Shaking the Big Stick – Is North Korea Really a Threat?

So, we’re surrounding North Korea now and telling them to reach for the sky.  The world waits with bated breath to see if Kim Jong-un will blow us all to hell.  North Korea – a country that is quite literally nothing more than a starving, third-word military complex.  I understand that we have to take any threat seriously, just like police receiving an anonymous bomb threat, but is a public freak out really the best way to respond to North Korea?  Perhaps we could learn something from textbook police response to tips.  When the bomb threat comes in, they don’t immediately scurry off to the press.  They investigate and keep things on a need to know basis as long as necessary to prevent a panic.  It allows for more efficient police work that keeps people safer until an actual threat is acknowledged.  Calm, collected, and efficient.

But there is another, and far more of important reason not to broadcast every single voice that screeches out that the sky is falling – if the threat ends up being nothing more than the poor choice of a teenager thinking they were funny – you aren’t giving them attention.  For that is what people who make bogus threats and bullies both want – attention.

When it comes to North Korea, we are the older kid holding the younger kid at arm’s length while he harmlessly swings his little fists until he wears himself out.  Or to put it another way – living in Kansas we have full knowledge that the black widow is a dangerous spider even though it is small, but in this case North Korea is like a black widow in the middle of a white room surrounded by people with bricks.

The sensationalism surrounding North Korea is much more dangerous than North Korea itself.  Why?  Because we are sending a message that even the weakest and least serious threat deserves our full 24/7 headlined attention.  It tells a world of potential enemies they can be on the cover of a digital Newsweek just by making a threat – without a single gun, bomb, or fish boat to back it up.

I had a worried student this afternoon asking me about the “threat of North Korea.”   The threat is that they are surrounded by Destroyers at sea, anti-missile batteries in Guam and troops at the Southern border.  The 5th grade bully may be raising his fists, but he’s surrounded by six graders and is doing nothing more than posturing.

The long-term problem with our response to this issue whether it be solely the fault of the media, the White House, or both, is that we are falling prey to “gunslinger syndrome.”   As every western fan knows, the fastest gun in the west lives under constant threat that someone else will always show up to challenge him until he is finally defeated.  Taking on the United States has become too similar, because we just have to involve ourselves in everything.  We’re now the big team to beat – and by drone, bomb, and occupation we cause more and more people to root for the underdogs.

The answer to the question of “Are we in danger,” is that we are always in danger.  That is a simple reality of living in a political world with limited resources and infinite greed.  All we can do is attempt to limit those threats by how we behave.  Every other week someone is claiming they are going to blow us up.  Has it really been that long since we were a country that checked our “threat level” color each day along with the weather?

Bullies want attention.  You have to either ignore them, pop them in the nose or just stay completely off of their radar.  Giving them attention solves nothing.  Kim Jong-un is little more than the physical embodiment of Lord Farquaad.  The lunch money/swamp he wants from us is CNN and internet headlines.  We should applaud the decision to park a few ships off his coast and then ignore him.  The greatest threat to him is not our bombs, but irrelevancy.  And then maybe we should then sit down and think about our past and present international bullying a little bit ourselves.

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Author: The Blue Route

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