President Donald Trump continued his aggressive statements to North Korea, warning them not to threaten or act against America or any of its allies.
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
The president’s message triggered another round of groans from the media and establishment national security community, particularly from former President Barack Obama’s staff.
“This isn’t a video game. Hundreds of thousands of lives at stake in war with NK,” complained former Deputy National Security Adviser to Obama, Ben Rhodes on Twitter. “Was this statement signed off on by anyone? Was this statement coordinated with South Korea and Japan, our allies who are at enormous risk in conventional conflict with North Korea?”
Yesterday, Trump signaled that he was purposefully trying to send a strong message to North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il.
“It’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries,” Trump told reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey on Thursday.
Later in the day, Trump retweeted a post from U.S. Pacific Command featuring B1 bombers standing ready for military action.
Fire and fury pic.twitter.com/UW95f7tPgU
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) August 11, 2017
“Two U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, under the command of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, joined their counterparts from the Republic of Korea and Japanese air forces in sequenced bilateral missions, August 7,” the release read.
ALERT – TRUMP WARNS NORTH KOREA BOMBERS ARE “LOCK & LOADED”
Donald Trump Wins Round One with North Korea
The mainstream media are aghast at President Donald Trump’s comments on North Korea as he promises “fire and fury” and warns that American military solutions are “locked and loaded.”
The political elite, and the foreign policy establishment, oscillate between bitter scorn and sheer panic at his tactics. But one does not have to be convinced of Trump’s rhetorical genius to note that he has already re-framed the conflict in a way that is advantageous to the U.S.
First, Trump has radically changed the costs of a potential conflict, for both sides. The dominant paradigm of nuclear face-offs is mutually assured destruction (MAD), which is why the Soviet Union and the U.S. never attacked each other during the Cold War. Most of the discussion about North Korea has followed the same pattern, because of the threat of ICBMs to the U.S. mainland. After Trump threatened to annihilate North Korea, however, Kim Jong-un threatened to attack … Guam. Trump doubled down, indicating that a North Korean attack on Guam would trigger an attack against the regime. That shifted the costs of a war radically in our favor and against theirs.
Second, it is noteworthy that the North Korean threat to Guam did not refer to nuclear weapons, but rather hinted at conventional missile strikes. There is no way to know for sure that the regime would not use nuclear weapons, if indeed the North Koreans can miniaturize them, but a conventional attack is certainly less serious than a nuclear one. In threatening the most violent possible attack, Trump elicited a response that is significantly less threatening.
Third, Trump diverted attention away from North Korea’s more vulnerable neighbors, South Korea and Japan. Of course the North Koreans could attack them if the U.S. launched a war. But instead of talking about the potential deaths of millions of people in densely-populated areas, the world is now talking about the qualms felt by a few people on a remote island. That makes Trump’s words look less scary, and eases pressure for the U.S. to back down.
Update: Fourth, the Chinese government is now indicating that it will not defend North Korea from a retaliatory strike if the regime attacks the U.S. (which includes Guam). The Global Times, which reflects the view of the Chinese government, indicated that China would stop the U.S. from trying to overthrow the North Korean regime but would not defend North Korea if it struck the U.S. first. That is a significant change from the status quo ante.
The situation remains unstable, and could escalate. But Trump’s rhetoric is not, as former Obama adviser Susan Rice claims, the problem. In fact, it is part of the solution. It has, at the very least, restored some of our deterrence.