Archive for the ‘North Korea’ category

The Smell Of Coffee

July 5, 2017

Six months does not make a year, and a year does not make a four year term. President Trump (and his advisors), however, are waking up to the reality of governing. Much of President Trump campaign’s boastful rhetoric have already been exposed as misguided myths. Too little time has passed to fairly pass judgement upon what President Trump has done or what he has not. A quick look is not encouraging, however.  Maybe his staff and advisors are saying “pass the coffer”.

On the domestic front, President Trump has continuously blustered about both creating and retaining American jobs. There is little evidence of either, and as important, his budget proposals have circled thousands of current Federal jobs for elimination. I wonder whether the President is using “new math”?

And just in case the Administration has not been looking, internet giants such as Amazon have been marching forward with “job eliminating” new efficiencies. If Trump’s advisors are honest with themselves they should marvel at how resilient the economy they inherited really was.

The Obamacare “repeal and replace” has not turned out to be a “walk in the park”, done, and mark that one off the list type of initiative. Funny but most Americans want the benefits of Obamacare. Further, once fact checked, Republican criticisms melt under a healthy dose of facts and transparency. And best of all, voters have seen what was always there. Republicans are only interested in the tax cut which will accrue for the wealthy. The specific American Health Care Act benefits, if enacted, will be the bare minimum necessary to pass the AHCA.

The campaign’s vitriolic immigration slogans have also been shot full of holes. The top priority Mexican border wall has gone no where after just about everyone involved has declined to endorse the efficacy of addition fencing. Congress has twice chosen not to appropriate money. And, more telling is that there are no indications that illegal immigration has increased.   Even more telling is that business leaders are calling for more temporary labor since they cannot find enough American citizens to fill jobs ranging from technology to agriculture to domestic occupations.

Foreign affairs, probably, best characterizes the Trump Administration ineptness. Trump’s shoot from the hip style has proven to be grossly ineffective. Foreign leaders who possess much less power (ships, soldiers, and planes), have learned to survive employing long term strategies and short term diplomacy. Countries such as Germany, France, Japan, China, and India have over the years cleverly closed large parts of their economies to American companies. These leaders are not going to concede these advantages to President Trump’s taunts and threats.

The President’s decision to withdraw from the TPP and the Paris Climate Accord, both actions were designed to appeal to Trump supporters domestically, simply convinced leaders around the world to say little, work together, and forget about the US until it regains its senses.

His claims of “bombing the S**t out of ISIS and quickly ending the conflict has been shown bogus, but what will he do with what follows ISIS? In Afghanistan, the Trump Administration appears on the verge of increasing troop strength with no known strategy for ending the conflict.

North Korea was to have melted away after President Trump became “buddy-buddy” with China’s President Xi. Today, after North Korea demonstrated ICBM capability President Trump looks to more people, simply a king with no clothes.

There is, of course, plenty of time for future world events to prove President Trump’s blustering prescient.  I wonder whether his staff will up their coffee intake in order to get a real grip on reality?

Trump’s Syria

April 5, 2017

How many people do you know, besides yourself, who wished they could take back something they may have said in haste? Plenty I bet. Former President Obama is surely one of them too. His unfortunate “red line” warning is a good example.

Former President Obama was quite on the mark when he expressed outrage that anyone, and in particular, the Syrian Government would use chemical warfare, and use these outlawed weapons on its own people. Obama’s issuing of a warning he could not enforce was at its best like pulling for an inside straight. There was no way the treat would alter the behavior of a regime fighting for its life. At it worst, Obama’s red line reinforced the impression that the US would not act in any decisive manner to end the Syrian insurrection.

A lot has happened since the former President’s ill fated words. Russia’s entry into the conflict seems to have tilted power back into the Syrian Government’s hands. While needless deaths have continued, there seems to have been every indication that the civil war was heading to a conclusion. And then yesterday, Syria used chemical weapons again.

Pictures of the aftermath are horrific. Shown are defenseless civilians, including children, reacting to the painful and life threatening effects of these weapons (believed to be sarin gas). In what had already been documented as a war against humanity, a new outrageous chapter was opened.

President Trump now has the spotlight on him. What will the President do?

President Trump, in a pattern which seems genuinely him, immediately blamed someone else, this time President Obama. If President Trump really believes these words, America and Americans are really in trouble.

Lest we not forget, in another place on the globe, North Korea has continued to act provocatively on President Trump’s watch and other than words, the President has done nothing. Now President Trump has two failed States acting up and both apparently uninterested in making any deal with the great deal maker.

