Editor’s Note: Fareed Zakaria is the host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” This article is adapted from the conclusion of his latest special, “The Two Faces of Kim Jong Un.” The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author.
The world will watch nervously as President Donald Trump meets Kim Jong Un this coming week in Singapore. Two mercurial personalities, a history of geopolitical tension, nuclear weapons – what could go wrong?
In fact, the summit has one benefit, regardless of the outcome. As the two sides meet and talk, it probably ends the idea of North Korea as crazy. Some of Washington’s biggest mistakes have been when it has treated countries or governments as 10 feet tall and fanatical or lunatic. And for years, the conventional wisdom about North Korea was that it was unpredictable, irrational and thus undeterrable. After all, people said, just look at the bizarre rituals and crazy haircuts of its leaders.
In fact, as I have often pointed out, the North Korean regime has been rational, strategic and successful – given its core goal, survival. It has preserved its basic form of government for 70 years, persevering through the breakdown of the Soviet Union and its empire, the Arab Spring and the demise of other Asian dictatorships, from South Korea to Taiwan to Indonesia. How many family dynasties have been able to hand over power, father to son to grandson?
North Korea endures because it is repressive, but many other regimes were also pretty brutal, frocom Romania to Iraq to Libya. The Kim family is also shrewd at the art of survival.
Look at the world