North Korea agonistes
A true test of a nation's mettle comes not in how it deals with "existential threats" (i.e., a force equal to or greater than its own) but with the niggling trouble-makers.
Thus enters North Korea:
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's defense chief said on Thursday that North Korea had moved to its east coast a missile with a "considerable" range, but that it was not capable of reaching the United States. The disclosure came as the Communist North's military warned that it was ready to strike American military forces with "cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means."
That last likely should be taken with a grain of salt, but clearly not discounted completely. We know they've been working on a nuclear capability for some time now, they have a reactor that is not hooked up to the power grid (so we know it’s not for energy), and they had been in touch with our old fiend, Abdul Qadeer "A.Q." Khan, who likely advanced their ambitions by several decades.
Too, North Korea has been gearing up for some time to "battle" the United States and South Korea.
I put "battle" in quotes for a reason: there's significant cause to believe that Kim Jong-Un is saber-rattling not for international purposes but in order to clamp down dissent domestically. Precious little news of the North ever really gets out, so we have to infer a lot, but here's my thinking in support of this notion.
Periods of transition after long-term dictatorships, or even benevolent monarchies, creates turmoil and chaos, opportunities that dissidents will seize upon. See, like it or not, a moron like Saddam Hussein or Hosni Mubarak might be the worst thing to happen to a people, but he stays in office as long as he does precisely because he brings a form of stability to a nation. Take away that brutal reality, and the people will flex their muscles.
While Kim did inherit his office from his father, history teaches us that is no guarantee of stability among a people. We have only to look into the past of one of our closest allies, England, to see that any transition in a monarchy, even the most placid ones, can cause instability in a culture.
Say what you will about democracy and term limits on a president, we never see this kind of radical behavior, mainly because we select our next leader, like him (or her) or not.
There is no reason to expect that North Korea would be any different, so we can make an assumption here that, indeed, Jong-Un ran into a little dissent after he assumed power.
I should point out that there are no known dissident groups to Kim's government and any political parties that do exist (three, if memory serves) are all controlled by the Kim family. That doesn't change the fact that there must be some form of dissent. After all, we have Teabaggers here in the greatest nation on the planet.
Plus, tens of thousands of North Koreans cross the borders into China and South Korea annually. You don't risk your life, literally, to leave a country until you've exhausted your efforts at carving out something safe at home.
Kim is very young, as well, which might lead a dissident to assume that he's weak and foolish. Which he may very well be, if this amounts to anything more than saber-rattling.
It's conceivable that this posturing is an attempt to whip up patriotic feelings among his people, who are trained from early on to hate and fear America and Americans. Claim they are about to attack you, your people ramp up their patriotism, and start turning against dissent.
Think it won't work? Then you haven't been paying attention, even to your own nation. Hello, PATRIOT USA Act!
(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)