Posted tagged ‘North Korea’

Rumble In Singapore

June 13, 2018

The long awaited and hyped meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un took place Tuesday in Singapore.  As with most everything with President Trump, the meeting and his Administration’s assessment was long on words but short on facts.  The only relevant take on this historic meeting was that it did not result in outright negative fireworks, at least not yet.

The President’s claim that he had accomplished something past Presidents could not, while technically true, is a meaningless boast.  At this point, no one knows what the President has promised nor what is is willing to accept in return.  If you were South Korea or Japan, it would not be unwise to worry.  The President has little historic perspective and seems handicapped in complex, sophisticated deals.  President Trump prefers straight up “you do this and I will do that” type of thinking and deal making.

IMO, the summit should be viewed positively and a genuine attempt to change North Korea’s pension for bellicose behavior.  Without dropping all previous American requirements for ending sanctions, it is difficult to imagine an agreement emerging (with the likes of John Bolton in the Administration).  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, however.

Americans would wisely withhold praise for President Trump until detail negations play out.  As President Trump often says, peace on the Korean peninsula is good for everyone.  It should not come as a surprise that President Trump’s interest is primarily political (winning points with his base).  The actual results of further negotiations will speak for themselves and may shed light upon why previous Presidents did not meet face to face with North Korean leaders.

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Confused? Or Trying To Confuse?

April 4, 2018

President Trump has had quite a week for himself.  He has set off the first skirmish of a potentially harmful trade war.  He has changed his National Security Advisor to a George W Bush “let’s invade Iraq” chicken hawk whose previous positions have been to preemptively strike North Korea and scrap the Iran nuclear agreement.  And today, the President announced the movement of US troops to the Mexican boarder allegedly to keep Mexican immigrants (and drugs) out.  

With trade, the President begins with a reasonable thesis, China has been strong arming Americans companies in order to obtain intellectual property and have been exporting far too much steel on world markets.  This has not been a mystery to previous Administrations but how to curtail China’s behavior has been elusive. 

The President said he would be different and immediately announced large tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, which would include China.  Predictably (history is a good teacher), China retaliated with tariffs on a wide range of politically sensitive US exports and hinted that more could come if the US did not rethink its new tariffs.

Almost coincident with firing HR McMaster as National Security Advisor, President Trump received and accepted an invitation to summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  McMaster’s replacement, John Bolton is a hawk’s hawk.  Do you wonder what type of advice Bolton will give on how President Trump should deal with North Korea? 

Even more curious is what to do about Iran.  Again, President Trump sees Iran correctly in the sense of pursuing its own Middle East agenda.  The President has shaded his views about the Iran Nuclear Agreement from Iran violating the agreement (which Iran has not) to the agreement’s “spirit” (the agreement is about nuclear activity not other matters) claiming Iran is acting poorly and therefore the US should withdraw from the agreement. 

Has the President considered that (1) none of the other signatories to the Iran Nuclear Agreement will withdraw, and (2) simply walking away from the Iran Nuclear Agreement will not be lost on North Korea (or China) as to how much value one should put into any future US agreement.

With respect to Mexico, the President again is correct that some Mexicans and some amount of drugs pass through the US-Mexican boarder.  Most reports, however, indicate the flow of Mexican undocumented immigrants is at very low levels if at all.  And with respect to drugs, there is little indication a wall or a battalion of soldiers will make any difference

So why does the President say the things he does?

There are as many theories to explain the President’s behavior as there are pundits.  No one really knows, that is the President has not explained his motives directly to a confidant.  But one can safely begin by assuming the President is not confused.  President Trump is a 100% “ends justify the means” type of personality.  

For example, today the President jumped again onto Amazon linking Amazon’s use of US Postal Service local delivery as unfair to the Post Office and tax payers.  There is speculation President Trump’s real target is Jeff Bazos, CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post. 

