Could overseas events drive the 2012 election?
Analysts, commentators and, yes, columnists will fill the days between now and November with sage assessments of the campaigns. Does Obama have the right strategy? Does Mitt Romney have the right message? Which party has the better ground game? Which candidate’s loose-remark-of-the-day qualifies as a certified gaffe?
But it might be more pertinent to ask, for example, what the North Korean news agency meant Monday with its threat to reduce parts of Seoul to ash with a military attack “by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.”
North Korea’s apocalyptic rhetoric can usually be written off as bluster. But the Stalinist dynasty in charge of the world’s most isolated country has an inexperienced young leader whose first attempt to cover himself in glory — testing a provocative new long-range missile — was a humiliating failure. Could Kim Jong Eun actually be thinking the unthinkable?
We have to assume the North Korean regime cares most about its own survival and thus will not launch a suicidal war. But if Kim and the generals have decided to push the envelope, perhaps with a new nuclear weapons test, the possibility for miscalculation is greater than in the past. Kim’s father, the late Kim Jong Il, was a master at knowing just how far he could go without triggering Armageddon. Let’s hope the kid was taking notes.
As Obama has made clear, our nation’s geopolitical strategic focus is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific — where American interests run into those of the emerging global superpower China. This is why anyone trying to predict the course of the U.S. election campaign ought to pay attention to the scandal and turmoil that have gripped the Chinese government at a delicate moment of transition.
It’s a convoluted story involving money, sex, corruption, betrayal and an alleged homicide. The central fact is that one of China’s most charismatic and powerful politicians — Bo Xilai, until recently the Communist Party boss in Chongqing, an inland metropolis of nearly 30 million people — has been sacked. His wife is accused of murdering a shadowy British businessman who
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