Tag: North Korea

The Apocalypse Will Be Tweeted

OK, that headline is a bit over the top. But last night, our President — who constantly tells us he doesn’t watch TV — tweeted this out ten minutes after Fox News did a segment on North Korea’s nuclear button:

The reaction to the tweet has been, as the reaction to Trump’s tweets always is, a bit hysterical. He’s not about to plunge us into war. He doesn’t literally have a nuclear button nor is he likely to push it anytime soon. This is Trump being Trump: always having to be the center of attention, always having to tweet about something he sees on TV, always saying things partially in jest, partially in anger and partially because he can.

However, the continual childishness, pettiness and silliness of the President is something to be concerned about. It always has been. Julian Sanchez:

A lot of Trumpers are trying to make the case that the President has had a great first year because he cut taxes … eventually. And he got judges approved — although an unprecedented number have been rejected by his own Congress for being grossly unqualified. And he cut regulations — although many of those were actually cut by Obama. I can see that. But Trump hasn’t done anything really revolutionary. He’s basically adopted the Republican agenda. There are few Republicans out there who wouldn’t have signed off on a tax cut or appointed judges. And there are many who made have made the tax cut less fiscally reckless or had an actual health reform plan. But sure, fine, you got a tax cut. And the world hasn’t burned up. Yet.

But … here is my concern. I feel that over the last year, the President eroded many of the political, diplomatic and legal norms that hold our world together. There is a human tendency to take things for granted and to start nitpicking at the minor concerns of the things that keep us safe from major concerns. For example, anti-vaxxers fret about the possible side effects of the vaccines that protects us from diseases that have killed millions. Anti-NATO people worry about the cost of an alliance that has maintained the longest peace in Europe … ever. We become spoiled. We expect the world to just function without a continuous ongoing effort to maintain the status quo. We forget that the Four Horseman are always ready to ride and that barbarism is only a few weeks away at the best of times. Political, social and cultural norms can sometimes be wrong, misguided or unnecessary. But they do not spring from holes in the ground; they are the result of decades of trying to make the world work better.

At some point, Trump’s erosion of norms going to bite us in the ass very hard. At some point, we will need to alert the world to a serious geopolitical threat and they won’t listen to us. At some point, we may need to engage in military action and people will think it’s just Trump being a toddler. At some point, we will lean on those norms that hold our civilization together and, instead of propping us up, they will yield.

Just because we haven’t yet paid a price for having a President who spends half the day watching Fox News and rage-tweeting about it doesn’t mean that price won’t have to be paid.

On the Brink

Hmmm:

North Korea’s military is “examining the operational plan” to strike areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles, state-run news agency KCNA said early Wednesday local time.

Specifically, the statement mentioned a potential strike on “Andersen Air Force Base in which the US strategic bombers, which get on the nerves of the DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above south Korea, are stationed and to send a serious warning signal to the US.”
Guam’s Office of Civil Defense issued a statement Wednesday saying there was no imminent threat to the safety of the US territory’s residents and visitors. Around 160,000 people live on Guam, including thousands of US troops.

The immediate cause of this appears to have been Trump’s statement that if the Norks continued to threaten the US, they would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

There are several things to unroll here in the building tension with North Korea. North Korea has nukes, but it’s not clear that they can mate them to missiles (yet). If a conventional military engagement occurred, we could easily beat them. But the cost would be catastrophic — most likely Seoul bombarded with one of the largest artillery actions in history. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands dead and one of the world’s economic powerhouses reduced to rubble. Not to mention the potential of an engagement with China.

The X-factor, of course, is our own nuclear weapons which Trump has single and unconstrained control over. And Trump is showing, every day, that everything we feared about his temperament is correct. Rick Wilson:

Some presidents meet crisis with resolve and discipline. Some have a team of serious, capable advisers who bring knowledge, focus, and insight into complex regions and actors. Some have guts. Some have intellectual horsepower and mental bandwidth. Some understand people and power.

What we know of Donald Trump is that he lacks all of these characteristics, and while some of his advisers have shining parts, he ignores those who offer him counsel on how to behave, govern, and lead as a president. The Scaramucci sideshow was one more example of how deeply unready Trump is for a real crisis and how at risk our nation is because the president is temperamentally (and, let’s be real, mentally) unfit to serve. Donald Trump the television character—decisive, worldly, smart, and always in control—is precisely the opposite of Donald Trump the man. The real Donald Trump is moody, needy, shallow, and impulsive.

This is something we forget. The Trump Administration is under siege during a time of peace and reasonable prosperity. But a real crisis is coming. Even if cooler heads prevail in Korea, it could be something else: a terrorist attack, an attack on an ally, a stock market crash, something. Has anything Trump has done so far made you think he’s capable of dealing with it?

For what it’s worth, I don’t know that there is a solution to the North Korean situation. But if there is one, I am not confident that we have the leadership in place to achieve it.

In Which I … Kinda Side With Trump

This weekend saw a somewhat concerning diplomatic faceoff. North Korea indicated they were going to test a nuclear weapon and Trump had hinted at the possibility of pre-emptive or retaliatory strikes, sparking fears of a second Korean War. It wasn’t clear exactly what was going on because it was all rumors and innuendo. Ultimately, the Nork’s nuclear test failed (possibly due to US cyberwarfare) and the situation was defused.