Maybe and in addition, just as possible an explanation for the President claiming a string of clearly untrue charges against Amazon is to distract voters who will soon be feeling the blowback from tariffs, will see the North Korean overtures going astray, will see the US isolated from other world allies over Iran, and see the wastefulness and inadequatecies of using highly trained instruments of war attempting to police the almost 2000 mile Mexican border.

The office of President of the United States has served as an example for all American children that hard work and honesty can serve their lives well and some day they might too become President.  President Trump seems set everyday to darken that image to the point where unlike George Washington who could not tell a lie, future generations might not be able to tell the truth if they follow the President’s habits.

Leading From Behind, II

September 5, 2017

America’s two major political parties have spent the last decade identifying issues which their supporters held sacred and then blaming their political opponents for supposed transgressions, regardless of what was best for our Country. One of the best examples might be Republican’s claims that President Obama was weak on foreign policy and specialized in “leading from behind”. Evidence abounded, Republicans claimed. Look at the Middle East, North Korea, and Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Hmmm.

Hypocrisy overflowed with each criticism of President Obama. It was on Republican President George W Bush watch that Iraq was invaded and occupied and when Afghanistan’s police mission morphed into nation building. And, it was a Republican controlled Congress which refused to vote any authorization for Middle East military action while the world watched Syria melt down.

So, today we have a Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress. What type of global leadership does America present now?

The first statement that can be made is that when foreign affairs is measured in “tweets”, American is in a leading position.

The second statement might be President Trump believes in “strategy-free” foreign affairs. This second statement enables the President to speak sharply about a subject and then undercut his emphasis with a completely unrelated comment whose consequence is to negate any positive effect his first statement might produce. Witness the call for China to help reign in North Korea one moment and then threatening to punish China with trade restrictions.

The President, of course, is trying to have it both ways (delight his supporters with tough talk towards both North Korea and China while blindly thinking tough talk is enough or that China could care the least about North Korean threats towards the US).

The third statement might be the “proof is in the pudding”. Has President Trump succeeded at anything domestically or in foreign policy? Has President Trump or Congress lined up global leaders behind any Trump policies, especially any aimed at making the global community economically stronger and more secure?

Do world leaders think better of President Trump than his predecessor former President Obama?

The world is a very complicated place and the days of US overwhelming economic and military superiority versus the rest of the world is over. Nuclear weapons lie in many different countries’ hands. Developed Countries are wealthy by historic standards. Further, the national interests of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, India, China, Russia and Europe are not aligned other than to think the US already has too much and they have too little. Hmmm.

President Obama left a legacy which President Trump has worked to negate. President Obama comprehended global events as complicated and complex, and requiring thoughtful, integrated US response.  The Paris Climate Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership were two worthwhile and potentially useful initiatives which worked on real issues while building trust and partnership.

So President Trump’s attacking or walking away from policies which could help bind nations together (or at least keep them from drifting further apart), seems a bit short sighted.

I wonder if President Trump’s “tweet driven” style could be seen as “Leading From Behind, II”.  Do you think it is as thoughtful as former President Obama’s foreign policies?

Getting Respect You Deserve

August 13, 2017

On Facebook, some “friends” of mine like and share right wing posts which usually follow the same design. “DO YOU THINK PRESIDENT TRUMP IS GETTING THE RESPECT HE DESERVES?” The post asked the reader to like and share.  This is a question, however, that is difficult to answer.

This past week our President tossed out one after another totally unpresidential and irresponsible epitaphs aimed at North Korea. “Fire and Fury” and “Locked and Loaded” make absolutely no sense in a diplomatic environment and almost assuredly will have little or no impact upon North Korea.  This type of rhetoric is just as opaque to our allies and adversaries.

Trump’s aggressive words, in this case, appear aimed not at North Korea but more likely at his domestic political base. Your President is no whip!

President Trump, a Vietnam service avoider, like the George W Bush and his cabinet, speak tough but their words are about sending other people’s children into harms way. And you can probably bet your house that most Trump friendly groups who adore the President will not be volunteering for the military anytime soon.

