The president created the perfect sound-clip for use at home and abroad.
Presumably President Donald Trump believed he was sticking a rhetorical dagger in North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s heart by calling the latter “Rocket Man.” But what greater compliment could there be for the leader of a small, impoverished, and isolated nation than being recognized the U.S. president as joining the global superpower in possessing intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons? By the president’s own words Kim is now one of the “Big Boys.”
President Trump also threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” In doing so he became the mirror image of the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, blustering and swaggering while spewing threats far and wide. President Trump isn’t bad at the game, but the DPRK’s rulers have had far more practice and are without peer. Kim can always trump Trump in this way.
And the president’s warning had two other counterproductive effects. The first is justifying the North Korea nuclear program. Kim, like his father and grandfather, shows no signs of being suicidal: he wants his virgins in the here and now, not hereafter. His principal concern, other than maintaining domestic control, is regime preservation against U.S. pressure. Nuclear weapons are the best means to ensure that he does not suffer the fates of Saddam Hussein, Muammar el-Qaddafi, and other foreign dictators who ran afoul of Washington. Creating a nuclear deterrent is Pyongyang’s preferred tool to prevent America from destroying the DPRK—at least assuming the president is as rational as the Supreme Leader.