In 1965 singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician, Tom Lehrer released a song, “Who’s Next?” The song was about nuclear proliferation. Here are just a few of the lyrics:
First we got the bomb, and that was good
'Cause we love peace and motherhood
Then Russia got the bomb, but that's okay
'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way
France got the bomb, but don't you grieve
'Cause they're on our side, I believe
China got the bomb, but have no fears
They can't wipe us out for at least five years
It goes on from there to smaller and smaller countries and finally to individual states. This song has never seemed timelier than today. Mr. Lehrer hasn’t been very active on the singer-songwriter front for the last decade, he’s 89. I have to wonder what he thinks of the world situation today?
Let me state the problem as clearly as I know how; countries like Iran and North Korea are too unstable and volatile to be playing with weapons of mass destruction. Iran has sworn to ‘wipe the Zionists off the earth.’ In effect, they want to destroy Israel. The problem is that Israel is fully prepared to eliminate the entire Middle East if they find they are losing a war. North Korea is a special case.
Like his father before him, Kim Jung-Un seems to be moderately insane. Either that, or he just refuses to understand the way that the West thinks. The Eastern culture puts emphasis on ‘Face,' a sense of prestige. Kim Jung-Un must believe that he gains Face every time he threatens the West.
The Western cultures do not care about Face. They care about stability. Threats made against the West, no matter the reason, create a sense of instability. This is a basic breakdown in communication between two cultures. We managed to overcome it, to a degree, with Japan and China, but it still exists.
Eastern cultures are not wired to believe that any Western nation could or should have greater Face than them. That being that case, the intelligent action would be to act through a proxy that North Korea does believe has greater Face.
It is unfortunate that the three major governments of the world are at such odds right now. This is the type of environment that puts us at the tipping point.
I don’t want anyone to think I am suggesting we not take or prepare for action as regards North Korea. But shouldn’t we be looking for ways to pull back from the edge?
Happy Labor Day!