Worming our way into North Korea
According to some conspiracy theorists, President Obama is finally wising up about the Axis of Evil.
Unlike in Iran, where he couldn’t stop uranium enrichment with the Stuxnet computer worm, last week he tried a radical new tack: delivering “The Worm” himself, Dennis Keith Rodman, to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Instead of merely panicking some techs in white jumpsuits for a few months, Rodman set himself on a course to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program by intoxicating and incrementally manipulating Supreme Commander Kim Jong-Un — a bona fide basketball obsessive — with his celebrity cachet, his larger-than-death presence and, most likely, a case of Jong-Un’s favorite: Hennessy cognac.
Rodman’s play date with the young Kim might be the most overt covert mission in history. It was a masterstroke that caught the diplomatic world by surprise and took the peninsula by storm — a tour de force that neither a sanctimonious Jimmy Carter nor an uber-hip Eric Schmidt would ever have the right stuff to achieve.
And no weasel wearing a wire would have gathered more information than The Worm surely did about the mindset of this erratic boy emperor who was convinced — along with The People’s Daily Online — that The Onion’s proclaiming him 2012’s “Sexiest Man Alive” was a genuine recognition of his sensual allure by the Western press.
Like it or not, only a lip-studded, tattooed love boy of Rodman proportions — with licentious license earned through a grueling cross-training regimen of athletic discipline and bacchanalian excess — could have seduced this frustrated frat boy into opening at last — if only slightly — the door of detente.
Whereas his father, the Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il, had shown a contempt for communication with the West, Kim Jong-Un has not. In fact, he was so captivated by Rodman’s charade as an uninformed, embarrassingly inarticulate megalomaniacal dupe, Kim gushed about taking the relationship a step further, pleading with Dennis to have President Obama call him.
Where grim-faced attaches had failed again and again at six-party talks, Rodman had broken through the contractual clutter and opened a direct dialogue with the mind and heart of this “awesome” “friend-for-life,” setting the stage for the first diplomatic payback request next time around.
Of course, to hear Jay Carney tell it, there will be no request, much less any “next time around.” He dutifully stuck to the duplicitous script Monday and denounced Rodman’s trip to North Korea as a publicity stunt by an “oppressive regime.” And I’m sure Foggy Bottom will be tut-tutting about the boy pharaoh’s manipulation of Dennis Rodman before the week is out.
Even the president will probably have to weigh in, employing his halting, overly measured, off-the-cuff style to reiterate his admiration for Dennis as a Hall of Fame player and yet, at the same time, his concern … yada, yada, yada.
Although a massive ruse, there will still be plenty of irrepressible schadenfreude behind the scenes. And understandably so. When the best and brightest of three Ivy League administrations have failed to dismantle the Hermit Kingdom’s nuclear weapons program — and some small but real progress is made by, shall we say, an unorthodox envoy, feelings can be bruised.
I’m not the conspiratorialist. In fact, I would bet heavily against Dennis Rodman’s trip having been planned or financed by our government. But to the grain of “truther” in all of us, let’s admit it, it’s a very natural train of thought.
And maybe the State Department should get on that train and consider thinking outside the six-sided box next time around.
After all, dictators with nuclear weapons who have vowed to destroy us and our allies make for extraordinary times. And their presence demands extraordinary measures, even if it’s fighting fire with fire with a diplomat as unusual as the dictator himself!
The beauty and the grace of the Van Cliburn era of diplomacy died with him last week. That’s what made Rodman’s display so particularly cringe-worthy for me.
Then again, compared to what?
When I visualize the display of a drunken 29-year-old psychotic with his finger on the nuclear button and the human devastation he could cause in this country, even “The Worm” is a welcome sight.
Timothy Philen is the author of Harper&Row/Lippincott’s “You CAN Run Away From It!” a satirical indictment of American pop psychology. He is currently at work on a latter-day “Walden,” a collection of essays on post-modern American culture.