Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kim Jong Il - Pithy Analysis

Kim: "He looks pretty, but does he have game?"

Dean links to pithy analysis by Secular Apostate answering the question "Is Kim Jong Il Crazy?" The answer is a resounding NO.

The last three Administrations, Clinton, Bush, and Obama, have negotiated with the North Koreans as if the North Koreans were serious negotiators. In fact, the “incandescently intelligent” Barack Obama once said: “you do the game theory and calculate ways to contain”. “Do” the game theory, indeed. The natterings of a garrulous buffoon.
It reminded me of a WSJ article by Bret Stephens from a year ago regarding the aforementioned dictator:

But a tyrant’s training is no less useful for the manipulation of free men. What keeps an abused and subjugated people in line is the constant fear that things could suddenly get dramatically worse, along with the sporadic hope that things might also get marginally better. So long as most people feel they have much to lose and something to gain, you will have them in your power.

Ditto for your dealings with the outside world: The key is to keep them on the back foot, to furnish continuous evidence of what “dramatically worse” and “marginally better” look like, and to oscillate between the two in a way that always leaves a margin of doubt about your real intentions.

Regarding game theory, Kim is playing a weak hand adeptly, he keep making big bets because he knows that his adversary is extremely risk averse and unwilling to accept even small losses, so we keep folding our hand. Once again, Obama needs to sue his alma mater for failing to educate him; if he knew anything about game theory, he would also respond asymmetrically.

In fact, the U.S. could exert considerable pressure on Kim Jong Il. Much of his power comes from his ability to distribute small luxuries and favors to the party. These in turn are dependent upon foreign currency, which comes from counterfeiting, illicit sales of arms, and the drug trade. We have the means to crack down on these activities and also preventing the money laundering that then feeds the North the means to fly in lobsters to Kim's Siberian train to Moscow, for example. I have previously pointed out that we have employed such a strategy successfully.

Putting the squeeze will of course cause the North to ratchet up the saber rattling, but we can call Kim's bluff, because squeezing on these illegal activities is not a direct response to his provocations. Indeed, on the military front, we could appear to remain very passive, to keep the South Koreans from complaining. Why we don't employ this strategy is beyond me, but don't expect Obama to understand the game theory behind it.

1 comment:

  1. The Norks have more than the nuclear threat on their side.

    -Appearance of instability
    -Saving Face (and our sympathy for that culture)
    -Appearance of nuclear concessions
    -Alliance with China (although maybe the Chinese would like to be rid of the pesky little brother looking for attention)

    And this “game theory” is no more than a Pavlovian response to which Kim is working so well. Why are we crediting him with brilliance when he is responding to his conditioned stimulus?