White House spinners suggested that President Trump’s message was aimed at China, directly encouraging them to solve the North Korean problem. After a few days, China issued a smart message. China said it would not support North Korea if they provoked the US. China would, however, support North Korea if the US preemptively attacked North Korea.

And in a few words, China flushed the Trump rhetoric down the drain.

Over the weekend, more of President Trump’s chickens came home to roost. In Charlottesville, Virginia, a white supremacy demonstration ended in chaos and violence as pro and anti groups predictably clashed. As the dust settled, President Trump spoke denouncing violence but not white supremacy. The Trumpster decried violence by both sides in this matter.

So to the over arching question, is President Trump receiving the respect he deserves, one must say the President is receiving at least as much as he deserves and maybe more.

The North Korean Test

April 15, 2017

Is it Deja Vu all over again? The Trump Administration appears to be facing a similar “going nuclear” threat former President George W Bush saw before invading and occupying Iraq. There are some key differences, however. North Korea is already nuclear so there is no need to doctor the intelligence reports. Hmmm.

North Korea appears to be its own worst enemy. North Korea runs a bizarre isolated State where there is the Kim family and a close group of associates and everyone else. Starvation and deprivation are common conditions while the elite eat well and the country spends billions upon armaments and nuclear research. But what separates North Korea from other two bit authoritarian States is its willingness to tell the world of its plans. Irrational maybe but secretive, not.

If one plays along with the North Korean narrative, one should expect to see North Korea soon with tactical nuclear bombs and delivery devices (submarines and intercontinental rockets) capable of reaching any country who threatens North Korea (read US). What then one might ask?

Does anyone think North Korea could survive and exchange of nuclear bombs? Does anyone think the US would sue for peace if attacked by North Korea? Don’t think so.

So, if that is North Korea’s stated strategic intent (nuclear weapons and delivery systems), to what end would this capability be put? Does North Korea still seek to unite the Korean peninsula under their leadership? And would that be the end or would there be further territorial targets, like pay back goals such as attacking Japan or Russia?

Who knows what evil lurks in men’s minds?

One can see even better now what a poor example the Iraq Invasion and Occupation serves. To be sure a nuclear capable Iraq would have been a highly destabilizing factor in the Middle East. But the Iraq War was never really about potential nuclear weapons, there were none. The Iraq War was about enormously misguided neoconservative views about establishing a democracy in the heart of Arab fiefdoms, a shining light so to speak in a dark part of the world. The Iraq War would also show the rest of the world how powerful the US was and consequently make it much easier for the US to exert its will in other trouble spots. Oh, if that had been true?

North Korea is much different, or is it? What might happen if the US (even with China’s tacit approval) launched a pre-emptive attack. What if, as a result of this attack, there was regime change. What might follow? Would there emerge a lawless State bent on disrupting everyday life in South Korea or even China, sort a pirate like Asian Somalia.
Or would the US (and South Korea and Russia) accept Chinese occupation of the North in order to provide law and order. Or if one is really dreaming, would China (and South Korea and Russia) accept US occupation?

Hmmm.

This is the mess facing President Trump. Clearly North Korea is a failed State and if magic could rule, North Korea should be transformed into a peaceful nation. But there is no plan or expectation of this positive outcome at this time.

So, does the Trump Administration just watch and hope for the best? Does the Trump team work on China in hopes of forming a combined effort to change North Korea’s behavior? And what role, if any, does Russia play?

Logic would demand that the three great powers work together and resolve the North Korean threat. North Korea’s nuclear weapons could be aimed at anyone. But working together requires trust and tell me how much trust exist betweens Russia, China, and the US at present?

Arguably the North Korea Test is one the Trump Administration is least able to handle. President Trump has a career of “bullying” tactics, followed by a deal, followed by selective reneging. Is that the type of person Russia and China might want to make a deal?

Consequently, the Trump Administration is left with a “wait and hope” that China can/will apply more pressure on North Korea so that North Korea voluntarily muzzles its provocative statements and puts into moth balls its current efforts to weaponize its nuclear capability. The North Korean Test, far more than the Syrian civil war, teaches the basics of, like it or not, the US cannot be an isolationists (America first), and being a globalist is an extremely difficult act.

