From Publishers Weekly
We are now paying the price for ignoring the numerous provocations of North Korea's "totalitarian dynasty," Chang (The Coming Collapse of China
) argues, and the cost of that strategic failure, he predicts, will be staggering. Though the book is littered with trite aphorisms and pop culture vocabulary, Chang's basic thesis—that "the success or failure in creating a lasting geopolitical order for this century begins with the world's response to Kim's blatant challenge"—is on target. Arguing against both Robert Kagan's idea of quasi-perpetual American global domination and Francis Fukuyama's famous "end of history" thesis, Chang points out that both America's pre-eminence and the universal appeal of democratic principles are increasingly questionable propositions. Just witness our inability to devise an effective response to North Korea's nuclear brinkmanship and to nondemocratic China's growing influence and power. In his final chapter, Chang suggests a way out of the madness: partial nuclear disarmament by the U.S. in order to kick-start an international mission to force Kim to abandon nuclear arms. The current administration, however, is doing exactly the opposite by attempting to win approval for a new generation of tactical "mini nukes." It's a strategy that has both eroded international sympathy and exposed the great hypocrisy behind America's nuclear nonproliferation initiatives. Chang goes way too far, however, in asserting that America needs to choose between keeping its nuclear arsenal and keeping New York. (Jan. 17)
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Chang has lived and worked in the Far East and has written extensively on China and North Korea. He does not break new ground here with any startling revelations. However, he does effectively reinforce the case that the stakes in dealing with this frightening Orwellian society are immensely high. Chang begins with a familiar portrait of North Korea under Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il. In describing the son, Chang unfortunately repeats several unverifiable rumors about his odd tastes, but he still shows conclusively that he is a dangerously ruthless and power-worshipping tyrant. Chang also asserts convincingly that North Korea's nuclear ambitions extend far beyond the possession of a few weapons for their deterrent effect. He suggests that they will soon present an existential threat to our Asian allies and to ourselves. His solutions to the impasse may strike some as premature, but they will have to be considered if the situation deteriorates. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved