Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 7:21 AM

North Korea’s Nukes Upstage America’s Fireworks … Again

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Just nine days ago, I vowed to stop commenting on the Kabuki dance between North Korea launching ballistic missiles and the United States reacting with feckless outrage and hollow threats. I did so in “North Korean Nukes like Quicksilver for China and US,” June 26, 2017.

But North Korea busted a milestone move in this 25-year dance yesterday that warrants an exception, especially coming as it did amidst America’s Fourth of July celebrations.

The Trump administration confirmed on Tuesday night that North Korea had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, which the government of Kim Jong-un claimed as a milestone in its efforts to build nuclear weapons capable of hitting the American mainland.

‘The launch continues to demonstrate that North Korea poses a threat to the United States and our allies,’ Dana W. White, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. ‘We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat from North Korea.’

(New York Times, July 4, 2017)

No doubt, to add insult to the gravity of this launch, North Korea timed it to rain on America’s Independence Day parade. What makes this poke in the eye is all the more galling, however, is that it’s not the first time.

North Korea did the same thing 11 years ago. Here in part is how I commented back then in “Space Shuttle Discovery Blasts Off … but So Do North Korean Missiles,” July 5, 2006.


North Korea called America’s bluff in daring fashion yesterday. It launched several ballistic missiles, including the dreaded long-range Taepodong. In doing so, it not only stole the thunder from the Space Shuttle but also overshadowed the lightening from the Fourth of July fireworks. This was humiliating enough. But North Korea also made a mockery of the warning of dire consequences, which President Bush said would follow if it dared to launch those missiles.

Well, now it has. And to add insult to its derring-do, North Korea launched an additional missile today (‘the day after’). Meanwhile, Bush is just trying to find a way to save face after taking this humiliating poke in the eye.

Unfortunately, in this game of nuclear chicken, the United States has already blinked. After all, Bush has been so cowered by insurgents in Iraq that he’s now mobilizing a coalition of the willing to retaliate against North Korea with nothing but more sanctions. But everyone knows that North Korea has become completely inured to sanctions. Indeed, it seems to relish its pariah status as the most sanctioned, inscrutable, and isolated nation in the world today. What we have here, folks, is a classic case of the tail (North Korea) wagging the dog (the United States). …

American diplomacy vis-à-vis nuclear proliferation reeks of hypocrisy and fecklessness. For example, Bush took military action against Saddam Hussein because he did not want the smoking gun (confirming that Saddam possessed WMDs) to be a mushroom cloud over New York City. Yet he seems resigned to wait for Lil’ Kim to perfect his technology to create a mushroom cloud over Los Angeles before taking military action against this certifiable nut.


Sure enough, here we are. Of course, that Trump pretends to be an even tougher president than Bush compounds this fateful symmetry. What’s more, the way Trump tweets his feckless outrage and hollow threats makes them all the more humiliating.

Here, for example, is how he declared that North Korea would never humiliate America on his watch, the way it did on the watch of every president since George H.W. Bush:

North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017

Well, it just did.

And how does this wannabe strongman intend to back up his tough talk? In characteristic fashion by using schoolyard taunts in a vain attempt to goad the leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea to do so for him:

North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea…and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017

Incidentally, you’d be forgiven a sense of utter consternation that he’s tweeting here about the most dangerous and urgent national security threat facing the United States today.

In my June 26 commentary cited above, I restated the only sensible way to deal with a North Korea hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. But I also observed that Trump is congenitally disposed to the bait and switch of talking tough and passing the buck.

I’ve been trolling him for this disposition in such commentaries as “Trump ‘Leading from Behind’ as World Reacts to (Latest) North Korean Nuclear Test,” February 14, 2017, and “Leading from Behind” – Trump Depending on China to Protect US from North Korea,” April 21, 2017.

That said, this ignoramus seems blithely unaware that neither South Korea nor Japan has the means to do anything about North Korea’s nukes. And this is just one of the many reasons so many are baffled that he got elected president of the United States. As it happens, I explained both in “Polls Show Americans Are Too Stupid to Poll on Any Critical Issue,” September 14, 2016.


I’ve been lamenting prevailing ignorance among Americans for years — as my commentary ‘On Syria (and almost Every Other Issue) the American People Are Insolent, Ignorant Idiots,’ September 10, 2013, attests.

Their ignorance is such, in fact, that polling them on political issues is like polling athletes on medical ones. Only this explains the phenomenon of Donald Trump – who is nothing more than a narcissistic huckster exploiting the P.T. Barnum maxim about fecund suckers.

This is why I could have predicted the findings of ‘A Survey on Global Literacy,’ which the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and National Geographic commissioned. They set out to determine ‘What College-Aged Students Know About the World’ and copublished their findings in the September 2016 issue of the CFR newsletter. Here is the ‘shocking’ highlight:

‘Respondents exhibited limited knowledge of issues critical to the United States. Only 28 percent of respondents knew that the United States is bound by treaty to protect Japan if it is attacked; just 34 percent knew this about South Korea.’


Frankly, it’s a scary thing to know that we now have a US president (and leader of the free world) who exhibits even less knowledge about such critical issues. But I hasten to clarify that we can deduce from their findings that at least two-thirds of college-aged students aren’t so stupid. The problem is that they’ve been made to feel too entitled to bother to vote. Perhaps leaving it to stupid people to elect Trump will scare them straight in this respect.

In any event, given his pusillanimous dodge, you’d never know that Trump first threatened this:

North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017

Then came this face-saving recognition:

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2017

Except that, true to form, he had another about face this week. This had him variously pleading with China to do more and damning it for not doing enough. And let’s not forget the bizarre way he lumped South Korea and Japan in the midst of his tweet goading China to act.

Such antic mix of arrogance, ignorance, and fickleness has America’s European allies reeling with consternation, frustration, and dismay. But it also has leaders of every other country lining up to play Trump for a chump, especially given that all it takes is a little stroking of his infantile ego to do so.

Finally, Trump and his national security team made quite a show a few months ago of pronouncing the era of “strategic patience” with North Korea over. But I can think of no strategy more patient than one that waits for China to deal with a menace that China clearly does not even think exists.

Related commentaries:
North Korea Nukes like Quicksilver
Space shuttle discovery
Americans are too stupid

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