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INTERMITTENT NOTESXML

What's So Funny?

Mad magazine cover of exploding Castro cigarIt was no joke when the U.S. government tried to kill Fidel Castro. Now, thank goodness, we're restoring relations with Cuba, albeit decades later than we should have done. Which makes it all the more poignant that at this very moment Mr. Obama approves making jokes about killing another foreign leader, namely Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Given all the mistrust between America and North Korea, given the history that sheds a not inconsiderably unfavorable light on both sides, and given the concrete need for Washington to diplomatically manage North Korean nuclear capabilities, it makes no sense whatsoever to taunt Kim Jong Un by saying that regarding the Sony hack the U.S. will "respond appropriately in a way and a time of its own choosing."

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the French film industry had produced a "comedic film" with the plot line that two bumbling French gangsters conspired, successfully, to assassinate President Obama. Honestly, what do you think would have been Washington's reaction? "Oh, that's just French comedy, who can explain French tastes, and we welcome their exercise of freedom of speech." No, not so much. It would be a scandal, ultimately, and without doubt resulting in profuse diplomatic apologies. Nor would it be surprising in the slightest if such a film, having been made, was pulled from theaters. Having the shoe on the other foot Americans would not be happy.

Common sense suggests that the proper response from Mr. Obama would have been to show sympathy for the North Korean perspective. "I wouldn't like that kind of film to be made about me," he could have said. And then he could go on to add that hacking Sony was not the right response, etc., etc.

But now to escalate, to implicate the myriad vulnerabilities of American electronic infrastructure, and to lower the non-trivial prospect of assassinating foreign heads of state to the level of a joke, is just stupid.

Worst of all, perhaps, this seemingly thoughtless, reflexive response tells the North Koreans what Washington truly thinks of them. Repairing the consequent damage done to our already badly strained relations won't be easy.

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