Trump meets cri­sis with blus­ter, risk

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Anu­clear show­down. The world’s most un­pre­dictable foe. A world on edge. What will the new pres­i­dent do? Be Trump. Faced with per­haps his gravest in­ter­na­tional cri­sis yet, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump this week re­sponded pre­cisely as his some of sup­port­ers hoped and his crit­ics long feared. The mix of plain-spo­ken blus­ter, spon­tane­ity and norm-break­ing risk that de­fined his po­lit­i­cal rise de­fined his ap­proach to a round of fresh threats from nu­clear North Korea. When Py­ongyang punched, Trump coun­ter­punched harder - much as he did on a de­bate stage flanked by po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

But this was not a Florida de­bate stage or a low­stakes celebrity Twit­ter war of the sort Trump per­fected be­fore en­ter­ing politics. It was a stand­off over North Korea’s rapidly de­vel­op­ing nu­clear pro­gram, com­plete with trad­ing threats of war and the safety of mil­lions in the bal­ance. Over the course of the week, Trump un­leashed provoca­tive rhetoric and dis­missed the care­ful or pre­cise diplo­matic lan­guage fa­vored by his pre­de­ces­sors.

“They should be very ner­vous,” Trump said of North Korea. “Be­cause things will hap­pen to them like they never thought pos­si­ble, OK? Still, Trump’s strat­egy was fa­mil­iar. He tweeted reg­u­larly. He took it per­son­ally. He spoke off the cuff. He talked - a lot - hold­ing a two-day blitz of press con­fer­ences, each yield­ing mo­ments that im­me­di­ately sparked chat­ter, con­fu­sion, crit­i­cism and at­ten­tion.

On Fri­day, af­ter strik­ing a slightly toned-down mes­sage to North Korea, Trump of­fered that he would con­sider mil­i­tary ac­tion in Venezuela, where the pres­i­dent has con­sol­i­dated power and sparked wide­spread in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion. In the course of a 12-minute ex­change with jour­nal­ists, the re­mark raised the prospect of the use of mil­i­tary force against two coun­tries in two dif­fer­ent hemi­spheres.

Trump’s pug­na­cious public talk is matched by his pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with aides and al­lies. Trump has told as­so­ciates that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dis­re­spected him and the United States and that he be­lieves the rogue na­tion will only re­spond to tough­ness and the threat of force, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple who, like oth­ers in­ter­viewed, re­quested anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

Some aides were sur­prised when Trump de­clared Tues­day, soon af­ter word spread that North Korea had made a nu­clear break­through, that the iso­lated na­tion would face “fire and fury” if the threat con­tin­ued. The pres­i­dent had not used those words in a con­fer­ence call with ad­vis­ers be­fore­hand when dis­cussing the matter. He also told aides, in­clud­ing new chief of staff John Kelly, that he had no in­ten­tion of soft­en­ing his tone, ac­cord­ing to two White House of­fi­cials, who also de­manded anonymity to dis­cuss the con­ver­sa­tions. — AP

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