Syria sits in the middle of the Middle East. The invasion and occupation of Iraq opened Pandora’s Box, destabilizing the entire region. Thinking that an outside force, especial a non-Muslim force, can put Humpty Dumpty together again is wishful thinking.

North Korea, which lies snuggly against China’s northeast border, represents a different but equally dangerous challenge. Like President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Kim Jung Un is all about how to keep himself in power, and like Syria, North Korea cares little about the well being of its citizens. President Trump has said “all options are on the table” in response to North Korean provocations (striking the US west coast with a nuclear weapon). Does that sound like a red line?

Whether President Trump likes it or not, his Administration now owns North Korea and Syria. What ever goes right or wrong in either regime will be like fly paper. The great deal maker will not be able to get it off his hands.

Spy or Tourist… or Missionary?

November 9, 2014

Kenneth Bae and Mathew Miller were released by North Korea yesterday. US Director of Intelligence, James Clapper, flew to North Korea unannounced and returned with the two imprisoned Americans. The question of whether these two were spies or tourists or missionaries gone astray is so far left unanswered.

Both had said they were tourists (Bae was a tour organizer) but North Korea alleged they engaged in unlawful activity. Hmmm. In North Korea, spying and evangelizing count as unlawful activity.

The arrest and detention of American tourists has happened enough times previously that other than spying, I can think of no good reason for anyone to visit the People’s Republic. I wonder what these two were thinking?

Taking pictures, attempting to speak with locals on subjects potentially confidential, or visiting restricted areas all could be interpreted by North Koreans as unfriendly acts. Discussing the Bible, however, seems more a nuisance than a threat to the State.

Running around brandishing a Bible in Pakistan or Iran or dozens of other Muslim countries could get someone stoned to death or imprisoned for life. Muslim Countries often view pro-Bible activity as an affront to Allah, and that is bad news.

North Korea, like any good Communist country is technically “godless”. North Korea’s reaction seems totally predictable.  Why should they tolerate impolite behavior from guest visitors who persist in evangelizing knowing full well that such acts exhibit both poor manners and illegal activity. Hmmm.

So, coming full circle, isn’t that what spies do? Do not spies look for deception to provide cover for their clandestine acts? Is it possible these two were involved in secret communications with the North Korean regime?

If, on the other hand, Bae and Miller were just exuberant missionaries, the US should deem their conduct as extremely foolish, confiscate their passports, and never allow them to travel overseas again.

I would think the Director of Intelligence has better things to do with his time.

Or, does he?

Publish or Be Forgotten

May 8, 2008

It looks like the slightly modified phrase normally applied to accedemics, “Publish or Perish”, is now more aptly applied to Bush Administration losers, “Publish or Be Forgotten”.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, you will find to op-ed pieces written by already discredited people.  Your friends, Karl Rove and little Johnny Bolton, write about their favorite subjects in ways that say nothing and suggest ulterior motives.  So much for “fair and balanced”.

Rove writes “It’s Obama, Warts and All” in his Jeykll and Hyde manner.  He would like to make you think he is objective but there is a sound of desperation on how the Republican candidate can pull out the election.  (Unsaid but implied is that John McCain could pull it out with Karl Rove’s help.)  The key to the lack of genuineness is Rove’s reference to Reverend Wright and saying that this would be an important issue (like a wart?).  With Hagee and Robertson in your corner, McCain will need to be careful about opening that can of worms. 

Johnny Bolton writes “Bush’s North Korea Nuclear Abdication” (surprise, surprise) and once again tells us nothing.  Bolton seems to forget that all military means are off the table because he and other like minded neoconservatives committed all of the US military resources to Iraq for a war that was not needed.  Bolton is a “senior fellow” at the American Enterprise Institute and it would appear that his job is to continually stir the mud around North Korea making improved relations with North Korea or its neighbors more difficult.  Bolton seems to miss the point that for both China and Russia, there is no advantage for a nuclear capable North Korea.  I do not give credit to the Bush Administration for a sane policy towards North Korea since they have seemed incapable of forging any sensible foreign policy for any part of the world.  Rather, Bush has no options and both Condi Rice and Robert Gates know how foolish it would be to escalate adversarial relations with North Korea.  It is a shell game where the world knows that there is no peanut under any of the shells Bush is moving around.

Johnny Bolton Rides Again

April 15, 2008

Former UN Ambassador John R Bolton writes in today’s Wall Street Journal (Bush’s North Korea Capitulation) with great dismay over what Bolton sees as a weak stand towards North Korea.  This is one of many similar outcries from Bolton and other neoconservatives.  This group should consider adopting the name “neoconfrontationists” (although “wrong headed”, “narrow focused”, “shoot first – ask later”, and “give me a gun and everything will be ok” would all serve their purpose too).

