter is what they’re waiting for!