Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Final Solution: Pompeo, Clausewitz and Etherege

According to The Times ("What’s Kim Jong-un’s Surname? Mike Pompeo Is Learning the Hard Way,NYT, 5/9/18), our new Secretary of State might have been challenged on a significant fact. It’s particularly surprising since he'd formerly held a position (as CIA director) that deals with intelligence gathering. It was the kind of malapropism that characters make in Restoration comedies like George Etherege’s Man of Mode. The Times quoted one irate Twitter post regarding this snafu. “Somebody really needs to have a word with Secretary of State Pompeo before he meets anybody in North Korea,” The Times quotes from the Tweet, “He just referred to Kim Jong-un as ‘Chairman Un.' That’s like, I dunno, calling Winston Churchill ‘Prime Minister Spencer.’” Or the North Koreans referring to the American president as Mr. Rump. Apparently Mr. Pompeo’s earlier trip to North Korea was not a fact finding mission or he would have gotten the North Korean leader’s name right. Of course due to RexTillerson's cuts, Pompeo might have found himself understaffed at the time of the trip and who knows what other details were mistaken. For instance, who knows if Pompeo had been given the wrong address for the presidential palace and ended up having to call the North Korean ministry for help when his entourage got lost on some back street in Pyongyang? But no one likes it when their name is misspelled or mispronounced and one of the first premises of diplomacy that may go back to Clausewitz is, know your adversary.

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