Amid the heightened tensions and bombastic rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea in the past several weeks over nuclear missiles, the fate of the world may well come down to NBA legend Dennis Rodman.
According to a recent article in Sports Illustrated (where I get all my international news), Rodman and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hang out together, ride horses, ski and sing karaoke, among other “cool things,” as Rodman says. Kim and Rodman “hardly ever talk politics,” and “that’s the good thing.” Rodman said that he just wants to “try and straighten things out for everyone to get along together.” I say let’s give him a shot.
Guffaw if you must, but the current approach taken by the Trump Administration doesn’t seem to be working. In response to North Korea, Trump’s masterfully improvisational salvo that “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” was, in turn, met with a dismissive reply – a “load of nonsense” – from the North Korean regime. Things have only escalated from there, with North Korea continuing to fire off missiles in an attempt to goad Trump into saying or doing something really misguided.
Admittedly, getting Trump to seek Rodman’s sage counsel would be half the battle. But it’s in Trump’s – nay, the world’s interests – to bring Rodman into the fold. There’s a reservoir of untapped potential in Rodman. You could say he has a particular set of skills. Rodman might be the missing piece to Trump’s administration, the piece that could lead to the kind of #winning that Trump guaranteed during his campaign. Rodman’s won five NBA championships. Trump has won zero championships. Rodman knows how to win, and the president needs a win. Preventing a nuclear war with North Korea would be an indisputable win for humanity and the world. But, most importantly for Donald Trump, it’d be a win for Donald Trump. Trump’s missing out on a golden opportunity here (and he’s not one to miss out on things of a golden nature.)
So, what are some of Rodzilla’s bona fides as it pertains to nuclear de-escalation and international diplomacy? Well, first, Rodman had not one, but two, stints on Celebrity Apprentice and was also commissioner of the Lingerie Football League back in 2005. Being the commissioner of a sports league is no small feat and shows Rodman possesses the kind of managerial acumen that a peacemaker and negotiator will need to succeed.
As a member of the Chicago Bulls from ’96-’98, Rodman was coached by the great Phil Jackson (aka “The Zen Master”). Jackson knew how to massage and manage huge egos: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and, later on in L.A., Kobe and Shaq. You don’t think Rodman picked up a few leadership and persuasion tips from Jackson along the way? Trump and Kim have two of the largest egos in the world, and, perhaps with Rodman’s expert tutelage, those egos can be properly assuaged and influenced.
Moreover, Rodman has killer defensive instincts. When you get down to brass tacks, the truth of the matter is this: Sometimes, the best offense is a good defense. Rodman starred in a 90’s action film with Jean-Claude Van Damme called “Double Team.” There’s an exchange between the two talking about how to achieve objectives where Van Damme says, “Offense gets the glory,” and Rodman retorts with “…But defense wins the game!” You’re damn right it does.
Furthermore, deterrence essentially comes down to preventing the other party from making something happen. Rodman won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award twice because he knew how to prevent the other team from making something happen. Deterrence is also, in part, knowing how to read your opponent. Each party says they’ll do something, but nobody really wants to act first because that’d be MAD (mutually assured destruction). So, the hard-ass rhetoric amounts to a lot of bluffing. Rodman was skilled at many things in the NBA – rebounding, defending, hustling, etc. But he excelled at playing mind games with opposing players and knew how to read them, knew how to handle them.
Interestingly enough, in that Sports Illustrated article, Rodman says he doesn’t “love Kim.” But, after a 2013 visit to North Korea, in an article from the New York Daily News (my back-up source for international news), Rodman was quoted as saying Kim Jong-un was a “friend for life.” This is a far cry from the “I don’t love him” response. See the mind games? Rodman’s astutely playing both sides.
This is great because a peacemaker should be a neutral party. Maybe Trump is reluctant to bring Rodman into the fold because he thinks Rodman is too cozy with Kim; Rodman saying seemingly conflicting things about his relationship with Kim shows a willingness for neutrality. After that visit, Rodman himself said, “If I don’t finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something’s seriously wrong.”
I agree with the last part of that sentence: There’s something’s seriously wrong here.