Trump Threatens N. Korea with “Fire and Fury”

Posted August 9, 2017 on 8:16 am | In the category North Korea, Press, TRUMP, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” ,President Trump

Several years ago (December 2010) this blog had a piece on the challenge of dealing with North Korea; today’s comments by Trump are evidence that little has changed.

Understanding North Korea’s behavior should not be that tough in the context of America’s historical interventions in countries around the world, frequently predicated on a hypocritical desire for regime change in countries identified as “undemocratic”. When Iran democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh Prime Minister of Iran in 1951 we engineered his overthrow in 1953, installed the Shah and returned oil production to British Petroleum. In Chile we engineered the overthrow of democratically elected President Allende on 9/11 1973; he subsequently committed suicide. During Reagan’s presidency the US sold weapons to Iran so money could be passed on to the Nicaraguan contras to facilitate the overthrow of the Sandinista government. George W. Bush’s administration identified an “Axis of Evil” consisting of N. Korea, Iraq and Iran. It invaded Iraq, killed its leader, left the country in ruins and helped create ISIS. The US led NATO against Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi with an invasion of Libya, killed Gadaffi and left the country in ruins as another base for ISIS. The list of countries the US has messed around in includes Syria, earlier ventures in support of Saddam in Iraq against the Kurds and Iran, and of course Vietnam and Cambodia, Indonesia, Grenada, Lebanon, etc. The leaders of North Korea are not stupid or irrational. They have seen what we do and know that if the US is interested in regime change, a beefed up military is a good idea. And what better beefed up military than one with nuclear arms? We are – as a country – complicit in creating our own international problems.

Trump talks the talk but has never walked the walk and we can only hope he doesn’t start now with North Korea. The lack of realistic military options, the dismal history of diplomacy and the failure of both the United States and North Korea to honor previous agreements are not reasons for hope.

Bilateral, direct negotiations between the U.S. And N. Korea have been elusive, largely because U.S neocons argue that direct negotiations would be viewed as “rewarding” N. Korea for its bad behavior. This is not a nuanced understanding of adult human behavior. While there have been the occasional suggestions of possible direct negotiations (most recently by Secretary of State Tillerson) they have always been contingent on North Korea giving something up before the US can sit with them, like a poker player demanding that everyone show him their cards before he decides to bet. This has not and will not work.

The current gambit is to suggest that China solve the problem by joining in strong international sanctions and refusing economic activity with N. Korea. Successful sanctions would likely lead to a flood of Korean refugees into China which is not acceptable to China; in addition, the slim possibility of a unified Korea would produce a different kind of threat to China. Basically, China has its own interests and they are different from ours and Trump can’t tweet himself out of that reality.

For decades Americans have been presented a picture of the N. Korean leadership as semi-deranged but they behave in their own interest not ours and are not all that different from American leadership. President Trump’s childish playground rants are not all that different from Kim Jong-un’s and just about as helpful. The N. Koreans are committed to maintaining their regime; if we act militarily to dislodge them thousands of South Koreans will die along with some number of American military stationed in S. Korea.

Whatever window of opportunity existed for a diplomatic agreement to limit N. Korean nuclear development seems likely closed. So in a nuclear world we have Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump screaming threats at each other. This is likely not to end well for anyone, including and especially our Asian allies, unless wiser and cooler heads are able to influence the future while recognizing the limits of American power and the consequences of its misuse.

It might mean a future based on fear of mutual destruction as in the good old US-Soviet Cold War days of containment and threat of mutual destruction.

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