Tag Archives: North Korea

POTUS needs to be calming influence, not the inflamer

Donald John Trump Sr. has been all the rage since taking office as president of the United States.

That’s by his own design, no doubt. Today, for instance, the TV talk show pundit class was talking about Trump and his bellowing bellicosity regarding the North Koreans and their nuclear ambitions.

I heard many of the pundits say essentially the same thing: The president should be the voice of calm, reason and wisdom. It’s the president who should settle a nation’s nerves. He should be the comforter in chief.

Not this guy. Not the current president.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to tell North Korean officials they need not worry about “regime change.” We aren’t interested in tossing out Kim Jong Un, Tillerson said.  National security adviser H.R. McMaster said he doesn’t believe we are closer to war today than we were a month ago, apparently seeking to calm a jittery nation that might believe we’re on the verge of launching a nuclear strike against the reclusive communist state.

But what does the president do? How does he handle all this? He talks about “fire and fury,” about how our military is “locked and loaded.” He warns Kim not to issue any “overt threats” or else he’s going to pay bigly and he’ll feel the pain of our response “very soon.”

President Truman removed General of the Army Douglas MacArthur from his command in Korea to reassert civilian control over the military; President Eisenhower resisted sending combat troops to Vietnam out of concern of getting involved in a quagmire; President Kennedy resisted invading Cuba during the missile crisis.

Part of the president’s unwritten job description is to be the voice of calm assurance. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama all filled that role at various times during their time at the helm.

Donald Trump should take heed of the lessons offered by all his recent predecessors.

It’s sad to admit, though, that he likely won’t.

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 5

This concludes my brief examination of the five demands that Kim Jong Un  has made on a world seeking to lessen tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

USA Today has listed five of them. Kim wants the United Nations to lift the sanctions it has imposed on North Korea. Good luck with that one, Mr. Dictator/Goofball.

The only way the sanctions could go away would be if Kim agrees with U.N. and U.S. demands that he cease making nuclear weapons and cease testing the missiles he hopes would deliver them.

Kim has brought a lot of misery to his people by spending so much of his nation’s Gross Domestic Product on militarization. North Korea is bristling with artillery pieces, tanks, fighter jets — but its people are starving. The sanctions imposed by the U.N. ban the export of coal, iron ore, lead and lead ore, depriving the nation of about $1 billion annually.

There needs to be concessions by North Korea for the sanctions to be lightened, or eliminated.

All of this circles back, in my view, to the issue of “containment and deterrence.” If the United States and the rest of the world would accept the notion that Kim is going to keep his nukes and then rely on the threat of immense destruction that would be delivered to his country if he launches any kind of strike, then this crisis might be allowed to settle down.

I have little faith that anyone — whether inside the North Korean government hierarchy or anywhere else — will be able to talk sense to Kim.

Now, if we could just get the president of the United States to keep his trap shut and let the diplomats do their work.

Nuclear threat a boost to tourism? Who knew?

You’re the governor of a remote U.S. territory. The crackpot dictator of a highly militarized regime then threatens to strike your home. The president of the United States calls ostensibly to offer you support.

Then you hear the president say something about how a possible nuclear missile attack could “boost tourism” on your island.

Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo fielded a call from Donald Trump.

Here’s how the New York Times reported a portion of the call: Mr. Trump said: “I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, he added, “I can say this: “You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.”

I can’t stop laughing. The president is just killin’ it, don’t you think?

The president did say “we are with you 1,000 percent.” I hope that gives the governor some comfort. To be fair, Gov. Calvo didn’t seem disturbed by the seemingly flippant tone of the president’s call.

But really, Mr. President? Tourism is on your mind as you and Kim Jong Un continue to rattle the world with your reckless threats against each other?

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 2

Donald J. Trump has complicated what ought to be the simplest of Kim Jong Un’s reported demands of the United States of America.

He wants guarantees that he can keep his job as North Korea’s strongman. 

In other words, no “regime change.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounded semi-conciliatory in that regard the other day when he said that United States has no interest in overthrowing Kim and seeks a “diplomatic solution” to the growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Then the president chimed in with comments threatening “fire and fury” and saying that U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in case Kim decides to make any “overt threats” against the United States or its allies.

The term “locked and loaded” means, in military terms, that your weapon is loaded and that you’ve put the first round in the chamber. You’re set to fire said weapon. Is that what the commander in chief meant? Are we now set to launch a first strike against the North Koreans?

Kim is thought to be mindful of past U.S. military actions, providing him with cause to make the demand that he not be tossed out by an invading force.

I present you the March 2013 U.S. invasion of Iraq , which was launched for the expressed purpose of ridding Iraq of its own dictator, the late Saddam Hussein.

President George W. Bush and his national security team told us Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” which became the primary selling point for launching the invasion. Our military launched a full frontal assault. It got to Baghdad. We scoured the country from stem to stern looking for WMD. We found none. Nothin’, man.

