Donald Trump Further Inflames Situation In North Korea

The conventional wisdom regarding North Korea has been that Kim Jong Un is crazy. While that very well may be the case, we are now in a strange situation where it is not clear which nation has the crazier leader. Trump made this threat: “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” There has been received with universal criticism that it only inflames the situation. It also turns out that this was an improvised statement by Donald Trump. The New York Times reports:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them, though he had talked over possible responses in a general way.

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

USA Today summarizes some of the international reaction. In reviewing past crises, another report in The New York Times reports how there is little precedent for such a statement. Others in the government are now busy attempting damage control. Jonathan Chait wins best headline award on the topic with, Ignore Our Crazy President, U.S. Government Tells North Korea.

Of course not everyone is critical of Donald Trump. In perhaps the scariest headline on the topic, The Washington Post reports, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,’ evangelical adviser says:

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Trump’s statements most likely come from his lack of understanding of how to carry out the duties of the presidency. Kim Jong Un’s actions are in some ways more rational, if you look at his motivation based upon retaining absolute control over North Korea, regardless of how much suffering he causes.

There are multiple reasons which originally motivated North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, including both witnessing the effects of nuclear weapons in nearby Japan and the devastation their country suffered in the Korean War. However these events happened before the current leadership was born, and more recent events appear to be motivating them to further develop the nuclear weapons and refuse to compromise. North Korea has claimed that they need to preserve their nuclear program because of the example of how Saddam was overthrown after he gave up his weapons of mass destruction and Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed after he surrendered his nuclear weapons. Such examples make it unlikely that Kim Jong Un will back down in the face of sanctions.

It is now well known how George Bush lied us into the war in Iraq. The regime change in Libya orchestrated by Hillary Clinton has been a similar disaster, with Barack Obama calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. A report by the U.K. Parliament showed that this war, like Iraq, was also started based upon lies. The situation we now face in North Korea is yet another of the consequences we face for the reckless interventionism of neocons like Bush and Clinton. On top of this, the crisis must be dealt with by a president who appears to be clueless as to how to respond.

Update: The Washington Post points out one of Ronald Reagan’s contributions to the problem with the invasion of Grenada:

In October 1983, the United States invaded Grenada. The Kim family regime that controls North Korea saw this invasion as an early warning sign: If the United States could perceive even a small spice island as a threat, so too could it eventually train its sights on North Korea. Without an effective deterrent, any regime perceived as a threat would be little match for American military might.

It wasn’t just Grenada’s size that caught the Kim family’s attention. Grenada, a country of only 110,000 people that is known primarily for producing nutmeg, had significance for the North Korean leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kim Il Sung, grandfather of North Korea’s present-day leader Kim Jong Un, viewed the new Grenadian socialist government headed by Maurice Bishop as brave revolutionaries directly fighting U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean. Kim Il Sung also sought the help of recently decolonized nations like Grenada in international forums, as a way to undermine South Korea’s legitimacy abroad and garner support for a North Korean-led reunification of the two Koreas…

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8 Comments

  1. 1
    djchefron says:

    Remember

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Her gross violation of the rules written to provide further transparency, and then repeatedly lying about it, is pertinent. Besides lying about the email, she has a history of lying us into wars. She also has a bizarre history related to nuclear weapons, such as when she attacked Obama, disagreeing with him that we should take nuclear weapons off the table with regards to al Qaeda.

    Clinton’s Syria policy also placed us at quite a high risk of confrontation with Russia, not to mention her direct hostility towards Russia

    We will see if we get by without a nuclear holocaust under Trump. Despite his irrational response yesterday, overall the risk of war was far higher with a war monger like Clinton.

  3. 3
    Mike Hatcher says:

    I certainly am not going to pretend that I know the best path to solving Korea. But I would like to point out how different the situation is compared to conflicts elsewhere. North and South Korea don't have sectarian issues like Sunni vs. Shia like many middle eastern countries have, or centuries of hostilities between Arabs and Jews. The two countries have a relatively homogenous culture and language. I think it in some ways parallels the East/West Germany split, albeit that was entirely an artificial divide, my understanding is the North/South split of Korea is mostly artificial but there are some actual cultural differences to some degree, perhaps more comparable to the differences in the U.S. between the coastal population and interior. Thus, while it is very possible that things could go very bad, there is hope that things could go the way of Germany, with a relatively peaceful unification. Sadly, I can't think of any historic examples of a truly peaceful transition from an iron-fisted dictator to something better.  All that being said, what impact, good, bad , or otherwise, does Trump's fiery words have on N. Korea, their people and their leader(s) ?  Very hard to say, but I would proffer a guess that his words have no impact.  Kim is going to do what he is going to do, his fear of assassination and/or being attacked militarily is whatever it is. I don't think Trumps words have raised or lowered the level of N. Korea's fears.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    The difference in East Germany is that they were a Soviet satellite, and the main obstacle to reunification disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Similar peaceful reunification in Korea is not going to happen as long as the current government of North Korea is in power.

    It is hard to say if Trump’s idiotic statement will matter long term. Short term we now see North Korea talking about shooting missiles towards Guam, which could lead to further escalation.

    We needed the US government to work towards reducing hostilities, not increasing them. Of course regardless of whether Trump made this statement, he doesn’t have the vision to try to reset relations with North Korea.

  5. 5
    Mike Hatcher says:

    Of course you statement is true that East Germany was a satellite state and N. Korea is not. However, I would argue that the comparison is more similar than dissimilar in that N. Korea is so heavily dependent on China that it has the characteristics of a satellite state. While I believe Kim Jong Un is his own independent minded, ruthless dictator, and would not willingly submit to orders from China, I believe if China pulled the rug from under him, both overtly and/or covertly, they could easily topple him and his government. I will also concede that even if I am right about my assessment of this underlying Chinese power in N. Korea, the collapse of the Soviet Union does not seem to have a parallel in that there is no indication that China will be collapsing anytime soon. So while I agree with your statement that reunification in Korea is not going to happen under the current N.K. government, I would argue that the removal of that government would not be all that difficult if China wanted it to accomplish that. While it would seem that China is happy with the status quo, and a unified Korea would likely be seen by China as a greater threat, the increasing unstable nuclear activity of N.K. might cause China to re-examine their position.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    If China wanted North Korea to collapse it is possible they could make this come about. However I doubt that China would want this. If they felt compelled to act due to North Korea’s nuclear program, it would probably be to put in a government they have more control over, not to have them unify with South Korea.

  7. 7
    Mike Hatcher says:

    Good point Ron regarding if China did act, it would most likely be in installing a puppet government rather than allowing unification. I might personally consider a puppet Chinese run government a better alternative to the current N.Korea, as I would consider it more likely stable than Jong Un. It is just so sad in that North and South Korea really should be together IMO, I don't believe the people have any real beef with each other. Only those with positions of power, who don't want to give up that power, that's what is causing all this headache and possibly someday horrific devastation.  

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, in this case a puppet government under Chinese control would probably be better. I’m not sure if South Korea would want China on their border that way, but they also might see it as preferable to the current North Korean government.

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