I want to compliment Secretary Tillerson on the approach he’s undertaken with North Korea, i.e. “We are not your enemy – we do not want regime change”.

I’ve always believed that what these chronic international conflicts need is a good therapist. The reason is that people have to be in the right mental and emotional place to problem solve or negotiate rationally. Too often, there is simply too much emotion getting in the way. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a perfect example. Every conflict in human history has been the product of those involved plugging into fight or flight. Many times it was with good reason, but human beings can also plug into it needlessly simply by the way they choose to look at things – and have, both on the interpersonal and international level many times throughout our history as a species.

One attribute that can be very helpful is choosing to have what Dr. Albert Ellis called UOA or Unconditional Other Acceptance. It’s the cousin of USA or Unconditional Self-Acceptance. It basically means to choose to see whatever others think, feel, say or do as understandable given the fact that they’re human and what their life experiences have been. That doesn’t mean we have to like, agree with or even tolerate what they do. It simply means that if we put other human beings through exactly what they have been through, there’s a good chance they’d probably end up thinking, feeling, saying and doing much the same. How might we look at the world is we were a North Korean and had their history instead of our own? And perceive what we’ve done over the years, and of late?

Dealing with North Korea’s leader is really no different than dealing with troubled teens, or anyone else. Yes, he has a lot of weapons, but teens have their fists. It's all relative. Adults are too often too quick to go all authoritarian with teens, hoping to give them reason to discontinue their ways. More often than not, this actually exacerbates the problem, interfacing with the teen’s dysfunctional thoughts and feelings in ways that just makes him or her more defensive, and more likely to strike out in self-defense.

In his book “Changing Problem Behavior in Schools”, Dr. Alex Molnar says ““It is a student’s organization of experience that holds the key to understanding his or her behavior. In whatever way the student may perceive the situation, his or her behavior will be quite understandable given that perception. In solving problems, it is helpful to accept that a student is behaving in a way that is understandable given his or her perception of the situation.”

He goes on to say “Sometimes it is easier to move in this direction by putting yourself in the student’s shoes and trying to see the problem situation as they might. In general, seeing the problem as a student might see it can help you see the rational and understandable reasons for behavior you had previously considered irrational and negative.”

I think that could help in dealing with North Korea.

The obvious concern is that if North Korea acquires the ability to reach the US with nuclear armed ICBM, they might someday use them. Russia has had thousands of these for decades, and never has. I know the prevailing wisdom is that the world would be better off without nuclear weapons, but I’m not so sure. Yes, there’s always the possibility that some crazy person could get their hands on them, or use ones they have in a moment of irrationality. But I’ve always seen nuclear weapons as having prevented many conventional wars we might otherwise have entered into had it not been for the “sword of Damicles” of all out nuclear war hanging over all our heads. Mutual Assured Destruction has prevented wars, and massive loss of life.

With that in mind, I would ask, is it possible that North Korea acquiring this capability could have the same effect? Besides, is there any way to really stop them from developing their capability if they are determined to, especially if they’re doing it in self defense because they feel threatened? What price might there be in trying to do so militarily? Would it be an example of the cure being worse than the disease?

I’ve always found having UOA, and letting others know I do helpful when dealing with agitated teens who were behaving irrationally, even ones who had weapons. I can't help but wonder if it wouldn’t be a good strategy with North Korea.


Dealing with North Korea is like dealing with a troublesome teenager. There are better ways.


rs allen 49 weeks 3 days ago

Eh huh, and you think the usa is a good teacher? That we set a good example? That we're the adult in the room? Is that the idea?

My question would then be, when did all or any of that happen?

I suggest you go read some history previous to 1980. And golly gee maybe even since WWII.

Here I'll help, type Korea in the search box of Google; click on the Wiki page listing. Read.

Yeh, we the adult in the room. LOL. At least someone gave me one laugh this afternoon. Thax naturesmasterpiece.

Coalage3 48 weeks 6 days ago

In 1994, when Bill Clinton was president, he said that NK would freeze, and then dismantle its nuclear program. What happened?

ronsears 48 weeks 6 days ago


You raise a good point and Rex Tillerson's statement to DPRK / North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) seems like the most rational thing out of the Trump administration in recent weeks.

Perhaps the strongest argument you could make is - what do we have to loose? Why would the possibility of North Korea not responding to the approach you suggest be any worse than a nuclear war where North Korea and much of South Korea would be destroyed and the US would be branded as the ultimate pariah of the planet for the next few centuries?