Bolton is so delusional in speaking of “Bush’s policy” when he has all the experience to know that George W Bush has not held a single policy during his entire Administration.  Instead Bush has governed by doing what Dick Cheney or Karl Rove told him to do and the thought of any organized follow through (what executives normally do) on whatever the subject is simply not in keeping with the President who prefers to ride his mountain bike and go to bed early.

North Korea is a troublesome State (to be sure) to have to deal with.  Bush could invade and try regime change again.  Fortunately he does not have enough troops (since they are all bogged down in Iraq).  The question is how to get North Korea to want to be like South Korea or other civilized States.  While regime change might work, this should be rejected out of hand unless it is undertaken by China.  So what about natural consequences?

North Korea is a poor country and the road to possession of nuclear weapons is both very expensive and not a good deal for China or Russia as well as the rest of the world.  Why not bleed the North Koreans slowly dry until such time as their international behavior improves (in order to get economic relief)?  Why not do this with the support of China who has a zillion dollars to underwrite any economic blockade.

What Bolton and all the other PNAC supporters fail to recognize is the world has changed.  China and India with 2 1/2 billion people and rapidly expanding GDPs are out of the box and we can not act as we once did when their voices did not count.  The Boltons of the world must learn to accept this and consider policies that include the willing participation of countries in the region and not just the gun totters from America.

Surprise, Surprise

April 6, 2008

Reports coming from the meeting between President George W Bush and Soviet President, Vladimir Putin sounded totally predictable.  Putin showed Bush around Putin’s “get-a-way” on the Black Sea playing up to George’s vein ego.  George strutted around like he was important (and effective), both of which he is not.  The US sources quietly allowed that there would be no deal on the wrong headed proposal by Cheney and friends to place radar and anti-missile missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland.  I wonder why?

Could it be that this deployment makes no sense simply listening to the justifications given?  Who are the rogue nations with the capability, desire, and stupidity to fire intercontinental missiles at Europe or the US?  The deployment into countries very close to the Russian boarders is akin to the Russians deploying similar systems into Venezeula to protect them from unnamed threats in South America.  Would the US welcome that type of deployment?

Or could it be that “one issue at a time” Bush does not see the connection or that other people think in parallel and connect issues in trying to understand motives.  Bush hardly misses a chance to criticize Putin or Russia or to take the opportunity to champion some policy that the Russians view threatening.  Only earlier this week, while in the Ukraine, did Bush push for the inclusion of the Ukraine in NATO… of course against strong Russian objections.  Thankfully both Germany and France saw to it that Bush’s ideas were dead on arrival.

The next occupants of the White House need to learn from this situation.  (1) Don’t push issues that make no sense even if they are bankrolled by your rich supporters, and (2) remember that you can’t stick the other guy in the eye all the time and expect that person to cut you a break.  Bush seems to have been out of school the day they taught that lesson. 

International Diplomacy is an Art

April 1, 2008

Little Georgie Bush is on his own in Eastern Europe and making all sorts of statements disconnected from the main US interests and equally unhelpful in finding a way out of the Middle East mess.  We already know that George was a C+ student at Yale and can not be expected to command the broad understanding of the interconnections of foreign policies.  But it is not too much to expect that the State Department would provide him some diplomatically correct words if he insists on saying anything at all.

In a speech in the Ukraine, President Bush taunted the Russians by saying that the US (meaning Dick Cheney and George Bush) STRONGLY supported the entry of Ukraine into NATO.  If that was not enough, he went on to say, “and Russia will have no vote on this matter.”   So much for any help from the Russians on any Middle East conflict resolution (read Iran).  You have to admit that understanding the neoconservative flavor of Bush and Cheney’s rhetoric is relatively easy but why they say such things is mind boggling.  It is just wrong headed and clearly on a disaster course.

The US is at a point where the President should know and involve the Russians in important foreign policies such as:

  • Containment of Iran and its nuclear weapons ambitions
  • International coordination of efforts to combat extremists, especially Islamic ones
  • An ending to the Iraqi insurgency
  • A settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian situation
  • An end to the North Korean nuclear activities

But our man George seems to see the world as “one offs”, everything being totally separate issues.  For George, each issue requires a short briefing and then a fiery speech, and then more mountain biking.  It is simply mind boggling that for almost 8 years we have had a President who can not connect what he does today with what he did yesterday, and has no idea how both will affect tomorrow.