The developed world has an elaborate, yet contrived way of going about its business regarding governmental affairs in general, and foreign policy, in particular. As I was emailing with a professor in Asia this week, the reality of “Groupthink” a management term that denotes the notion of a team who is all too agreeable towards changes or the status quo of company policy, affects most humans on a daily basis. Sure, “kitchen table” politics help shape who we are and what influences us as individuals through our family and friends; however, in 2017 and with the threat of military conflict staring down the barrel of a gun on the Korean Peninsula, the bedrock of Groupthink is a notion that is strongest in authoritarian nation-states. A cult of personality is obvious in North Korea with the Kim dynasty and in Cuba with the Castro brothers maintaining an iron – grip on the island. China still maintains an identity with their leaders, though, nothing like during the Mao era. The United States glorifies its Presidents with extravagant inaugurations and during the annual State of the Union Address. So, who holds the most power in their respective bureaus? The American President is constrained by Congress and American allies; authoritarian regimes by lack of resources, China the lone argument as it is the “factory of the world.”
The notion of Groupthink, then, rears its ugly head in various cabinets no matter the ideology. Individual Members of Parliament (Canada etc.) in some cases are permitted to vote with their conscious on various legislation and are held in line by the “Party Whip” on other matters that might bring about the downfall of the government. Is that Democracy or tyranny of the few? In the case of North Korea, Kim Jong – un has shown little tolerance for individuals within his circle who might flinch regarding the direction of his leadership.
In the case of Democracy, not going along to get along may cost you your political life or your station within the Party. In the Authoritarian nation – state, questioning the leadership may cost you your life or years of hard labour. What is the preferred platform is a rhetorical question.
As the U.S.S. Carl Vinson draws near the edge of North Korea, the potential for a miscalculation on the part of North Korean or the United States looms large. The result might be numerous casualties in South Korea followed by a mass exodus of refugees from North Korea into mainland China and South Korea. Yet, if Kim survives, the goal of regime change remains as distant as before any actual conflict that may take place on the Korean peninsula in 2017. Fifty – nine cruise missiles did little to dissuade Assad in Syria. If Kim plans on striking the U.S. or any of its allies in the region, all bets are off on predicting the outcome with an uneasy China deliberating over a potential refugee crisis or the U.S. flexing their military might in South Korea and Japan.
The political game of brinksmanship continues. For now, it is rhetorical and a potent serum for sustaining power. Stay tuned.