Dealing with North Korea

This note proposes two steps that might rapidly reduce the threat of nuclear war with North Korea. The first would to begin to negotiate the end of the U.S. war with North Korea that stopped with only an armistice in 1953, usually a temporary measure. A properly negotiated treaty officially ending the war might give Kim Jong-Un more confidence toward moving away from his threat of nuclear terror, even if doesn’t deter Trump from his maniacal utterances to Kim.

The idea of a properly conducted negotiation that would be reassuring to Kim, and excludes Trump, leads toward a more complex issue. Like most men in modern societies, both men seem to have hypermasculine personalities that find honor in violence or threats of violence. This notion has been suggested by many, most clearly by Gilligan in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (2017), based on his experiences with violent men as a prison psychiatrist.

For many years Gilligan asked convicted murderers a simple question: “Why did you do it?” Most of the answers took the form, “Because he dissed (disrespected) me.” This answer implied to Gilligan that they had used anger and violence to hide their shame and humiliation not only from others but also from themselves.

As the absolute dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un is the leader of a relatively small and weak country that has been bullied since its inception by South Korea, Japan, China, and the U.S. Ashamed of his country because of this treatment, Kim seems to have taken the emotional road of hypermasculinity described by Gilligan.

The second suggestion follows: Allow the U.S. to deal with Kim and North Korea only with highly experienced negotiators using the officially required respect, completely excluding Trump. This step is sorely needed because the stakes are high. They are not extremely high, because Kim knows that a nuclear war would be suicidal not only for him but for his whole country. But many hypermasculine men have been known to commit suicide. We cannot afford to continually insult him.

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