Trump fails to out bully the Korean bully
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
Are Donald Trump’s bellicose threats to a rogue nation part of a strategy? Or are they just the latest — and most serious — examples of a president gone rogue, who cannot summon the intellectual or emotional capacity to offer coherent policy? Is Trump playing the bad police officer while his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plays good police officer and plays down the threats? Or is Trump lowering himself to the level of North Korea to speak language they understand?
When warned of “fire and fury”, was he referring to nuclear capacity, as his later tweets implied? Or was he talking about more than just nuclear response, as in a strong non-nuclear military response that could as easily decimate North Korea with missiles, bombs, airstrikes and artillery?
Scanning the internet and credible media sources, there are as many interpretations as there are pundits to offer them. The bottom line is no one, other than, perhaps, the president, knows what he really meant.
Perhaps he meant the threats as a “red line” that, if crossed, will lead to … what? If that was his strategy, he’s more dense than his critics suggest considering North Korea stepped across the line within hours threatening to attack Guam, an American asset.
So within 24 hours, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un called Trump’s bluff and made new threats. If America doesn’t react, it appears weaker. If it does respond militarily, it jeopardizes the Korean Peninsula, and perhaps the entire world. Kim Jong Un has his own red button, and based on his erratic behaviour and paranoia, he may not be afraid to use it.
Is there any comforting news here? It turns out, yes. One, Trump is largely isolated in the White House. Surrounding him are competent bureaucrats and leaders like Tillerson. The new boss of the White House, John Kelly, is a highly regarded military veteran not given to hyperbole and nonsense.
And as crazy as Kim Jong Un appears to be, he and the other oligarchs who control and enslave millions of North Koreans don’t appear to want to lose their totalitarian regime. If they were to pull the first trigger, the rogue nation would be decimated — no more regime.
Then there’s China. It holds the biggest stick of all when it comes to dealing with North Korea. It backs the latest sanctions, and not long ago imposed limits on imports and exports that hit Kim Jong Un in the wallet. China doesn’t appear eager to allow its part of the world to be destabilized or even badly damaged by some nutbar in Pyongyang. This has happened before, albeit without the destructive influence of Trump. There’s reason to hope China will step in, again.
None of this means we have nothing to worry about. We do. Perhaps the biggest worry? If this is how Trump operates when the world’s safety is at stake, it’s going to be a long three-and-a-half years.