Finding True North

December 17, 2014

Every once in a while, there comes along a news story which makes absolutely no difference about anything but some how can’t be erased from the public spot light. The alleged North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures is just such an example.

Sony Pictures has produced a movie with a plot involving a CIA planned assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong-Un. Why anyone would write such a script?  And make it a fictional comedy? for

The real life story involves North Korean agents hacking into the Sony Pictures’ computers and up loading movies and emails.  This is theft.  Subsequently, this pirated material was released to private sources who intern up loaded it to publicly available sites.

But it didn’t stop there.

In quick pursuit, all the major print and electronic news agencies published from this treasure trove of gossip as juicy material as they could find. And like all good news persons, these major media outlets contacted the individuals involved seeking quotes. Hmmm.

After a few days when the great revelations had given way to more minor and petty ones, a new set of voices stepped forward. “How can the media print stolen material?” Was this going to be a battle between the 1st and 4th Amendments? Where were the major outlets standards?

The Pentagon Papers were in essence “stolen material”, yet most observers would justify the publishing of them pointing to Government misdeeds. The Sony Pictures’ materials, however, do not rise to that standard of national security… or do they?

In this age of competition between old media and new digital media, the main stream printed or televised media appears afraid of its own shadow.  Old media has to move so much faster than in the past in order not to get scooped.  In this new speed, old media appears to have lowered its thinking standards.

The type of “news” exposed by these pirated up loads has in the past been found in the checkout aisles of grocery stores, not on the front pages of the Washington Post or New York Times.

Ironically, the real news story has yet to be printed.

Who broke into Sony Pictures electronic files? How did they break in and take this data without tipping off Sony? How could the thieves pass this information onto others without leaving a clear trace leading to their door steps? How much broader could these techniques be applied and what other personal or public data could be made public without permission? (Remember Bradley Manning and Wikileaks?)

I would have expected better from the likes of NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox (well maybe not Fox). I wonder whether these media giants still test their news producers about whether they can find “true north”?

What To Do About North Korea?

April 11, 2013

There is a lot of huffing and puffing going on about a two bit country in East Asia.  Of course I am talking about nuclear capable North Korea.  Every evening the nightly news shows breathlessly talk about the latest rhetoric flowing from North Korean sources.  Are we on the brink of nuclear war?

If you planning some fun events for this weekend, my advice would be to not think twice and go about your business.  If you had cancelled any events, I would strongly advise “take two aspirins, turn off the TV, and catch up on a good read”.

So why all this noise?

Probably two reasons.  (1) The media is simply shameless.  For them a world event with the US somehow involved represents dollars from heaven.  (2) For friends of the US defense budget, this is what they live for.  How can Congress cut defense spending with a war at our door steps?

So why are the North Koreans acting so strange?    Most likely it is just an extortion attempt.  South Korea and the US have in the past, on occasions of similar North Korean behavior, rewarded them with something good.  This time South Korea and the US are not likely to step forward with any goodies.  So who is going to be extorted?

My guess is that quietly China will promise some help on fuel or grain or something that the UN sanctions are keeping from North Korea.  In return for this help, China will ask North Korea to tone it down.  So North Korea will get its reward for acting out.

The actual situation is ludicrous.  North Korea might not last one day if armed warfare were to begin.    But… there is always the unexpected…  And were North Korea to use weapons of mass destruction, the US response would put an end to North Korea’s capability.   The question would be, at what cost and unintended consequence?

The US needs to make clear through diplomatic channels to North Korea, China, South Korea, and Japan what the consequences would be if North Korea were to attack any of its neighbors.  This message should be private and all North Korean public statements should be ignored.

Publicly, North Korea does not exists.  Privately, China, you must take care of North Korea, and South Korea and Japan, go on about your ways, China and the US have the situation under control.

With this approach, the big loser would be the media with the military industrial cousins holding fast.