The world is rightly abuzz with the news that South Korea and North Korea exchanged artillery fire this week. The decades-old conflict in the Korean Peninsula remains one of the world’s major flashpoints, and North Korea is easily the world’s most demonic regime (unless you count ISIS as a regime).
The conflict is largely seen in terms of geopolitics, but it would really make more sense to look at it from the perspective of North Korea’s domestic politics. Totalitarian regimes are mostly driven either by ideology or internal politics, not realpolitik as much. Nazi ideology was a better predictor of Germany’s actions under the Third Reich than realpolitik considerations (which was the great mistake that both Neville Chamberlain and Joseph Stalin made in their dealings with Hitler).
In this case, North Korea’s reigning ideology — Juche, a combination of communism, mercantilism, and racism — doesn’t tell us much. What we do know is that Kim Jong Un is probably a weak leader, and is acting to shore up his support.