Within hours of the time I wrote my July 4 column, our wacko du jour in North Korea, Kim Jong Ill sent up a series of missiles that either don't work or don't have the range at the moment to be anything more than an annoyance, supposedly to let the world know that he really is a serious player on the international stage.

But is he? He can be a royal pain and a danger to our allies in South Korea and Japan to be sure. He can throw tantrums and make demands on his allies, China and Russia, but when you think about it, nut cases are as likely to strike out at their friends as their enemies if they don't get their way, so those two countries aren't likely to take him too seriously either.

But let's step back for a minute and think about what we would do if we WERE major players on the world stage, and we had our own pet sociopath who would do almost anything we asked, just so he could get the attention his equally megalomaniacal father never gave him.

In this case, the caretakers would be the aforementioned China and Russia, who so far haven't shown any real inclination to deal with Kim Jong Ill's proclivity to toss missiles around as frequently as threats. (Yes, I know there is only one L in his name, but for the purposes of my columns and his mental state, the second L will serve as my preferred play on words.)

If we were them, it would make sense to use him to do our bidding for whatever purposes suit us at the moment, without letting him in on the secret of course.

In case you haven't been watching, there has been a resurgence of communism on the world stage in recent years. Although the Soviet Union has been dead for more than a decade, and China is moving steadily toward a market rather than a police state economy, Russia and China, as well as North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and now Venezuela, still are headed by die-hard communists who long for the days when they controlled their masses with iron fists and smoking guns.

These folks aren't easily giving up on their fanatic belief in a workers' Utopia, even though the workers who were supposed to benefit from the state controlling every facet of their lives had a persistent problem with understanding that philosophy over the six decades of major communist influence. Ah, for the good old days when you could throw dissenters into the gulags with impunity whenever school children reported that their parents had been whispering anti-state diatribes in the darkness of their bedrooms.

And, if reeducation failed despite the most intensive efforts of the communist overlords, who can argue with the effectiveness of slave labor or executions for those who just wouldn't go along with the pogrom.

It seems from a number of recent events that there is one last desperate bid by the old-time communists to reassert themselves and their philosophy. Russia's leader Vladimir (Ras)Putin has rolled back many of the hard-won freedoms that emerged after the Soviet Union dissolved, including freedom of the press, and independent elections.

China is having internal spasms since the Bush Administration stopped handing over western technology as the Clinton Administration did. Cuba's Castro is literally beside himself hoping to finally achieve his lifelong goal of exporting communism throughout South America, starting with his newest, bestest buddy, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, the modern day replacement for Che Guevera.

And just in case you haven't noticed, communist terrorists, calling themselves Maoists, (don't you just love that term, as if we aren't supposed to figure out that they are communist Chinese or their agents) have gone on rampages deep in central India several times in recent months spreading death and mayhem in predominantly Hindu villages.

But there is a fly in the ointment, that being the Bush administration. The world communist community really had things going their way in the mid-to late 70s, and again in the 90s when the American political climate tilted heavily in their direction. But as in Reagan's 80s, we again have an anti-communist leader in George Bush, who has a penchant for keeping state secrets.

Consider, if you were the leader of a dying movement and you wanted to go down in a blaze of glory, or resurrect your beliefs on a widespread platform, you would have to either defeat or neutralize your primary enemy, in this case the United States. But if the leader of your primary enemy kept secrets such as military and technological advances to himself, how would you find out the things you need to know?

Let's say that you want to know whether the United States has made significant advances in anti-missile technology, and didn't share those advances with you. You know that under President Reagan the US embarked on a serious anti-missile defense program, that there were some advances and some setbacks, but also that the program was supposedly killed under the Clinton Administration as too expensive, unnecessary, and unattainable.

But then along comes George Bush, the terrorist attacks of 2001, and suddenly everything is back on the table or the drawing board. There have been some tests that you are aware of, but all you really hear about are the failures. Have there been any successes, any advancements? You would remember, if you had studied your history, that in 1939 the US wasn't involved in the emerging World War, and knew practically nothing about atomic energy or nuclear weapons.

But five short years later the US emerged as the only world power with an atomic bomb. If the US can pull that technological leap off in that short a period in total secrecy, who says that with the proper funding and mindset in the White House the anti-missile program couldn't also become a reality?

What do you do, how do you find out what the US has accomplished, short of putting agents inside the CIA to leak secrets to the American media? Well, eureka! You get your favorite puppet, to use one of communism's favorite expressions, to wing a few missiles out over the Sea of Japan and then watch the reaction from the US.

You may figure that the American media is right, the president is a cowboy who will react emotionally rather than strategically, that even though he was successful in becoming a jet fighter pilot he really didn't learn anything from his time in the military reserves, thus won't catch on to your ruse. You may believe the American media and the opposition in the US Congress when they say the American military is stretched too thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though less than 10 percent of American military assets are being used in those areas.

You can use this to your advantage, just by standing back and watching his tactics, and which weapons systems he activates to defend his country.

Maybe you aren't planning on an all out attack, but if you believe the dissenters in Congress and the media, then maybe, just maybe, if faced with the possibility of dealing with a hostile communist bloc, America will fold again, as it did in the 70s with Vietnam, and make whatever concessions are necessary to avoid confrontation on another front.

Maybe, just maybe. I could be wrong, there may be far more to this than any of us know, but nonetheless, I don't think the issue we have to deal with is North Korea or its leader.

I smell diversion, and I believe our intelligence agencies would be working in our best interests if they at least explored that possibility to determine whether it is true, or can be ruled out.