The Motives of a Tyrant

I read on Slashdot last night that everyone's favorite Korea (sarcasm) conducted a nuclear test.  This is bad.  Mulling this over as I read the NYTimes story this morning, and also Paul Kedrosky's post on the subject, I was thinking that Paul is right in that we should all wonder why a nation as poor as NK would do such a thing.

On the one hand I am reminded of my international relations course, where we looked at  foreign policy scholars who wrote that most of the "crazy dictators" are unwilling to deploy nuclear weapons- their "craziness" render them unaware of realist perceptions of the strategic consequences of their actions.  Rogue states are ultimately realists.    So, we're probably not going to see NK start a war tomorrow.

NK's economy is weak.  Very weak.  Additional sanctions will not help to create a job base or jump-start manufacturing for export, and those seem fairly likely.  However, I would guess that NK doesn't care about this because the sanctions don;t affect their standing in high-margin markets like counterfeit currency, nuclear fuel, arms, and technology markets.  That the profits from such deals never reaches the people is relevant, but only to illustrate that Kim Jong Il is concerned with the survival of his regime. 

This is like a press release or a launch party (forgive the terminology) for an expansioon of product lines.  It seems to me that those countries labeled by the Bush Admionsytration as an "Axis of Evil" have more to gain by harnessing the power of that image than they do from attempts to reconcile with the west.  We've seen this in Iran/Lebanon and Iraq.

I'm no expert, but from an economic perspective it seems like the object of the PR is more to increase demand for its illegitimate commercial dealings than anything else.