Today, however, a new chapter in the saga came out. Trump is apparently talking to China to try get them to reign in North Korea. We’ve done that before but Trump is apparently breaking with long-standing US policy and offering trade concessions to China if they reign in Kim.

And … I’m actually not averse to that.

Look, we all know that Kim is China’s pet. China provides almost all their energy and trade. China has long had the ability to at least threaten North Korea, if not reign it in. Trump has been talking big on China for some time. He’s apparently reversed a number of positions after talking to Xi, including backing down on labeling China a currency manipulator. That’s another kettle of fish, of course. But if get China to clamp on Kim AND not have a trade war … that’s a win-win, isn’t it?

I’d like to hear why I’m wrong about this. But if my criticisms of Trump are to have any meaning, I have to point out when he’s done something right. Avoiding a trade war and getting North Korea in line is exactly the kind of “deal” Trump promised.

Midweek Roundup

At a conference this week. Here’s a few stories I’m following:

  • North Korea claims to have tested a hydrogen bomb. Even the skeptics admit that whatever they’ve tested, if not technically an H-bomb, is massively more powerful than the bombs they’ve been testing before. So far, our “smart diplomacy” has yielded nothing with the Norks.
  • Reports are preliminary, but it appears that there was a wave of sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne, Germany, with the perpetrators being gangs of Arab and North African men. We have seen this sort of thing before, although not on this scale. I don’t oppose immigration. I do demand that immigrants observe our cultural norms, obey our laws and treat women with respect.
  • President Obama has announced some executive actions on gun control, mostly tightening background checks. Charles Cooke notes that the President is expending a lot of political capital for very little gain. The President, and the Democrats, continue to think that the country is screaming for gun control and that this will vault them to electoral success. They are deeply mistaken. Liberals, in echo chambers like Vox, are screaming for gun control. The country, generally is not.
  • Continuing on that, the President announced these moves in a tearful press conference. His emotions, however, are not important. What is important, as Ken White tells us, is how the President talks about rights, which is to say in the most disingenuous anti-freedom way imaginable.
  • Jamelle Bouie has a great piece where he argues that the Oregon standoff is not really about race. Our focus shouldn’t be on why police aren’t gunning down the Bundys. It should be on how to get the to show the same caution more often.

Kim III Rattles the Nukes

Just in case you still harbored any hopes that the new Kim was less crazy than the old Kim:

North Korea has accused the United States of using military drills in South Korea as a launch pad for a nuclear war and has scrapped the armistice with Washington that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War.

A North Korean general said on Tuesday that Pyongyang was scrapping the armistice. But the two sides remain technically at war as the civil war did not end with a treaty.

North Korea threatens the United States and its “puppet,” South Korea, on an almost daily basis.

“Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

North Korea is poor, starving and increasingly politically isolated (China is introducing the new sanctions). Is this just saber rattling? Or is it possible that they are so delusional they think they could start a war? I’m betting on the former right now. But it probably behooves us to move some Patriots into Japan and South Korea and station some Aegis cruisers nearby.

Just in case they really are crazy.

Norks. In. Spaaaaaaaace

Just in case you had any delusions that the new leader of North korea was any different:

North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents.

The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.

At this point, it’s hard to know what else we can do. We’ve tried sanctions and angry letters. We’ve tried negotiations. Military options are likely off the table given China’s proximity and support. I suspect we are developing or now have the ability to shoot down any missiles that threaten us. Other than that, there’s really not a lot.

Skyrockets in the Drink

So much for Kim III: The Search for More Crazy:

North Korea defied international warnings of censure and further isolation on Friday, launching a rocket that the United States and its allies called a provocative pretext for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that might one day carry a nuclear warhead.

Fortunately, the rocket went only slightly farther than my old Saturn V model rocket before blowing itself into pieces. But they also may be ramping their nuclear program back up. The food deal cut just a few months ago has already been suspended.

Oh, well. Looks like North Koreans have another generation of savagery ahead of them.

The Norks Blink

Maybe Littler Kim isn’t quite as insane as Lil’ Kim:

North Korea has agreed to halt nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and enrichment activities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for food aid from the United States, the State Department said Wednesday.
The state-run North Korean news agency, KCNA, announced the agreement separately.

This is the first positive sign we’ve had out of North Korea … ever? No, since just the last time Lil’ Kim played this game. But this may indicate that Kim Jong Un is not quite batshit insane enough to favor nuclear weapons over starving citizens.

I have no idea how this will play out. But let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Kor-ian Shame

Ya know, I got a pretty good idea of how the Hollywood Left would react to a Obama defeat next year…………something like this:

Quite a spectacle, the adoration and adulation for a glandular challenged dwarf, dear leader was much loved.

All these blubberers look well fed to me, so not all of the North Korean population is starving, that’s a relief. And just to show the world that is it be business as usual, they did a little saber rattling for display, “We still got game”.

North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles off its east coast on Monday, the same day it announced the death of leader Kim Jong-Il, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

I’ll say one thing for the little gollum, he provided a ready made blueprint for instant credibility for the rest of the tin horned dictators out there, if you want a place at the table and want the free world to give you shit, just get yourself an A bomb. Nothing garners respect and unlimited credit more then going nuclear.

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