On the other hand, Kim Jung Ung is not your average teenager suffering from debilitating angst. Neither is he basically harmless. Bare fists don't count in this context. Finally, it is very unlikely this sort of troubled teen counseling approach has ever been tried on someone with the blood on his hands that Ung has. Kim Jung Ung has brutally murdered his Uncle, Half Brother, probably his lover, and countless 1,000s in DPRK prison camps. He knows in the deepest levels of his fearful mind that the same things he has done to others (execution by cannon in one rumor) would very likely be done to him if he should ever loose power. And finally, there is the latest intelligence projection that North Korea has already miniaturized nuclear warheads to mount on ICBMs. Only the heat shield technology for re-entry of the warheads appears to be the remaining technical challenge.

If you want to scale up the UOA (Unconditional Other Acceptance) techniques to international relations, perhaps it might work. But I think it would have to involve the whole country, not just Ung. Maybe we could try "bombing" them with food? The US has been sold as the ultimate evil in the world to the population of North Korea. What would happen if we arranged with China for the US to become the major supplier of food for the North for the next 5 to 10 years while we also clearly backed off on the military exercises and continued to request that the testing stop? We could still obviously destroy the entire country at any time should they actually launch a nuclear missile towards the US, so the arguments we need to act immediately are not very persuasive. One US nuclear submarine off the coast of North Korea could erase the country's military assets and most of the country before any missle they launched ever reached the US, and even the most unstable members of their leadership know that. Again, compared to the alternative outcomes and unthinkable escalation risks of a nuclear exchange, what do we have to loose?

naturesmasterpieces's picture
naturesmasterpieces 48 weeks 5 days ago

I'm not even sure what point you're making. It's like you're misinterpreting what I wrote, and overreacting to that. We certainly do have some questionable moments in our history. The whole point of UOA is that the way the North Koreans see things is understandable given their own history. My only contention is that we consider looking at their actions differently, as perhaps defensive, rather than as offensive like we are now.

ronsears 48 weeks 4 days ago

Hi, naturesmasterpieces. Sorry if my comments on your post seemed like a personal attack on you. It was intended as exactly the opposite. As I said, you raise some interesting points and I was trying to extend your ideas to some actions that might work across the DPRK, as well as with Kim Jung Ung.

Evolution has been quite efficient at equipping us with what we need to pass on our genes in all sorts of situations, and we have within us a whole host of situationally adaptive behaviors that are triggered by such things as chronic starvation and/or the constant fear of being killed. In more normal environments these adaptive behaviors would be described as psychopathic.

The starving and fearful people of North Korea are constantly told their leader is a demigod who personally travels around the country fixing everything that is broken in their factories. They are told that everything they need to live comes from Kim Jung Ung. If you commit a "crime" against the state, you and your extended family are locked up in labor camps basically until you die, and your family might then be released, with no education or skills necessary to live a "normal" life. Fearless leader Ung has also pledged that everyone in these labor camps will be wiped out if North Korea is ever attacked.

Now, given the current state of belief and life in the DPRK, what could we actually do to slowly walk back Kim Jung Ung and the citizens of North Korea towards a more rational and adaptive view of the world?

In the context of your suggestions and Tillerson's statement, the only thing I could think of would be a long-term unconditional demonstration that we wished them no harm and in fact were helping them out with no expectation of anything other then they stop threatening to nuke us. Even the most frightened animal tends to not bite the hand that feeds it. If DPRK's ultimate fear is regime change, take that off the table and then immediately go far beyond that to make Kim Jung Ung the hero he and his people are currently convinced he is.

Do exactly the opposite of what North Korea expects. Give them the food and technology they need to prosper as a country. Label it as a gift from Kim Jung Ung. Hell, Trump's cabinet is publically kissing his butt to protect their political goals. Why not use the same strategy on Kim Jung Ung? It's the only sure fire way to avoid the deaths of millions of innocent people.

Then wait patiently for the citizens of North Korea to normalize their beliefs and behavior as the fear and starvation slowly slips away over generations. Treat this as the gene expression problem it is and give it the time necessary to cure. In the meantime, is there anyone in our military who actually believes North Korea is now or will ever be an existential threat to any other country in the world? Is there anyone in our intelligence community who believes North Korea would sell its nuclear capability if they already have full world access to the food and technology they need to advance as a nation?

The shock of suddenly removing sanctions is just as powerful a political tool as initiating them in the first place. Maybe more so. Let North Korea win. We can easily affort to do that with minimal or no risk. We can not afford any of the other alternatives.

rs allen 48 weeks 2 days ago

Read some history for Christ sake. Neither one of you know what you're talking about.

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