Entry 91: Skeptical of the Blubber-Fest

Editor’s Note: This is the 91st installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?

700 words closer to finishing today but still not quite there.  I literally just have a few paragraphs worth of holes to fill in the final chapter at this point.  All week I had put off so many other tasks in order to close my first draft of the book.  Today some of those obligations started nipping at my heels so I had to resume tending to my obligations…also the inter-Korean summit.

It’s been quite the poignant blubber-fest among experts and journalists and social media covering the Kim-Moon meeting like it was the Royal Family’s first baby or something.  I have to admit, it felt like a special historical moment when Kim and Moon shook hands.  Watching the thing play out in real time felt a little surreal given where we were this time last year.

And yet, as I told The Guardian, at some point you have to put that emotion aside and think clearly.  The whole thing was designed to be warm and emotional.  Avoid the trivia: how does this affect U.S. policy on denuclearization, or North Korean policy on denuclearization for that matter?  At this point it doesn’t, except to continue setting ever higher expectations about what North Korea’s willing to concede.  As much as this moment feels special, we’ve “witnessed history” just like this twice before, in 2000 and 2007.  There was boundless blubbery optimism then too.  Didn’t stop North Korea.

So I watch, hopefully but incredibly skeptically.  I’m less drawn into this moment by moment detail stuff than most Korea watchers.  Really hoping I make progress on the book this weekend.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review. He is also a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies.