There is a backstory to “Mike Pence Isn’t Kim Jong Un’s Daddy.” It illustrates a problem in foreign policy analysis.
The piece was considered by a major publication. But an editor wanted changes that would have undermined what I intended. Those editorial suggestions overlapped with suggestions I had received from another editor at another publication for another piece on another topic. The commonality was that both pieces brought gender into the analysis of foreign policy.
The other piece was never published because working through the differences with the editor took so much time that the piece became obsolete. But that’s another story. I will, since the comments overlap so thoroughly, combine the comments in this discussion. Thus, the overall criticism is more than either, but the main features are characteristic of both.
This sequence was:
- What actually is your point?
- Bring in opposing viewpoints, with examples, and refute them.
- Moar “Both sides do it.”
- What is your point, again?
- You haven’t made your case. Please add academic references.
- You need more examples.
- Why are you giving examples?
- You also need to litigate a couple of peripheral foreign-policy issues that nobody agrees on.
- Why do you keep making this point? Could you say something else?
Neither of the publications uses academic references much. They are in some articles, not in others. The additions would detract from a concise, clear point and probably drive the article over the word limit. The hardest to deal with was the editor’s inability to recognize the point of the article.
Both editors are well-meaning guys. I’ve worked well with one of them on a previous article, and I hear good things about the other. But talking about gendered thinking in foreign relations runs into a wall.
It’s a blind spot. We are now learning that society is shot through with gendered assumptions. Most of us grew up in a world that didn’t know that. It’s not woven into our thinking. Dealing with that brings the contradictory comments I’ve gotten with these two articles. The requirements for making a case are also far beyond what I’ve seen in other articles in the two publications. A 1600-word idea piece is not a journal paper, but, if you can’t see the point, you have to ask for more.
How we understand Kim Jong Un is important. The repeated Daddy tropes in administration discourse of a week or so ago struck me as indicating something about an underlying mindset. Is that the whole of the administration’s position? So far as one can tell anything about this administration’s positions, probably not. But it is a filter that can influence thinking.
Kim Jong Un is a capable adult who commands a developing nuclear arsenal. That shouldn’t be trivialized by thinking of him as a baby. And our leaders should not mistake Daddy warnings for serious negotiation.