Oh, we eventually pulled Saddam out of that spider hole. The Iraqis put him on trial, convicted him of crimes against humanity — and hanged him.

Kim doesn’t want that to happen to himself or his closest sycophants.

The secretary of state is trying to sound a reasoned, rational tone. The president, though, keeps pre-empting him with talk of an entirely different nature. What’s more, the secretary of state does serve at the pleasure of the president.

Trump trudges along lonely path

I’ve written already about how Donald J. Trump belongs to an exclusive club. He’s one of six men alive today who’ve held the office of president of the United States.

He’s now in the midst of a potentially catastrophic international crisis involving North Korea and its budding nuclear weapons program.

Has the president called any of the five men who preceded him? Has he sought their counsel, their advice, their wisdom in how to handle this situation, or himself?

You can stop laughing now.

The 45th president’s non-relationship with the 44th president is most puzzling and troubling, although it shouldn’t be too surprising. Barack Obama sought to provide a smooth transition. Trump and Obama met for the first time in the Oval Office shortly after Trump’s election. Trump said they got along well. “I like him and I think he likes me,” Trump said.

It went downhill from there.

The president thinks highly of himself. He has great internal faith in his ability to solve any problem, quell any crisis that comes his way. The men who preceded him all were “losers.”

Trump’s presidential isolation goes against tradition. Imagine that.

John F. Kennedy sought Dwight Eisenhower’s counsel during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Harry Truman faced crises in Europe after World War II, so he called Herbert Hoover for advice. Obama had to help Haiti recover from a devastating earthquake, so he enlisted George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to assist in that effort.

The norm has been that these men rely on each other to provide advice and counsel that only they are qualified to provide.

The president won’t change his ways. That’s a given more than 200 days into his administration. It merely speaks to the arrogance of a know-nothing who has at his disposal the collective wisdom of individuals who faced their own share of crises — and who might have something of extreme value to pass on.

Donald Trump won’t listen.

To borrow a word: Sad.

Tillerson gets tossed under the bus … but why?

Rex Tillerson deserves a good word for sounding like a serious adult.

The U.S. secretary of state has declared that Americans should “sleep well at night,” even in the wake of the bellicosity coming from the North Korean dictator and the president of the United States.

What does he get from a member of Donald Trump’s national security team? Sebastian Gorka, a key member of the National Security Council, said that Tillerson is a diplomat and has no authority to talk about military matters.

There you go. A key NSC adviser tosses Tillerson under the bus. For what reason? For suggesting that the North Koreans aren’t about to launch missiles at the United States or that the United States is about to go to war with the rogue regime.

I tend to think of Tillerson as one of the grownups with whom the president has surrounded himself.

Gorka, on the other hand, provides another bullying voice for the president, as if Donald Trump needs any assistance in rattling nerves around the world. The president has done plenty of that all by himself with his “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded” rhetoric.

As for Tillerson, I’m going to presume he’s opened all the back channels he can find between Washington and Pyongyang. Perhaps he’s able to pass along to some North Korean functionary about the grave danger that can result from a foolish act of aggression.

‘Locked and loaded’ to release ‘fire and fury’

The alliteration might sound good as it rolls off the tongue or typed into a tweet.

“Fire and fury” has given way to “locked and loaded.” Is it realistic? Or logical? Does it further the cause of peace?

I want to consider for a brief moment something about this confrontation between the United States and North Korea. It is the rhetoric that flies out of the pie hole of Kim Jong Un, the boy with the bad haircut who runs North Korea.

Kim sounds like the two previous Kims who ruled the nation before he inherited the regime. His father and grandfather both said much the same thing about how they would destroy South Korea, Japan, the United States or any nation that “interfered” with the “internal” politics of the Korean Peninsula.

One key difference, though, is that the current Kim reportedly can deliver a nuclear weapon aboard a missile to faraway targets.

But has he acted on his threats? Daddy Kim blustered and bellowed until his death. Grandpa Kim did invade South Korea in 1950, precipitating the Korean War; the shooting lasted until 1953 with the signing of a ceasefire, but there has not yet been a peace treaty signed that officially ends the state of war between South and North Korea.

The more serious change in the rhetorical barrage, of course, comes from our side. The U.S. president has decided to fire back with tweets and assorted public pronouncements about how he intends to release “fire and fury” on Pyongyang if that government keeps threatening the United States. Donald Trump now has said that the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in the event the commies do anything foolish.

The president’s bellicosity does not make me feel safer. It gives me little comfort. It doesn’t provide any assurance that the current Kim is going to work overtime to find restraint in his own bizarre impulses.

Diplomatic decorum would dictate that the president — the commander in chief of the world’s mightiest military — remain calm, reasoned and rational. Kim knows the United States can obliterate his country. Is he going to doom his people — and himself — to certain death now that he allegedly has the capability to launch a nuclear weapon at the United States of America?

I don’t know. I do know that he hasn’t delivered on any of the threats he has made already. As for the man he is staring in the face, Donald Trump, he doesn’t need to boast in front of the whole world about being “locked and loaded.”

