Reporter's Note: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has died, presenting the president with a puzzle of sorts.
Dear Mr. President,
The question of whether or not a U.S. president should send condolences to a nation after the passing of its leader is one that doesn’t occur to most Americans, I suspect. The simple reason is that most often our relations with most countries is relatively civil, so why not extend the courtesy?
But the death of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il has rather thrust this topic into the spotlight, to wit: Should you, Barack Obama, extend a hand of sympathy at this time?
There are plenty of pros and cons. On the pro side, as I am sure you have discussed with your team is the gesture of goodwill might provoke some tiny inclination in the new leadership to think a little more favorably about getting along with everyone else, including us. It might make them somewhat more inclined toward nuclear disarmament talks, better relations with South Korea, who knows what? It also makes us look very grown up and mature as a nation, if that matters, and I suspect it does in a strange way.
On the down side: It can look like pandering. We’ve never liked the North Korean leadership. Plenty of analysts here saw Kim Jong Il as nothing but a half-crazy, narcissistic tyrant, who posed a real danger to the entire world. No need to go around acting differently now that he is gone, especially since it seems like the next generation of his family is all set to continue the same ways.
So what to do? I, for one, would probably send the note. Like I said, it makes us look stronger, more compassionate, and if it comes to nothing…well, so what? There is little reason to think it will make the situation worse. It’s like of like sending a Christmas card each year to someone who never sends one back. Sure, maybe it stings a bit to be ignored, but the mere act of reaching out keeps the door open for future relations, and that is a start.
Hope all is well.
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