Taking Out Kim Jong Un — and Not for Dinner
You remember The Interview -- the 2014 Sony comedy film in which Seth Rogen and James Franco play two TV-tabloid American journalists who land an interview with North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un? Before they leave for Pyongyang, a CIA agent shows up at their California apartment to ask if while they are alone with Kim, they could assassinate him.
The agent says: "The CIA would love it if you two could take him out."
At first, they don't get it. "For drinks?" they ask. "Like to dinner?...Take him out to a meal?...On the town?...Party?"
That scene has come to mind more than once as American officials have veered again and again toward the idea that measures short of regime change in Pyongyang can somehow contain or even end the increasingly dangerous threats emanating from North Korea. The policy default seems to be, as Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, testified to the House Armed Services Committee on April 26, "In confronting the North Korean threat, it is critical that the U.S. be guided by a strong sense of resolve, both publicly and privately in order to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not his knees."
In other words, take Kim out...to the bargaining table? Again?
Unfortunately, that won't stop the malignant threat of North Korea. Kim, for his own purposes, appears to be in pretty good command of his senses -- the catch being that he has priorities in which the imperatives include reigning as a god, terrorizing and brutalizing his countrymen, threatening America and some of its closest allies, and acquiring nuclear-tipped ICBMs. If, after more than five years of consolidating power via this approach, bequeathed to him by his totalitarian forebears, he tries at this stage to come to a more civilized set of senses -- and there is no sign he's interested in doing so -- he would likely be taken out, as soon as he relaxed his grip, by his own terrorized, starved, and brutalized countrymen. (Recall the 1989 fate of Romania's Ceausescus.)
Anyway, the "take him out" scene from The Interview came right to mind yesterday, when Business Insider published a piece headlined: "The US had a clear shot at killing Kim Jong Un on July 4 -- here's why it didn't strike."
According to this article, for more than an hour, while North Korea prepared to test-launch its first ICBM, the U.S. had Kim in its crosshairs:
When North Korea shot off its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile in the early morning hours of July 4, US military and intelligence personnel watched leader Kim Jong Un smoke cigarettes and stroll around the launchpad for a full 70 minutes, a source told The Diplomat's Ankit Panda.