A Tale of Two Successions


As if global politics weren’t turbulent enough, the Obama administration better start thinking about impending dynastic successions in two different but very dangerous places. Read this Economist article for a brief rundown on Egypt, where dictator Hosni Mubarak is mortally ill and laying the groundwork for a transfer of power to his sun Gamal. Egypt is widely regarded as the most important country in the Middle East, and while Mubarak is no democrat, he has kept the peace with Israel and fought jihadist terror. It’s not only his son jockeying for position, however. The Muslim Brotherhood is an important force in Egyptian politics, and it may make a play to rule if it sees an opportunity. Meanwhile, Egyptian democrats like Ayman Noor and Mohamed El-Baradei are also in the mix.

Then there’s North Korea. Kim Jong-Il’s slave state is on the cusp of meltdown. (Read Barbara Demick’s excellent New Yorker article on Kim’s disastrous November 2009 currency “reform.”) Kim has traveled twice to China in recent months, perhaps introducing his Chinese patrons to his son, Kim Jong-Un. Noko watchers say the elder Kim will designate his son heir at an upcoming party conference. But will the North Korean military, political, and intelligence establishments accept a third Kim as god-king?

The White House has a full foreign-policy plate already. Is it ready for a second helping?

There are 3 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Profile Photo Member
    Has it occurred to anyone that North Koreans like living under a dictatorship? And Cubans too? And, well, most people everywhere? That maybe when a tyrant is getting his ticket punched, everybody actually looks forward to the next one, hoping he’s even tougher? Do meltdowns ever happen? Certainly less frequently than they’re predicted. You know what they used to say about Paraguayan liberals: they could be recognized by an abnormally shortened finger, the one they used to tap the table when they said, “This is the year Stroessner goes!”
    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Editor

    Well, maybe this is a good thing. Part of the problem with our NoKo policy has been that we’ve been almost too attentive to it. Every time they make a noise or rattle their cage, we hop to.

    It’s basically China’s problem — there are 24 million emaciated North Koreans right there, along the Yalu River. If NoKo breaks down, there will be a flood both to China and South Korea, but China is the easier border to cross.

    Kim Jung-un, dubbed “Youth Captain” (which is hilarious), seems like a lightweight — a tool of the generals. Which might not be a bad thing.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Contributor
    Matthew Continetti: […] But will the North Korean military, political, and intelligence establishments accept a third Kim as god-king?

    What choice have they, Matt? Life as Burma? How fun is that? It’s a lot easier to oppress a people when you have to indulge a god-king — even one with a lot of pristine Air Jordans and a bad case of the shysies. What I want to know is what the world’s first Gen Y absolute ruler will be like. This is an event unprecedented in world history. It is like the George H.W. Bush/Bill Clinton torch-passing times a gazillion. It seems impossible that Kim III will be anywhere near as monomaniacal and depraved as Kim II, but absolute power over a squalid and desolate parallel universe is a funny thing. Ultimately, all bets are off.

    • #3

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.