The Perils of Police Power

What does Kim Jong Un want?

It would be easy to dismiss the latest North Korean agitprop as so much harmless saber-rattling. After all, every other time they’ve made nasty noises, they’ve backed down after getting additional aid. But when they listed Honolulu, LA, DC, and Austin, Texas as nuclear targets, we probably should be concerned. After all, when North Korea rattles its sabre, people tend to get killed: 40 people when they torpedoed a South Korean ship, and half a dozen when they shelled an island.

It’s not enough to note that Kim is just crazy. He’s clearly angling for something—respect from his generals, or respect from other nations. Among American Indians, a tribe’s greatness might be measured by the might of its enemies. So by getting into a staring contest with the US, he could increase his stature.

In the current crisis we need to support South Korea on the ground in order to keep Israel calm in the face of Iranian missiles, to keep Japan calm in the face of North Korea’s missiles, to keep Saudi Arabia calm in the face of Shi’ite and al-Qaeda terrorists, and so on. It’s difficult to be the world’s policeman.

There has to be a better way.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

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