This is the kind of decision that a President of the United States has to make — kowtow to a dictator or let a US citizen rot in a North Korean jail.  Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, would prefer the US to bend because it would make him look good before his own people and his army.  He has humiliated the capitalist.  The US would prefer if the North Koreans would let the imprisoned tour operator, Kenneth Bae, go without a US delegation approaching the North.  The US is unlikely to get its way.  The North Koreans understand propaganda and perception.  The appearance of swagger is enough.  Although the rest of the world considers the country a wretched joke on its citizens, Kim Jong-un remains in power through waving his arms and acting like a bully.  One hopes a day will come soon when the political apparatus of the North fails and falls.  Today, its citizens are cowed, hungry and lied to.  They march in parades carrying banners extolling the state, but one has to  believe in their hearts they want to go to a market and find food rather than empty shelves.  It is not clear what President Obama will do to get Bae back.  Whatever he decides, the choice will be distasteful.

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