Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Imagine: Kim Jong Il to visit the USA

Now here’s a novel idea: Peter Carlsen, writing in the Contra Costa Times, offers his opinion that President Obama should invite Kim Jong Il to the United States and let him wander around for a couple of weeks, sipping cocktails with capitalists, visiting a home economics class in Iowa and mingling with Hollywood stars.

Fifty years ago, in similar circumstances, that's what President Dwight Eisenhower did, and it worked — sort of. In 1959, Nikita Khrushchev, the eccentric and unpredictable Soviet dictator, was misbehaving, rattling his nukes and threatening West Berlin. Negotiations over the city's fate proved fruitless, so Ike tried a different strategy: Khrushchev, who loved to travel, immediately accepted, replying that he'd like to ramble around the country for "10 to 15 days." When Khrushchev arrived at Camp David for a weekend of talks with Eisenhower, the two leaders did not sign any epoch-making agreements, but they agreed to convene a four-power summit with the British and the French to solve the sticky problem of Berlin.

The trip didn't quite transform Khrushchev into an Eisenhower Republican, but it did change his attitude toward the United States. He learned that this country wasn't the capitalist nightmare portrayed in Soviet propaganda. In fact, he kind of liked the place.

It's hard to tell whether a similar trip would have a similar effect on Kim Jong Il — so let's invite him and find out. It just might help. After all, he has a well-documented fondness for American pop culture.

Kim loves basketball so let's get him some good seats to an NBA game. Kim loves pizza. So why not let him eat his way through New York's Little Italy, then fly him to Chicago to sample some deep-dish? Kim loves monuments. So let's take him to Mount Rushmore and let him see what you get when you carve a monument out of a mountain.

But what Kim loves most — aside from absolute power — is movies. Let's take him to Hollywood, let him lunch with Liz Taylor and maybe some younger starlets, too, like Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba or Beyonce. That kind of company can change a man's outlook on life.

After all, it really is a small world. As Ike realized 50 years ago, nuclear war would not be good for it.

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