Somewhat like an unruly teenager who revels in doing the opposite of what his parents ask him, North Korea's Kim Jong Il seems to derive a special glee in thumbing his nose at the world, the United States in particular.
So, taking a page from the parenting rule book, the United States has decided to ground him.
On Wednesday, the Bush administration announced its plans to take Kim's toys away. In an attempt to target the leader's ability to rule, the White House said it will ban the export of "luxury goods that are purchased for no other reason than to benefit North Korea's governing elite,'' the theory being, apparently, that powerful communist leaders loyal to Kim won't be so loyal if they don't get their box of Christmas stogies this year.
Among the items the North Korean president must scratch from his wish list: Cognac, cigars, Rolex watches, Cadillacs, iPods and plasma televisions. U.S. intelligence agencies also say Kim likes Johnny Walker Scotch - you would presume the expensive blue label, but since Kim also likes Harley-Davidson motorcycles, maybe he's more of black label kind of guy.
The United Nations has backed the American plan, and various countries are working on their own lists of finer things they won't sell to Kim anymore.
The rest of the world has a lot of problems with Kim's regime, the fact that most of his people are kept impoverished and often don't have enough to eat being high on that list. Combine that with his desire for a nuclear arsenal and you have the makings of a global threat.
And our idea for stopping him? Coal in his stocking.
According to AP, one former trade official said the idea was "kind of creative."
More like kind of stupid if you ask me.
One expert was quick to point out that a man who is able to run a covert nuclear weapons program probably wouldn't have much trouble procuring a case of liquor on the black market.
Folks, we're talking about an unstable foreign dictator whose goal is to maintain power by any means necessary, not some 16-year-old who keeps sneaking out his bedroom window at night.
While the jury is still out on just what kind of nuclear threat Kim really is, there is no doubt the day is coming when this guy will have his finger on the button. Whether that finger is also on the remote control of a 42-inch widescreen probably won't make a lot of difference to the guy who disappears in blinding flash of light when Kim decides he wants to see a really big fireworks show after dinner one night.
The last thing I will ever claim to be is a diplomat. I don't believe that might makes right, but I do believe if you are right - and you've got the might - then there are times when you use it. I'm all for talking things out if at all possible, but usually talk is just that - talk.
The world has tried talking to Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Il will not listen.
Kim will not listen because while he may act like an unruly teenager, he is not one. He is something much more dangerous, and it is something you can find in any school yard: a bully.
Anybody who's ever been bullied will tell you there's no reasoning with a bully. No amount of talk will keep him from stealing your lunch money. No therapy is going to keep a bully from making you the butt of all his jokes.
And it doesn't matter how many of his toys you take away because it's not just possessing the toy that gives the bully pleasure. It's possessing the toy despite your efforts to keep him from it. And his favorite way to do that is to take it from you by brute force.
The reaction from normal people to this kind of behavior is rarely to use force in return, however. That's because most normal people aren't bullies and don't enjoy hurting anyone, no matter how much they may deserve it. So the bullying goes on.
Like I said, I'm no diplomat. But I do know one thing that stopped every bully I ever faced when I was a kid, and it wasn't taking his stuff away.
It was a good punch in the nose.
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