Israel and North Korea have the same foreign policy.
That’s not fully true, but close enough that you’d be right to see it that way.
Here’s what I mean to say- Israel and North Korea have responded in the same way to similar problems, and they have been incredibly successful in doing so. It might be odd for you to read “foreign policy success” and “North Korea” so closely together, but the truth of the matter is that the poor, increasingly isolated regime has done an incredible job of maintaining itself over the past half-century, something stronger and larger regimes than itself have not been able to do. Certainly, if you look at Israel from an American perspective, you see a country adored by Congress, one we send over 3 billion in aid alone to annually, that has been a significant issue in every Presidential race in living memory; the issue, indeed, always seems to be who supports that nation more, whose plan will defend it more securely. Now look at North Korea: abandonment by its allies has only accelerated under Trump, with sweeping new sanctions targeting what little trade the country has left and assets owned by the ruling cabal recently being passed in the Security Council with an abstention by China. Certainly, there is a significant difference there, correct? Well, there is, but it’s mainly in the framing.
Let’s start with Israel. Regardless if you support or oppose the state’s actions, existence, or Washington’s involvement with them, you must admit that they have not only parlayed their position quite well, but employed an excellent game theory that’s maintained success, to borrow from Peterson, not only in each individual game, but throughout the metagame set. Now, there are a number of intricacies in the intra- and interstate situation of US support for Israel alone (cough cough, AIPAC), but right now I propose you look at what I feel is the cornerstone of their policy- The Sampson Option.
It’s the Cold War, and the US needs all the friends it can get. A brief conflict in 1948 ensured that a certain new country in the Middle East would not be a friend of the region’s more established states, who then sided, nominally, with the USSR. One thing lead to another, and Israel came to be snugly within the confines of American protection. This, however, was by no means assured- certainly, there were many powerful proponents of Israeli interests in America at this time, and you don’t have to be a genius to realize there still are. Despite this, Israel couldn’t always assume that America would rush to their aid just yet. Nixon, the ultimate political maverick and undisputed best President of the 20th Century, was just elected on a policy of getting ourselves out of Vietnam, and the public wanted no part in another quagmire. So, in 1973, when the Yom Kippur war broke out and Israel needed assistance, Nixon was hesitant to send supplies, lest he find himself on the slippery slope of intervention.
So, Israel did the sensible thing and threatened to destroy the world with Nuclear weapons.
It wasn’t that explicit, exactly, but that’s what the “Sampson Option” is- we stay up or everyone goes down with us. And it worked like a charm. Israel has semi-secretly had nuclear weaponry since the ’60s, and now they applied them. This way, a small country put itself on a parity of force with the US. If they fell, that’s game over. London, Paris, maybe even New York or Washington are gone. They made it apparent that it was in our best interests to have Israel survive, and you can call that detestable, insane, and so forth- I’d agree. And that’s the beauty. This was described as the “Mad Dog” strategy by general Moshe Dayan (two guesses as to his nationality). Israel made itself “too dangerous to bother”. In doing so, Israel managed, despite its size and uneasy positioning, to make sure that the premier global power would never want to see it fall. That weaponry made sure of it.
Now, how is North Korea any different?
I don’t mean to indict anyone here (I can feel the glares of every pro-Israeli twitter account on me right now), all I mean to say is that this strategy works, and both Israel and North Korea use it. Kim isn’t stupid, nor is he insane, but he loves that you think he is. That means you fear he’ll actually use what he has, making the nuclear arsenal an effective deterrent. He’s taken the concept of mad-dogging to a whole new level, and in a world where the US seems to invade or destabilize every regime they dislike, Kim knows that one day he could end up like Qaddafi, sodomized in a sewer with a bayonet. In that case, how is wanting a parity of force at all irrational? Sure, there are negatives, but Kim’s grandfather was on the losing side of an ideological conflict, and he knows his nation is too far down that path to change peacefully any time soon- indeed, his father saw what happened in allied Romania during the period of his rule. It’s the same strategy, only differing in the framing. Israel makes the threat with the goal of continued assistance, and it works. Even if the public and Pentagon wanted Israel wiped off the map, we couldn’t do it- you’ve given them nothing to lose at that point, and they have the tool that ensures we have plenty to. No one likes Kim, but he wants to survive in power, and get to the negotiation table. Saddam wanted the same, and his lack of conventional parity meant that he would be destroyed. The Kims saw this, and knew that a even a hated nation could survive if they, perhaps to put it lightly, made it clear the guy on the other side was better off supporting the status quo. As long as Kim has his weapons and we think he’ll use them, he cannot be removed from without. Israel survived a Cold War and a number of hot ones because of this strategy, and I’m certain that if nothing changes, the Kims will outlive this period just as well.