Flirting with Disaster

I was going to discuss President Trump's proposed immigration plan in this week's blog post, but now there is a far more pressing situation concerning North Korea's missile tests and nuclear weapon development and Trump's dire warning to Korean President Kim Jung Un. Thus, I may get to immigration policy next week, that is as long as nothing catastrophic occurs before then.

The North Korea situation has lingered for more than 60 years since the Korean War ended not with a surrender, but an armistice that merely suspended military operations between the North and South, and has resulted in the most heavily guarded border in the world, and tens of thousands of American troops stationed in the South to readily protect the democratic nation from any attack from the dictatorship to the North. Over the past decade or so, the North, first under Kim Jung Il, and now under his youngest son and heir, have methodically and deliberately developed short-range, intermediate-range, and just in the past month, successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that even U.S. military experts concede can strike almost the entire American mainland. Despite several rounds of sanctions, nothing has stopped North Korea from proceeding with the development of nuclear weapons. Just this week, North Korea announced that it has succeeded in miniaturizing a nuclear weapon that could fit on an ICBM. While this claim has not been verified by U.S. intelligence agencies, it must be taken seriously. Even if this claim is true, North Korea has not yet proven that it has reached the final step in delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. and that is surviving reentry- i.e. that the war-head would survive the fierce heat upon reentering the earth's atmosphere.

President Trump's response to North Korea's latest announcements and aggression, that there will be "fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen" certainly did not help matters. Even Republicans were aghast at this statement and called for restraint. It is exactly this type of knee-jerk, macho, hyperactive rhetoric that I expected and feared from Trump during the presidential campaign and why I was so depressed the morning after Election Day. I don't care how anyone feels about Hillary Clinton or how much they opposed her policies. I have never been a fan of hers and could never vote for her. But all through the campaign, I thought she was definitely the lesser of two evils and she would at least bring some competency to the office. The Trump administration has been nothing but chaos from day one and has not scored a single legislative victory, other than simply undoing President Obama's policies and regulations. I fear the effects that his domestic agenda, especially concerning climate change/environmental protection, public education, immigration, and health care will have, but am terrified by his foreign policy ignorance. The State Department is being gutted as Trump has proposed a 31% cut in its budget, most of the assistant and deputy-level executive positions have gone unfilled, many experienced diplomats have become so disillusioned and disgusted with Trump's agenda that they have resigned, and in Secretary Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, the head of the department has zero diplomatic experience. This seems like a disaster just waiting to happen.

The day after Trump uttered his off-the-cuff "fire and fury" remark that took even his most senior aides by surprise, Trump doubled down by responding to those who said he needs to tone down the rhetoric, that "maybe the statement was not tough enough." Now I understand Trump's frustration and agree that sanctions and diplomacy have failed to stop North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. How exactly do you negotiate with a madman? Trump clearly thinks that Kim Jung Un only understands bellicose language and specific threats. But I don't think that a war of words or increasingly dire threats is the answer. The reason why all past U.S. presidents have responded to North Korea's aggression with firm, measured tones is that one does not seek to provoke a madman. While military options have always been on the table in response to North Korea, no American president has utilized them for fear of the consequences. Any U.S. strike against North Korea could very well result in a massive attack against South Korea or Japan that would inflict many casualties on American troops and citizens as well as our allies. Every U.S. president thus far has chosen not to attack North Korea because they fully understood the risk. The question now is: "Does Trump truly comprehend the consequences of a military attack, and if so, does he not care about the many lives that will be lost?"

I surely don't have the answer for how this dilemma can be solved and disaster averted, but the disruption and disintegration of expertise at the State Department and Trump's blunt, hyperbolic statements can very well lead to a miscalculation and provoke a war with unknown ripple effects. Perhaps the best thing for Trump to do is to watch the film "Thirteen Days," which portrayed the extremely tense two weeks in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, carefully averted a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis by reaching a diplomatic solution with the Soviet Union. Then again Trump does not seem to care too much about learning from

history or taking advice from experts that counter his opinion, nor has he even shown that he has the attention span to sit through a full-length movie and fully absorb the lessons provided. If Trump is not more careful, perhaps the more appropriate film to watch is the 1980s TV movie "The Day After" regarding the chilling aftereffects of a nuclear strike on America.

In conclusion, I am reminded of a declaration Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, once uttered during a live performance in the late 1960s, at the height of the Vietnam War and widespread race riots in the U.S., "I don't know about you, but I'm going to get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames!" Let us all hope and pray that Trump and Kim back down before the world indeed becomes a fiery shithouse.

#PresidentTrump #KimJongUn #NorthKorea #ballisticmissiles #nuclearweapons #fireandfury #StateDepartment #RexTillerson #madman #ThirteenDays #CubanMissileCrisis #TheDayAfter #JimMorrison #shithouse #socialmedia

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© 2017 by Peter McNeela.