One strike, and you are out

May 3, 2017

Fencing

Unfolding news stories.  President Trump celebrates his first hundred days in office. He says there is a chance we have a major major conflict with North Korea. His words. The Doomsday clock clicks  closer to zero

A republican Governor tells the BBC that Trump would be advised to stop mere saber-rattling and take more direct actions to remove Kim Jong-un. He admitted he didn’t know what the steps might be, but there would be very bright guys in the Military who would.

A plausible theory is that President Trump is following the rule book about getting a good deal, say on a used car. Talk tough, kick a tyre disparagingly, and ask for more than you expect to get.

The threat of global annihilation puts in the shade the General Election campaign in the UK. It has been called by the Government to obtain a renewed mandate for its upcoming negotiations with the EU. The Government has an overwhelming lead in the opinion polls, and the PM has settled for a a rope-a-dope strategy against the unpopular opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, designed to allow him to defeat himself. The strategy involves minimum risk of making Mrs May look anything but a strong leader. She is well-programmed to avoid policy commitments and stick two small number of sound bites about needing a huge majority to avoid the chaos if Corbin becomes Prime Minister. The likelihood of that is low, odds on it are roughly thirty to one against.

Mr Corbyn helpfully provides policies that often have appeal for their social progressiveness but too easily trashed as unworkable and financially implausible. He avoids traps clumsily on nuclear defense, a major Labour backer is reported as willing to stand against him if the local elections beginning this week are as bad as predicted.

The architect of the government’s success was the voter switch to UKIP, which is now being deserted according to those polls, giving the Government even greater prospects of electoral success.

Nevertheless, UKIP candidates are proving themselves independent souls. One Scottish Ukipper announces she is standing on a platform of re-opening public toilets, abolishing golf courses, and reintroducing the death penalty in a humane way, possibly using a guillotine.

It is not clear if a pre-emotive strike strategy helps the cause of world peace, when you are trying to stop a nuclear war, rather than trying to get a best price for a second-hand car.

Advertisements

The execution of Jang Song-thaek, and the limits of The Great Man theory of leadership

December 14, 2013


The Great man theory of leadership has been gradually eroded by recognition of the ultimate dilemmas of absolute power

The execution of Jang Song-thaek in North Korea this week [December 2013] has been presented outside the state as evidence of the ultimate power vested in its absolute ruler, Kim Jong Un. This assumes that the newly appointed ‘great leader’ acted without being influenced by anyone else. This is generally assumed as the action of someone with absolute power

As The Telegraph put it

In making this very public display of ruthlessness Kim Jong-un probably had three objectives. Firstly, [sic] nobody in North Korea can doubt now that he, and he alone, is in charge. Nor can anybody doubt that he is utterly ruthless in removing absolutely anybody who might, in the colourful language of the indictment, “dream different dreams”.
Secondly, Kim Jong-un has told his country – and the world – that not only Jang the man, but also the vision that he stood for, has been purged. Jang Song-thaek seems to have argued for a less closed North Korea, one that embraced trade and encouraged inward investment.
Thirdly, this is a slap in the face for China. China is often described as North Korea’s only ally but with every nuclear test and every provocative missile launch the relationship has become more strained. After North Korea’s third nuclear test in February China recalibrated its policy to North Korea.

The contradiction

Kim has acted decisively to ‘crush’ his enemy, as recommended by Machiavelli. I always felt this advice requires careful positioning in its historical context. Anyway, the leader who has to crush his enemy can hardly be the great all-powerful leader who is feared but not hated. It seems more like the leader beleaguered by forces internal and external to his regime.

Little wonder that ‘Great man’ theories of leadership are gradually drifting out of fashion.