We get the point, Mr. President. We’re the biggest, baddest dudes on the block. I’m quite sure Kim Jong Un knows it, too.

Trump’s troubles have nothing to do with ideology

Michael Dukakis once was derided when he said while accepting the 1988 Democratic Party nomination for president that the election was “about competence.”

His foes shredded him for that suggestion and he lost the election huge to Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Three decades later, another president is facing crises of his own. They relate in some measure to his own competence. Or lack thereof. They also concern his fitness for the job and whether he actually is of sound mind.

A former Republican U.S. senator — a member of Donald Trump’s own party — is urging his former colleagues and members of his home state of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to remove the president from office as soon as possible. Gordon Humphrey said that Trump is of a “sick mind.” He calls him “seriously sick” and “dangerous.” Sen. Humphrey’s concern stems from that reckless statement about “fire and fury” that Trump threatened to bring to North Korea over that country’s threats to the United States.

There’s a good chance we’re going to hear more of that kind of talk as Trump continues to exhibit an absolute disregard for anything approaching diplomatic protocol or decorum. He reportedly ad-libbed the “fire and fury” threat while on vacation in New Jersey — and it is continuing to reverberate around the world.

The curious aspect of all this anti-Trump fever/fervor is that it seems to have nothing to do with ideology. Why? It’s because, in my view, Trump lacks an ideology. He doesn’t have a guiding principle on which he seeks to govern. His interests lie solely in “winning” at all costs. It matters not one damn bit whether a policy fits into a neat ideological niche.

He shows his incompetence daily by refusing to reach across the aisle to Democrats, with whom he must govern in a cooperative manner. For that matter, he’s swatting away the hands of many leading Republicans, too, the guys on his team.

Then he inflames all of it with his utterly frightening threat to North Korea. “Donald Trump is impaired by a seriously sick psyche,” Humphrey wrote. “His sick mind and reckless conduct could consume the lives of millions.”

Will any of this result in some sort of removal strategy? I haven’t a clue. I am of the opinion that we are going to hear much more of this kind of talk coming from within the Republican Party, which might be awakening finally to the mistake that occurred when Donald Trump got elected president of the United States.

More confusion from POTUS … about war!

The president of the United States blusters about raining “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continues to threaten this country.

Then the secretary of state weighs in with more measured rhetoric, saying that Americans should “sleep well at night” even though North Korea keeps blabbing about hitting the United States with nukes.

Which is it? Fire and fury or diplomacy and negotiation?

Donald J. Trump has flown off the rails with his fiery rhetoric. Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson is seeking to calm the fears of an anxious world.

I am reminded of how past presidents have handled these so-called threats. Did they bluster and bloviate about what awaits potential adversaries? No. They went about their business quietly and left the nuts-and-bolts of diplomacy up to their senior aides and officials.

Two previous Republican presidents — Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower — famously adhered to more restrained postures in the face of potential or actual conflict.

They knew that loud-mouthed threats do nothing to advance the cause of peace. Donald Trump doesn’t know any of that — or anything else, for that matter. He instead yaps and yammers without considering the consequences of his words.

The man has no understanding or appreciation that as president of the United States — and the commander in chief of the world’s pre-eminent military machine — his words echo around the world.

When he threatens a budding nuclear power with “fire and fury,” he sends the rest of the planet into a state of, um, heightened anxiety.

Is that helpful to anyone? Not in the least.

‘Threats’ produce possible war?

Donald J. Trump is now threatening to wipe North Korea off the face of the planet because of “threats” the rogue nation is making toward the United States.

Have the North Koreans made any demonstrable moves against the world’s only super-duper power? Have they proved they are even capable of inflicting damage on this country? No.

They are threatening to do bad things. So that prompts the president of the United States to say he’ll bring unprecedented “fire and fury” to bear on North Korea, which has the ability now to deliver a nuclear weapon on board a missile.

As usual, the president isn’t thinking about what he is saying. He isn’t pondering how North Korea is going to respond to threats of maximum force. Oh, no. He’s simply popping off once again.

His statement delivered while on vacation has drawn some rebuke from military experts and from leading Republicans in Congress.

One of the critics is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a man who knows combat and the consequence of war. “I don’t know what he’s saying and I’ve long ago given up trying to interpret what he says,” McCain said during an interview with a local Arizona radio station. “That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure how it helps.”

It doesn’t.

McCain added: “In other words, the old walk softly but carry a big stick, Teddy Roosevelt’s saying, which I think is something that should’ve applied because all it’s going to do is bring us closer to a serious confrontation. I think this is very, very, very serious.”

A first-strike response against North Korea is going to prompt a major ground war on the Korean Peninsula. Is that what the president wants to occur? Of course not, but that is going to be the inevitable consequence.

Trump must be able to deliver on his tough talk. McCain and others are unsure he can and are mortified that he would say out loud that he would issue such a careless threat.

But … the president “tells it like it is.”