The United States and its current adversary, North Korea, have leaders whose style of governing and personalities show striking similarities. Even their physical characteristics are comparable, both Kim and Trump being considerably overweight. But it is their statements and conduct that make it seem as if they are genetically related and perhaps raised by the same governess.

Both are fountains of bluster and braggadocio, spouting off at the mouth continuously, telling anyone who will listen and the world at large how wonderful and strong-willed they are. And they are both narcissists, arrogant and superior in their demeanor, conceited and pretentious, demanding that their subordinates sing their praises. Both expect special treatment and complete loyalty from members of their staffs and become angry at any perceived slights. Trump and Kim both believe that their intelligence and judgement is superlative, and that their ideas are a cut above the experts in various fields. This is why they often tend to disregard the advice of their counselors, or not even request any guidance, reacting spontaneously to challenges with aggressive statements or actions.

Trump lashed out at Kim with his fire and fury statement without using his diplomatic or military advisers for their recommendations. During the campaign, when given a briefing on the nation’s nuclear arsenal, he asked several times why America could not use these weapons since they had them and they were so expensive. He seemed to have no understanding of how the world would change if nuclear weapons were ever used.

And Trump and Kim don’t take dissent, disapproval or objections lightly, even from the hand-picked members of their staffs. However, there is a difference in how the two leaders handle disagreements. While Trump may simply fire people whom he praised a few days earlier if he is unhappy about their conduct, Kim has them killed. Even family members, brothers, uncles, and so forth, may be murdered if Kim sees them as a possible threat to his rule, or they have upset his feelings of omnipotence, or are a source of conflict with him. Both men have low boiling points and may explode if they feel they are being disrespected by domestic or foreign opponents.

During the presidential campaign, Trump told the American people more than once that he was smarter than his generals and would be able to manage any crisis that he faced. He said he had a secret plan for eliminating ISIS (that is yet to emerge), would deal with China, and forge a new and strong relationship with Russia. Americans are still waiting. Trump was more concerned with Iran than he was with North Korea which has now turned out to be an existential threat to the nation. But Trump is facing an adversarial leader who is a mirror image of himself. (Kim must have read the Art of the Deal.) Actually, it is not a laughing matter with nuclear weapons on the table for the first time in decades.

Analysts have said that Kim and North Korea are not suicidal and that they will not do anything to precipitate a war with America that will wipe them out. But how can they read Kim’s mind and know how he will react if he feels he is being disrespected and that his rule is in danger. Will he accept guarantees from America that it will not push for regime change? Does he trust the American leadership?

Both Kim and Trump have manifested signs of irrational behavior at times. It is possible that if Kim thinks that he and his government could be destroyed, he will want to take some South Korean and American cities down with him, so that he will be remembered in history. How can Trump bring Kim to the table to work out their conflicts peacefully, eliminating the possibility of a nuclear holocaust? That would be a win-win, but doesn’t seem likely at the moment. Trump sees foreign relations and trade as zero sum games, where if someone is a winner, someone must be a loser. He doesn’t seem to understand that both sides can win if the use of nuclear weapons can be avoided. Mr. Art of the Deal, here’s a chance for you to make an important deal!

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com
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ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Columnist
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