There has a been a lot of commentary over North Korea during the last few days as Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump let each other know their respective policies. Naturally, this has prompted people who know nothing about North Korea (or at least, hide their knowledge well) to score points against Trump. I was rather disappointed to see that Mick Hartley, who is usually pretty sound on North Korea, approvingly quote this garbage:
President Trump is an impulsive egotist with a lot to prove and he’s generally surrounded by yes-men. His threat of “fire and fury like the world has never seen” sounds very much like the nutball threats which the current leader of the Kim family and the North Korean state news agencies frequently make – various rage-and-threat-speak about seas of fire and other such nonsense.
This is a really bad and dangerous situation to start with. It was bad when President Obama left office. It’s gotten much worse since – through some mix of US threats and North Korean testing out the new administration. The worst possible thing is a President who is stupid, impulsively emotional and has something to prove, which is exactly what we have. (You think his litany of failures as President so doesn’t make him eager for a breakout, transformative moment?) At the risk of stating the obvious, threats like this from a country that has the ability to kill everyone in North Korea at close to a moment’s notice can set off a highly unpredictable chain of events. What if North Korea issues more threats? Presumably Trump fails to respond with a nuclear attack and reveals his threats as empty or – truly, truly unimaginably – he launches a nuclear attack. These are not good choices to face.
The situation with North Korea would be an extreme challenge for a leader with ability and judgment. President Trump is simply too erratic, unstable and dangerous to be in charge in a situation like this.
This piece is not about North Korea at all, it’s about what the author thinks of Trump. North Korea is simply the excuse to write the words down, and adds no value whatsoever. Trump is surrounded my yes-men? Like James Mattis? And hasn’t a rather defining attribute of Trump’s presidency been that he can’t seem to get anyone around him to do what he wants? If any article you read on North Korea focuses mainly on Trump and his supposed inadequacies, it can be safely ignored.
North Korea has been an intractable problem since its formation. Many people are leaping up and down blaming America for Kim Jong-Un’s behaviour and that of his father and grandfather, but this is reflexive ignorance or anti-Americanism, especially now Trump is involved. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of other places in which America has meddled, the problems caused by North Korea can be laid squarely at the feet of the ruling Kim Dynasty, the Soviets who created it, and the Chinese who support it. Blaming the Americans for antagonising the North Koreans is like blaming West Germany for antagonising the Soviets.
It’s not as though America hasn’t tried every approach it could. The idiots wringing their hands over Trump’s rhetoric seem to have missed that every president since Bush Snr. tried and failed to get North Korea to behave, and often acted in full partnership with the UN and China, Russia, and other partners. Every one of them failed, and Trump has inherited a problem which has arguably been made worse by his predecessors’ failures either to take it seriously or to believe the lies told by Kim Jong-Il. At the very least, Trump is trying to deal with the same shit-burger his predecessors did, only now it’s nuclear-armed. The problem is not one of Trump’s own making, and is not being made worse by language, but we can be sure half the west will fall over itself to criticise Trump and downplay the nature of the North Korean regime in order to score political points, undermining any attempt to solve the problem.
Sensible commentary has been provided, as usual, by Streetwise Professor:
North Korea represents one of the most daunting challenges imaginable. Although the North Korean military has aged and obsolete equipment, and would lose in an all out war, it could inflict massive casualties on whomever it fought. Further, it has the Sampson option: with massive conventional and chemical artillery forces in range of Seoul, before it was consumed in the inevitable retaliatory strike, North Korea could kill tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of South Koreans.
As I said, any commentary that emphasises Trump and downplays the enormous challenge North Korea represents can be safely ignored. I think there’s going to be a lot of rubbish written on this subject in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully Mick Hartley will adjust his filter and give us more stuff like this:
All of which sounds fine, but negotiations with North Korea have never worked in the past, simply because they never stick to their side of the bargain.
More importantly, it’s simply not true that Kim only wants to survive. What he really wants – what he’s working towards – is reunification of Korea, on his terms. Not to grasp that point is to fail to understand the dynamics behind Pyongyang’s aggression.
North Korea would not need intercontinental ballistic missiles to strike South Korea, whose capital sits just 35 miles from their shared border. Pyongyang has had the ability to detonate nuclear devices in Seoul via short- and medium-range ballistic missiles for years. There’s also reason to question the wisdom of nuking a proud, democratic city of 25 million people before attempting to rule it.
What an ICBM does for North Korea is establish deterrence in the event of a reunification campaign.
Kim Jong Un thinks “the nuclear weapons will prevent US from getting involved,” Sun said. “That’s why we see more and more people making the argument that the North Korea’s nuclear development is not aimed at the US, not aimed at South Korea, but aimed at reunification.”
Rather than this:
And, despite the promise of a firmer hand on the tiller in the shape of the president’s new chief of staff, General John Kelly, the crazy tweeting persists, and casual threats of war erupt from a man on a summer golfing break.
This could, in other words, all turn out much worse than even the president’s wary advisers, who know war (though far less ferocious war than this would likely be) may think. And if the war hype is all a Trump fake, it will be shown to be such. And as is usually the case with Trump fakes, others will pay the bill while he continues to golf.