Thursday, August 10, 2017

Speaking Loudly and Carrying a Big Stick

Image from ABC News
No, I do not think World War Three is around the corner. Although it might seem like it to some pundits who have criticized the President’s tough words with respect to North Korea. This is unlike predecessor administrations that have tiptoed around North Korea’s aggressive nuclear policies. Policies that are in violation of past negotiated agreements with the US. Trump has been very clear about the consequences of an attack against any part of the US or its possessions. Guam the target of North Korea’s belligerent words being one of those. 

Trump may not have used the word ‘nuclear’ but it was surely implied in his warning to them: 
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” 
These words are similar to those used by President Harry Truman in 1945. He spoke them just before he ended World War II by mass murdering hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in what was the first - and thus far only - use of nuclear weapons.

The reactions to Trump’s warning were predictable. Democrats called them irresponsible and said it could lead to a catastrophic war with hundreds of thousands of casualties.

So too were a few of Republican responses. Like John McCain for example. Although I voted for him and agree that he is an American hero (and am very sorry to hear of his cancer diagnosis) it is clear to me that he hates the President for insulting him by casting aspersions on his hero status. I don’t really blame McCain for feeling that way. But I take his all his criticism of the President with a huge grain of salt because of it. He has been in the forefront of undermining Trump at every turn. So much so that he voted against his own party by voting down further action on repealing and replacing Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare).

(For the record, I am not one of those that thinks Obamacare is so bad. I actually agree with the Democrats on this and think it ought to be repaired, not repealed and replaced. I mention this only to show that McCain, a man who claims to want to repeal and replace, has done his best to undermine every attempt by his party under this President to that. His motive for voting that down is  transparent - despite his ‘explanations’.)

Back to North Korea. I completely agree with the President here. One might think he has gone rogue again – against the advice of his own administration. Which would not be out of character for him. But as a spokesman for the State department said at a briefing yesterday, the entire administration is ‘one’ on this issue. I think Secretary of Defense James Mattis demonstrated that unity with the following:     
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should "take heed" of the United Nations Security Council's "unified voice," referring to recent sanctions issued against the nation, and called for the country to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."   
There is no doubt in my mind that the US is ready, willing, and more than able to annihilate North Korea and its people in a single nuclear moment - if they chose to do so.  But they won’t use nuclear weapons because they won’t have to. The US has enough conventional weaponry to do the job handily. 

Why is this happening now? Unless one is living under a rock it is clear that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has abandoned all sanity (as if he ever had any) and has proceeded full speed to develop North Korea’s nuclear capability. He has done this to the point where he now has Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the American mainland as far as Chicago. And he has developed a nuclear warhead small enough to place on top of those missiles.

The US - through its skillful UN Ambassador Nikky Haley - has convinced the entire security council (including both Russia and China - its political patron) to unanimously place a boycott on trade with this regime until they abandon their nuclear program.

Kim Jong Un has responded by threatening to attack the United States with one of it missiles in retaliation to the boycott. That is what generated the Trump administration response. Unlike his predecessor, if Trump’s line in the sand is crossed, the consequences for North Korea will be dire. It will – as Mattis promised - be destroyed.

Democrats are making this sound like the beginning of World War Three. Their thinking is that China will not allow its influence there to be ended without a fight. Which might result in a nuclear conflagration that would end civilization. But I do not believe they will risk going to war with the United States with an erratic leader like Trump calling the shots.

The China of today is not the China of Mao Tze-tung, the patron saint of China. There was little for China to sacrifice in Mao’s time. China is a modern country today with a thriving economy that - while still officially communist has modified it to the point that it is doing business with the West. To the benefit of its people whose lives have been immensely improved because of it. China is not interested in challenging a man who they think might go nuclear in response. Literally.  I do not believe that hanging on to North Korea is worth it to them. They will in my view let it go if push comes to shove.

There might be some saber rattling threats by China about not destroying its ally, But in my view, that will be the extent of their response. Besides - the fact that they support the boycott shows that they fear a nuclear armed North Korea as much as the rest of the world does.

What about South Korea? They truly are at risk. War with the North will probably result in heavy casualties for them. But with the help of the US, they will prevail. This war will not have the same outcome as the last Korean war. It will be quicker with far more casualties inflicted on the North by orders of magnitude until they are destroyed!

Kim Jong Un has called the President’s threats a bluff. I guess he thinks Obama is still in office.

My hope is that someone will shake some common sense into Kim Jong’s head. And make him realize that there is a new sheriff in town who will not let his red lines to be crossed without consequences. And that his very existence, that of his country, and his people are at stake. He has to know that war with the US means annihilation.

Lest anyone think that Trump’s real goal has been regime change all along, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made clear that this is not the case. The goal is only is to denuclearize North Korea. But along with this ‘carrot’ the US is now threatening a ‘stick’. And the US has some pretty big sticks  and a President willing to use them.

I just wish the critics of the President would look aside at his boorishness, his name calling, his tweets, his insults, and all those other things that make him the most embarrassing President in US history.

Trump is right on this issue and we ought to say so. And not let our animus cloud our judgment. Saying we will be more secure by backing off or ignoring North Korea  - is the policy of the past. It hasn’t worked. The entire world knows that now.

I agree with Senator Lindsay Graham - a frequent and harsh critic of the President. He knows that when someone is right – he is right. Even if he hates that person, which - as a close friend of McCain and himself having been insulted by Trump - he surely does. Here is what he said: 
“There are two scenarios where we would go to war with North Korea," "If they attack Guam or some other American interest or our allies, or if they try to keep developing an ICBM with a nuclear weapon." ( Trump will) "never allow North Korea to have an ICBM missile that can hit America with a nuclear weapon on top.” 
While Graham said he wants to check with Japanese and South Korean intelligence on Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapon process, he added that he hopes diplomacy will be the solution, because sanctions have not worked. 
“We have two bad choices, that is to let them get a missile to hit America or to go to war to stop them,” Graham said. “China should have two bad options. Either deal with a nutjob in your backyard or realize there’s going to be a war in your backyard.”