It seems clear that, among those three recent deaths, it's Kim Jong Il who leaves the world a better place merely by leaving the world. (At the very least, no more Kim Jong Il-directed films like his 1985 monster movie, Pulgasari.) I don't know what this will mean for North Korea (and it's nuclear program), but it seems like his son Kim Jong Un will take over with some disruptions. (This blog post at the New Yorker argues that the regime will probably survive with Chinese assistance, in part because China doesn't want a collapsing state on its borders. No word on how South Korea would react to a nearby collapse.)
But since Christopher Hitchens recently died and all his bad support for the Iraq War is getting a necessary airing, I wonder what he would say about Kim Jong Il's death and its potential to change that country without American soldiers and money. Because I liked Hitch best when he was excoriating religion, it's hard for me to imagine him as a foreign policy commentator. (Luckily, with Greenwald on the beat, I don't have to imagine what an idiot Hitch could be about Iraq and endless war on terror.)
But I don't need to imagine how Hitch felt about North Korea:
These conclusions of his, in a finely argued and brilliantly written book, carry the worrisome implication that the propaganda of the regime may actually mean exactly what it says, which in turn would mean that peace and disarmament negotiations with it are a waste of time—and perhaps a dangerous waste at that.I like the way Hitch leaves the sentence with "disarmament negotiations with it are a waste of time," which slightly buries the lead--that "peace... with it [is] a waste of time." What a thinker! Who else would have the courage to suggest that peace is a waste of time? This is from a review written in 2010 and it sure seems like Hitch is gearing up for a war to remove Kim Jong Il--a mission which has been accomplished by time.
So, the world is better without Kim Jong Il--and maybe without Christopher Hitchens.
I especially like the way Hitch ends this review, with the note that the North Koreans are basically like Wells's Morlocks:
Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult: This horror show is in our future, and is so ghastly that our own darling leaders dare not face it and can only peep through their fingers at what is coming.What does it mean that "This horror show is in our future"? It sure does sound like the end of The Time Machine, where the bourgeois Londoners ignore the dangers of devolution; but it also nicely situates those who recognize the danger (i.e., Hitch, other warmongers) as having a super-temporal view of what needs to be done.