NOT so long ago, when we wanted to learn why hostile leaders were hostile, we studied their ideologies. Nowadays, having learned that ideology is either dead or an arbitrary system of signs, we analyze leaders by “putting ourselves in their shoes” — in other words, by assuming that everyone thinks the way we do.Ahem, most of the North Korean watchers I know (Andrei Lankov, anyone?) actually do speak Korean fairly well, though some of the more casual watchers are more preoccupied with posting links to naked German chicks (right; NSFW, but we're all going to lose our jobs in this economy anyway, eh?).
So it is that North Korea watchers who speak no Korean can confidently tell the rest of us what motivates Kim Jong-il.
Thus, with the announcement of the imminent missile launching, the dictator is not trying to get Mr. Obama’s attention so much as his own people’s. It is not merely a question of carrying out the threats of the anti-Lee rhetoric, rich in allusions to a pending comeuppance, that have filled the party newspapers since last fall. The now-familiar cycle of North Korean provocation, American warnings, North Korean follow-through and American calls for more peace talks — calls that are always mocked as an abject surrender — must turn every few years if the “military first” regime is to justify its existence and give heroic meaning to the people’s hardship.So maybe the answer is to do nothing. Just let KJI's melodrama play out. But I wonder if allowing Japan to shoot it down (over Japanese territory, of course) would be a good response. While that would give the North Korean ruling elite a new and powerful bogeyman to rally the people against, at least it wouldn't show that the JUSK triumvirate is all bark and no bite. And maybe China, fearing a resurgent Japan, might actually work a little harder to get its client state back in line.