Why is the ‘mad man theory’ about North Korea, nuclear proliferation and Kim Jong-un wrong?

Two missile tests North Korea’s operations in recent days have rekindled debates about the country, its leadership, its foreign policy, its worldwide perception, and the use (and usefulness) of nuclear weapons as an option in global politics.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency announced on September 12 that it is testing a new long-range cruise missile, believed by analysts to be the country’s first missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Three days later, South Korea’s military said the North had launched “two unidentified ballistic missiles” into the Sea of ​​Japan, prompting Japan’s outgoing prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, to order an investigation into his country’s defense agencies.

North Korea usually makes major nuclear announcements as we’ve seen lately in early September. Founding of the DPRK on September 9, 1948. Therefore, these tests are as much about domestic propaganda and the prestige of the domestic regime as the threats to the outside world.

More broadly, North Korea’s progress in nuclear weapons technology – intermittently since the 1950s. – made its integration with the rest of the international community much less likely. This is primarily the reason for its development, which comes at a significant cost and sacrifice to the small nation.

No moral high ground

Given the indiscriminate barbarism of the devastation that a nuclear attack would cause, it could be argued that no state has a moral right to another state’s nuclear weapons. But countries that already have nuclear arsenals will often push this line. to them To have a nuclear stockpile, other countries do not have to have this right. These communications are often based on a fabricated understanding of who is responsible and stable and who is irresponsible and indecisive. In short, it is an attempt to create a polarized world of good and evil.

This simple polarization is promoted through government communications on foreign policy. But they also depend on broader, more implicit perception management strategies. These include capitalizing on the agendas of the global mainstream news media and exporting popular culture products, films, television programs and the like that seek to promote certain worldviews and marginalize the undesirable for the world’s most powerful nations.

It should always be remembered (twice in 1945) that the USA was the only state to use nuclear weapons as an act of war. Yet he declares North Korea a nuclear threat based on his “madness” (Donald Trump has repeatedly called Kim Jong-un “crazy”). But if we are to believe the verses from Allah, upcoming book Danger by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, America’s top military personnel Move on To limit the risk of any nuclear showdown with China in the final months of the Trump administration.

Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump sit at a table with Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands in the background.
Meeting of minds: Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump at the Singapore Summit in 2018.
EPA-EFE/Kevin Lim/Straits Times

It is probably true to say that few candidates running for high office would say that under no circumstances would they ever use their country’s nuclear capability. But it could also be argued that any head of government who boasts of being ready to use nuclear weapons shows that he is unfit to govern. However, as the first part of this paragraph suggests, no candidate is likely to make this claim.

The ‘mad man’ theory is wrong

There is no evidence that North Korea’s previous leaders, Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il, have been evaluated by psychologists and found to be mentally ill. This also applies to the country’s current leader, Kim Jong-un – in fact, before Kim’s 2018 summit with Trump, Kenneth Dekleva, a former State Department psychiatrist, creates psychological profiles of foreign leaders, He told US National Public Radio that: “I think the madman theory is wrong.”

I’d say he’s smart, a very, very knowledgeable diplomat, a leader with a sense of gravity. She wants to be an actress on the world stage.

For Simon CrossA colleague at Nottingham Trent University said “insanity” is a vague term and a cultural construct that doesn’t require a trained medical professional to define it, but it easily resonates with the audience when said by someone they trust. Stephen Harper He says at the University of Portsmouth that our perception of what represents “madness” is based on uncritical interpretations of the past and fantasies and tendencies toward what he calls “self-harming” in the human mind. These metaphors are sustained, validated, and even encouraged by the persuasion of powerful individuals empowered by mainstream media content.

For example, the Hollywood movies Team America: World Police (2004) and The Interview (2014) promote this idea of ​​the North Korean leader and his senior advisers as insane, although they are satires of North Korean leaders. and Trump kept hitting it With regular references to Kim as “crazy”, “crazy” and “little rocket man”.

North Korea’s pervasive image of international insanity, therefore, is predominantly the creation of hostile outside parties. But Pyongyang has acted accordingly when seen as useful – as psychologist Dekleva said earlier in this article, it can be a useful tool of diplomacy. This is a theme Niccolo Machiavelli explores in his book. Prince in 1517.

What is perhaps most interesting, however, is the extent to which recent US administrations and their allies have believed the tale of madness, despite being largely responsible for it. This has been the case in successive US administrations – but whether they truly believe it or continue to do so because it suits their broader foreign policy ambitions remains to be seen.

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