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Mallazzo: America should give North Korea the cold shoulder

Mike Mallazzo, Columnist

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With the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament, it is only a matter of time before Kim Jong-un publicly declares that he picked a perfect bracket and Yahoo lost his entry in an intricate capitalist conspiracy.

He’ll go on to point out that our commander-in-chief once again failed to correctly pick the national champion, clearly demonstrating America’s inherent lack of foresight and virtue.  To celebrate his victory, he’ll announce plans to launch a warhead at San Francisco because he “just hates sea lions.”

We’ll wake up to front-page headlines on his latest decree, White House news conferences and scores of Internet memes. Although most people will share lunchroom laughs at North Korea’s insanity, thousands of Americans will worry due to the irrational fear that surrounds anything with the adjective “nuclear.” Regardless, the sad irony is that Kim Jong-un will be grinning widest as he’ll be getting what he wants most: attention.

Although Kim Jong-un subscribes to some type of bastardized realism and believes every nation is an existential security threat, he plunges massive efforts into advancing North Korea’s nuclear program because of the incredible prestige and forced respect that comes with joining the world’s most exclusive club.

Compared to the nuclear technologies of the United States, Britain and Israel, North Korea’s nuclear warhead is a Nicolas Cage movie against “The Godfather.”  Furthermore, North Korea lacks the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) technology to actually launch the warhead anywhere near our shining seas. Currently, they are no more capable of hurting us than Kim Kardashian punching Rocky from halfway across Philadelphia.

North Korea is desperately trying to trade in its spot at the kiddie table and like any good 3-year-old, thinks throwing dinner rolls at the adults is the best way to achieve this goal. The strategy works so long as the adults keep turning around and scolding him but quickly falters if they just carry on their conversation.

Although North Korea is a state, the threat it poses is fundamentally asymmetric in nature much like that posed by terrorist groups in that its relative economic and military power is vastly inferior to ours. While this assertion is obvious, it is important to keep in mind when thinking of how North Korea can potentially harm us.

Make no mistake, asymmetric threats often have the capability to inflict tangible damage. However, the physical harm they cause pales in comparison to their ability to impose collateral effects on a population. Thus, public policies toward these threats should focus not so much on the threats themselves but on combating the fear these threats can instill in the public.

Our secretary of defense is 100 percent right in stating that “you only need to be wrong once” for a disaster to occur, and therefore the North Korean threat should be taken quasi-seriously but should be done so by Jason Bournes behind closed doors. Therefore, to truly advance our security interests, the government should publicly downplay the North Korean threat, making it a less juicy media headline so that Kim thankfully disappears from CNN and Facebook.

We’re the United States. We often use sledgehammers to kill flies simply because we can and because we have a whole closet full of sledgehammers and not a whole lot of use for them.  However, when it comes to North Korea and Dennis Rodman’s new friend, we don’t need to draw on the massive strength of our military, economy or democracy. We simply need to draw on the tried and true American ideal of not paying attention.

Mike Mallazzo is a Medill junior. He can be reached at michaelmallazzo2014@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this letter, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com

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