Trump Telegraphs North Korea Strike

In a pair of tweets comprising a thought more coherent and rhythmical than usual, and containing only a couple of grammatical and structural errors — indicating that it was likely approved or worked over by his circus handlers — President Trump has just announced an imminent military strike on North Korea. More coherent and grammatical than usual, but no wiser.

As I noted weeks ago, Trump’s endless tough guy promises serve no purpose other than to paint himself into a strategic corner. It’s as though he and his administration — clearly he doesn’t deserve all the credit for stupidity here — were engaged in a war of rhetoric with themselves, trying to force their own hand.

Telegraphing an impending assault of some sort is wrongheaded, regardless of whether a plan is really in the works or this is just more of Trump’s insecure narcissist blather. If something is really about to happen — the literal and unavoidable implication of these tweets, consistent with Trump’s comment two days ago that we are in “the calm before the storm” — then why announce it, removing much of the element of surprise that might have helped to prevent a North Korean desperation swipe at Seoul?

And if this is just more chest-pounding, then it crosses way beyond the point of no return, leaving Trump no choice but to act soon (against the military’s actual plans), lest he embolden the North Koreans by reinforcing the well-earned perception of him as a blowhard.

If Trump knew who Teddy Roosevelt was, he would certainly admire him. Someone should teach him about speaking softly and carrying a big stick. I know this would be antithetical to everything Trump has ever been and done, but still, someone ought to try.

The only way to make sense of Trump’s incessant war of threats with Li’l Kim — two man-boys distorted by fears of failing to live up to their fathers’ accomplishments — is that he is actually trying to coax Kim into some form of attack, presumably on Seoul or Japan, so that the U.S. may then wipe him out without being accused of “starting it.” If this is true, it bespeaks an absurdly cynical pragmatism, playing with millions of civilian lives merely in order to improve his diplomatic position at the UN Security Council’s emergency session after the war begins. And it would also be a failed effort in any case. China will accuse the U.S. of starting it regardless of what actually happens, unless, for reasons of their own, which will not be affected by Trump’s rhetoric, the Chinese have decided they can achieve their own aims in the region more easily with the belligerent Kim dynasty out of the way.

In any case, the fallout — sorry to have to use that metaphor in this context — of all this seems to be (a) that Trump is a fool, and (b) that war with North Korea is inevitable, one way or another. The former, we already knew. The latter, I concede with a mixture of deep regret — I live in South Korea and have dear friends here — and resignation.

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