Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Scenario

A scenario:

A man rules a country. He has spent the majority of his adult life exercising near complete authority over his little corner of the earth and has profited from this rule. Though some of his people have from time to time expressed their distaste with his rule, they were usually taken care of quickly and in a dramatic enough fashion to show others that this behavior was unacceptable.

Though the Western world considers him a pariah, that does not bother him overly much.  He has garnered friends amongst the other lesser liked countries of the world and has their support when he needs it.

He has had many issues with his neighbor to the South. Though these issues have become outright conflict on some occasions, it is generally preferable to keep the conflict rhetorical and instead take advantage of various international fora and the support of his "friends" to seize the political advantages when they present themselves.  The legacy, however, of these decades of conflict is a very professional and well trained military; one significantly more formidable than those of many of his compatriots.  Still, quietly utilizing informal channels of communication he has slowly been seeking measures that will reconcile his nation with his hated Southern neighbor and give his country a much needed boost internationally.

Then he dies.

He is succeeded by his son.  The heir, educated in Europe amongst the best schools is seen by the international community as something as an enigma.  Though he is largely untested and unproved, he benefits from the ring of supporters that surrounded his father.  They give him advice, but always there is a certain edge to their words for they know that he- the "heir"- is heir only because they condone it.  Thus, the status quo holds and there is no chance of peace.

The man in this scenario is Hafiz al-Assad.  His son, Bashar, was seen by some as a potential reformer after his father's death- a man with the chance to resurrect Syria.  However, surrounded by his father's "old guard," he only made matters worse by escalating his country's involvement with other pariahs like Iran and North Korea, ultimately creating for himself the situation that exists within his country.

Also fitting this mold is the young Kim Jong-Un.  Though he had slightly more time to indoctrinate himself in the mythos of the ruling party than the younger Assad, his creditability is still derived from those around him.  As such, many of his actions seem to be taken largely from the playbook that his father wrote; simultaneously demanding assistance and threatening his neighbors.  The constant stream of rhetoric can be viewed simply as Kim asserting his authority and consolidating his power but it must also be viewed as actions coming from people that likely hold the keys to the Hermit Kingdom.

While there is a vigorous debate in the world over what to do with Syria, thought should also be given to how to prevent the sequence of events that led to this disaster.  Though North Korea is very different from Syria in many ways, today's Kim, much like the Assad of 2000, is bound to his handlers until such a time as they can not unmake his rule.  They will likely use this time- and him- to continue the status quo that keeps them in power and Kim under their thumb.  Over time, Kim will probably also develop a dependency on the current situation and himself be won over by the "wisdom," of those around him, slowly pushing boundaries and limits with the world and South Korea in particular.

To prevent this, all efforts should be made to differentiate the current Kim regime from the previous one in words and in actions.  He should be viewed as an entity separate from his father.  Moreover, focus should fall on him and him alone, as this will ultimately speed up his acceptance within North Korea, hopefully before he becomes indoctrinated by the Cult of Kim.

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