Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 6:21 AM

America’s Trump vs North Korea’s Jong-un: the Ultimate Reality-TV Death Match…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

And, trust me, giving way to gallows humor is the only way to cope with the apocalyptic rantings and antics of both leaders.

President Trump used his harshest language yet to warn North Korea on Tuesday that it will be ‘met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,’ if it does not stop threatening the United States. …

Earlier in the day, North Korea said it would ‘ruthlessly take strategic measures involving physical actions.’ …

Trump’s statement also followed a report in the Washington Post that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its ballistic missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

(Washington Post, August 8, 2017)

Unsurprisingly, cable networks are beating the drums of war for all it’s worth – complete with war gaming and PSAs on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Never mind that they are unwittingly acting out Trump’s wag-the-dog playbook, which contains all kinds of stunts to counter his historically low poll numbers and divert media attention away from his alleged collusion with Russia.

Incidentally, a key feature of that playbook has Trump continually blindsiding members of his administration with ill-tempered and ill-informed utterances. This was the case yesterday when he blindsided members of his own health commission.

They thought he convened their briefing to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Instead, the congenitally impulsive Trump used them as props to declare North Korea’s trademark rhetoric a cause for nuclear war. It speaks volumes in this respect that his wife and (startled) secretary of health and human services were sitting beside him, not his national security adviser and secretary of defense.

Meanwhile, notorious lies and cartoonish bluster have characterized the first six months of Trump’s presidency. But the same have characterized North Korean regimes for the past six decades, which makes Kim Jong-un far more predictable than warmongering experts on TV would have you believe.

In fact, the real story here is that Trump has so debased the stature and credibility of the US presidency that his threats are truly no more credible than Jong-un’s. Remember his threats to destroy ISIS, tame Iran, and withdraw from NAFTA – all with dispatch the world has never seen before? Hollow! As it happens, the same can be said about his pledge to get China to swallow the North Korean pickle he’s now gagging on.

Sure enough, Jong-un demonstrated within hours just how hollow his threats are. He willfully (and predictably) crossed Trump’s red line of “fire and fury” by threatening to wipe the US territory of Guam off the map.

Alas, this is the kind of cataclysmic brinkmanship Trump’s “black-swan” presidency has wrought. His A-team of cabinet secretaries were supposed to keep his impulses in check. But they are acting like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is warning about the casualties of war on the peninsula; CIA Director Mike Pompeo is championing the “strategic decapitation” of Jong-un’s regime; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is channeling Rodney King, pleading for everyone to just be friends and get along.

Which is why, despite this nuclear pissing contest, the advice I gave Obama — in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” December 13, 2012 — remains the only effective way to deal with the menace North Korea poses.


Obama should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to a UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):


  • Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
  • Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;

Resolves that:

  1. Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
  2. If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.

All else is folly.


To be fair, Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley deserves honorable mention for this:

The UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions Saturday to punish North Korea for its escalating nuclear and missile programs including a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1 billion — a huge bite in its total exports, valued at $3 billion last year.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the resolution ‘the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime’ and ‘the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.’

(Washington Post, August 6, 2017)

Except that it took no time for news of North Korea’s miniaturized nuclear warhead, to say nothing of its threat against Guam, to make a mockery of this latest round of sanctions. But this validates my contention that all is folly until North Korea actually provokes a retaliatory strike – as my resolution stipulates.

Therefore, I say keep calm and let North Korea carry on playing with its nuclear weapons. After all, it has been self-evident for decades that a preemptive military strike to stop it from doing so is prohibitive. Moreover, it only encourages North Korea’s mischief-making to react so hysterically every time it test-fires a ballistic missile harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

Related commentaries:
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