Newt Gingrich has added his growl to the voices of those calling for an American air assault against Iranian and North Korean nuclear facilities. This facile solution to daunting security problems reflects the mindless belligerency that passes for strategic thought among the Republicans' Nintendo warriors. That much is obvious. Still, there remains the question of what rational actions are open to us.
Most of the public discourse centers on Iran, which most certainly doesn't have the bomb. North Korea most certainly does, along with a growing missile capability. One reason for the disparity is that North Korea remains a black box; we know that Kim Jong-Il runs the show but little else. I personally know next to nothing about North Korea - like most everyone. I am aware, though, that a number of respected South Korean analysts believe that a potentially very significant factor is left out of standard assessments. They assert that Kim Jong-Il's truculence has been driven in part by acute fear of N. Korea going the way of the ex-Soviet Union -- with Washington ready to grease the skids. He supposedly has lived in dread of ending up like Ceauşescu, hopping around a chicken wire enclosure as the executioner's rifle targets him. They cite what they claim is evidence in support of the contention that the nuclear program has TWO purposes: to serve as the ultimate deterrent; and to force the Americans to recognize his regime, 'talk' to him and somehow reach a deal that if left alone he'd refrain from being an all-purpose global mischief maker.
I have no way to judge the credibility of this line of interpretation. Should we see if there is perhaps some truth to it? Short of Obama's inviting Kim to the White house for a beer (an invitation that this paranoid would decline), are there other ways of testing it? Can we imagine a more personalized version of the ping-pong' exchange that cleared the path to engagement with the PRC under Nixon and Kissinger? Here is one idea. How about sending back Bill Clinton to swap pizza recipes as Kim is an avid consumer of pizza -- along with classic Hollywood films. With a crate of the latest pizza apparatus as a goodwill gesture, and Julia Roberts as an escort, it may conceivably be possible to crack Kim's and N. Korea's insularity. This ploy certainly would play to Bill's talents and tastes.
Bizarre? -- of course. But no more absurd than several of the far more dangerous things we've been doing to our detriment elsewhere. Also, the stakes in this one are unquestionnably high. True, our $70 billion per annum intelligence industry would have to take time off from playing Reality Nintendo games in Northern Virginia to make sure that the guy Clinton meets is the true Kim and not one of his several 'doubles.' Has ECHELON picked up anything as to his favorite toppings? If anchovies and pineapple, the ability of Bill's interlocutor to swallow it would be a sure sign that we are addressing Kim himself.
There are functional alternatives to this mock serious proposal for an initiative in pizza diplomacy. An exchange of bombs and shells is not one of them.