North Korea’s relations with the rest of the world are somewhat strained. Following last year’s threats to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, even the rogue state’s closest ally, the People’s Republic of China, has begun to distance themselves.
With the international community all but despairing of the pariah state, one man has stood tall and gone to extraordinary lengths to bring North Korea out of the cold. That man is basketball mega-star Dennis Rodman.
Having previously visited the Korean People’s Republic as part of a “basketball diplomacy” mission organised by VICE, Rodman is back in the troubled state to both extend a hand of friendship to Kim Jong-un and show the rest of the world what a stand up guy Kim is. It’s a brave move to visit the North at this time, Jong-un’s despotic rule is cranking up a gear and the whole peninsula is tense following the execution of the second most powerful man in the North, Kim’s uncle Jang Song-thaek.
Mr Rodman’s grand dreams of basketball diplomacy are not working
Despite the situation, Rodman has put his faith in the enigmatic charm that he said won Kim over as “a friend for life” on his first trip and has been counting on it to win round both the North and its enemies. It seems to have been half working. Rodman began the exhibition game by leading a group of retired NBA players by singing “Happy Birthday, Dear Marshal” before enthralling the leader with his basketball skills.
But behind the scenes it appears things have become more strained. While once Rodman felt able to reach out to Kim directly on delicate issues, the former NBA star is finding it difficult to keep up his role as independent mediator. In May of last year, Rodman called publicly for Jong-un to release American prisoner Kenneth Bae, who had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor – but during a recent interview with CNN he appeared to blame Bae for the situation he found himself in.
I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him “Kim”, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) May 7, 2013
He later backtracked, blaming his erratic behaviour on the alcohol he’d turned to as his dreams of basketball diplomacy fell apart. He’s right, the unfortunate fact is that Mr Rodman’s grand dreams of basketball diplomacy are not working. Circumstances have conspired against his good intentions.
But the extraordinary effort Rodman has put into building cultural connections with Kim Jong-un does raise question of whether, given different circumstances, Dennis Rodman could have changed the course of history. We looked back at moments in time when Rodman diplomacy could have saved the day.
Stalin was a difficult man to negotiate with, but those who knew him well knew there was a way to the leader of the Soviet Union’s heart: alcohol.
In August 1942 Churchill met with Stalin to discuss plans for both a North African invasion and a Second Front in Europe. Things didn’t get off to a good start. Stalin wasn’t impressed by what he perceived to be the colonialist protectionism behind Churchill’s enthusiasm for invading North Africa and Churchill really didn’t like communists. It looked like the meeting had been a waste of time until Churchill requested a late night meeting with the Russian leader. Together they consumed what one diplomat would later describe as “innumerable bottles”.
They went into the meeting deeply distrustful of each other but left with a new found mutual admiration.
Post World War II, when Stalin was going a bit rogue, history could have done with another great figure to go on a binge with Stalin and convince him to reign in his expansionist ambitions a bit. Who better than the legendary boozer Dennis Rodman? The former Red Bulls star even has his own line of premium vodka. A few bottles of six times distilled all-American “bad ass” vodka might have been able to change history.
At first it might be hard to see what Rodman and Hitler might have in common, but on closer inspection it becomes clear that the pair have one mutual obsession: their hair.
It’s a common misconception that Hitler forged a path to power off the back of his stirring rhetoric, but the truth is, his sharp dress sense, perfectly manicured ‘tache and side parting played just as big a role. No one wants a scruffy dictator.
Rodman is no stranger to making statements with his hair and we can only wonder what the outcome would have been if both men had taken a trip to the salon together.
Mao Zedong, China’s “Great Helmsman” had an ego so great that it led to the death of tens of millions of his countrymen. Again, it might seem hard on first impressions to see where the founding father of the People’s Republic of China might have bonded with Rodman. But indeed the two have one thing in common: a long list of sexual partners.
Mao was a believer in the Daoist lore that sexual activity leads to longevity and went to great lengths to try and extend his life. Likewise Mr Rodman, who was once so awkward around women he thought he might be gay, has been making up for being a late bloomer by hammering notches into his bed post. He recently claimed the figure was around 2,000.
Who knows whether an afternoon of Chairman Mao and Dennis Rodman regaling each other about their sexual exploits could have prevented some of the more catastrophic outcomes of the Great Leap Forward.
Aside from being a dreary and pompous man, Mussolini loved a good fight. In 1921 he challenged a newspaper editor who had published nasty things about him to a duel. The sword fight lasted over an hour and the editor sustained serious injuries. But what if Mussolini had challenged Rodman instead? As anyone who has seen the hit film Double Team starring both Dennis Rodman and Jean-Claude Van Damme will know, Rodman is adept at killing people and would have quickly dispatched Mussolini.
The Fascist movement would have collapsed as various factions fought for control, leading to them failing to gain political power. Thanks D-Rod.
There was a time in the 1960s when Fidel Castro lost the plot a bit. Still enamoured with Che Guevara’s fantasies, he almost brought about world annihilation. As well as permitting the Soviets to install R-12 MRBM nuclear missiles on Cuba, he continued to call for global revolution and Guevara’s testosterone-fuelled colonialist ventures.
If only there was someone there to encourage Castro to chill out a bit, someone who shared Castro’s love of cigars… You guessed it, Rodman has his own line of cigars “The Rodman Threesome” which has “three different custom wrappers on one cigar for one great smoke.” An evening of puffing on Threesomes with Dennis could have given Castro the moment of clarity he needed to stop being the Soviet’s bitch and stop being such a bore about the worldwide Socialist revolution thing.