The Most Dangerous President: Ego Trumps Sanity

seoulNorth Korea (NK) is an intractable problem. It is not a country to be messed with. I suggest that one can take judicial notice of that. For were we able to do anything about it we would have done so by now.

A little history.

This report tells us that when LB Johnson was president: The USS Pueblo was in international waters when it was attacked by North Korean warships. “In order to prevent further attacks, Commander Bucher complied with the attacker’s signal to follow them back towards the shore.The DPRK vessels fired upon the Pueblo again when she stopped just outside of the Korean territorial waters. Seaman Duane Hodges was mortally wounded in the attack, and several others were injured as they stood on the deck and flung materials into the sea. Without assistance, and unable to respond to the aggression with due violence, Commander Bucher had no choice but to order that they continue. Shortly after leaving international waters, the Pueblo was boarded. High-ranking North Korean officials were among those who seized the ship, overseeing the capture as the Pueblo’s crew were bound, blindfolded, and beaten. When the ship arrived at the dock in Wonsan, the eighty-three American prisoners were paraded off the ship to the cheers of a gathered crowd. The promised support fighters never arrived.”

This report tells us that when Nixon was president: “On April 14 (1969) a four-engined propeller driven EC-121 Navy aircraft had taken off from Atsugi, Japan, (a base at which I was stationed) for a reconnaissance mission in the Sea of Japan. The aircraft, which was unarmed, had 30 Navy personnel and one Marine on board and was on ―a routine reconnaissance track over international waters.” It was shot down by North Korea in an unprovoked attack. All aboard were lost. Our feeble response to this attack was to show our defiance by continuing to fly those missions. Nixon had been tested and flunked.

That all happened before they had nuclear weapons. Reagan was president when NK first produced plutonium in a reactor; H.W. Bush stood by as it developed enough to make two atom bombs. President Slick Bill made a deal with NK that fell apart after it “launched a separate uranium-enrichment program which crashed relations with the incoming Bush administration. The latter tried isolation of and later engagement with the DPRK; next the Obama administration largely pushed North Korea into the background while strengthening ties with the South.”

You can find articles blaming Republicans for NK’s present military might and those that blame Democrats. The truth is both share equal  responsibility because there is nothing any president can do. We know for sure, as sure as we know we are stuck with Trump as president, that NK will continue to perfect its nuclear capacity perhaps developing nukes that fit on missiles and increasing its missile capability so that in the not too distant future, perhaps before Trump ends his presidency, it will be able to target American cities.

Obviously if we could we would try to stop this but as I said there is no way to do this. The reason is obvious: Seoul.

The city of Seoul has ten million people; the Seoul Capital area has about 25 million people including three-quarters of a million foreigners. That does not include our 30,000 troops stationed there. Seoul is about 35 miles away from NK which has vast artillery guns directed at it. Because a military attack on NK is a non-starter Seoul lives under its guns without fear.  War with NK is an impossibility unless we are willing to be responsible for millions of casualties and the destruction of a thriving democracy.

Why then does Trump send an aircraft carrier to sit off the border of Korea? Why does he tweet this:  I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.” or “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

What is with the “U.S.A.” after each tweet? Is that some type of warhoop? Reminds me of Slim Pickens riding a H-bomb dropped from the B-29  whooping and waving his cowboy hat.

We know NK will soon call his bluff and set off a nuke. It will also do what VP Spence said is a provocation by firing missiles. Trump’s big mouth bluff will be called. It will require him to respond. His ego being involved he’ll feel insulted. He thinks everything is about him.

How sure can we be that he won’t decide to launch a little attack on NK to vindicate the insult? He’s the type who would chance it hoping Kim Jong-un will back down. That’d be great if he did. But if he doesn’t?

20 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous President: Ego Trumps Sanity

  1. The Vice President is Pence, not Spence. We all make typos.

    If Trump’s approach fails it is but one of a long and consistent list of Presidents failing to rein in the Kim Krime Family. The reason we are here today is those past failures. NK has murdered with impunity on foreign shores. The most brazen incident was the Rangoon bombing 1983 in which several high SK officials, several were cabinet ministers, were killed. Earlier this year a brother of Kim’s was murdered in Malaysia. The Kims are not nice people.

    Not knowing what Trump may have up his sleeve perhaps judgement should be reserved. Extreme negatively based on a lack of personal knowledge of Trump’s modus operandi is over the top. There is much in the world that does not revolve around bitterness over entitled Hillary losing the election. Cut the guy some slack. He is the only President you have.

    Past unwillingness to retaliate has escalated the of price facing up to the Kim dynasty. At some point, as with all bullies, the price will get too high. I place my trust in Trump, if, for no other reason, because I must. What is the purpose of partisan bickering in this matter?

    1. Tadzio:

      I hope your trust is well placed but from what I can see at this time threatening North Korea with military action is a non-starter and that is what Trump is doing. We do know he is threatening him putting three carriers off his coast. As for past unwillingness as you now there is a good reason for it. Trump should learn from his predecessors and not think he is smarter than them.

    1. JPC:

      I would not threaten Kim Jung-un with military might. I think Trump has the right idea in bringing China in to help but I think China will go only so far. It likes having its little nut rattling the cage. It also recognizes that if it does too much of a blockade on North Korea there may be a huge crisis which could cause great disruptions on its border by starving people fleeing for help.

      Trump has the wrong idea in putting three aircraft carriers off the coast. All that will happen is he will have to withdraw them or do something with them.

      NC has the right idea. A US/China guarantee of no invasion and several billion a year to the nation. I would do one-on-one negotiations if I was able. Trump should be suggesting that. He sets himself out as the world’s best negotiator. He should ask for a meeting; go to Kim and talk to him.

      I would give Kim anything he asked for up and including a state dinner at the White House if he’d agree to give up missile and nuke program. As you know when dealing with an unpredictable foe the last thing you should do is call his bluff.

      So I’d suck it up and do everything I could to play up to him to make him feel important. That’s the first thing I would do. Yes, and then if that does not work what do I do. At this time nothing else. That’s what all prior president’s decided. Bill says really no solution which I agree. NC suggests Japan and South Korea will want to get nukes. I’d use that as a chip to pressure China into doing more suggesting we would help them (NC points out China fears Japan having them).

      Then, if NK continued along the line which is probably most likely I would make it clear to them that one launch of a nuke means their country disappears. Last thing is to do anything on our behalf to start a war. I say that because the best brains in our country over the last 50 years have made that conclusion. But then again those best brains have brought us to this dangerous stage.

  2. Matt:

    One expert on North Korea recently said, “There are no simple answers.” When asked for the complex answers, he said, “There are none!”

    No one has “the answer” to the question “What to do about North Korea and its unpredictable ruler?”

    Here’s the problem. Some experts say N.K. has 6-10 nuclear bombs; others say 10-20. Today they don’t have the means to deliver them.

    The question: “Do we (the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China, U.N., etc) let North Korea and its volatile ruler develop nuclear armed missiles ?”

    If the answer is No, how do we stop them? Political pressure? Economic pressure? Cyberattacks? Sabotage via covert military ops? Overt military actions?
    Then what?

    Do we start a conventional war to prevent a nuclear war?

    There are no good answers.

    1. Bill:

      True – no answers either simple or complex. Even without the nukes no one wanted to take a fight to North Korea. Now it seems out of the question. Trump is hoping that Kin Jung-un is bluffing and he is trying to bluff him with the three aircraft carriers.

      The solution must be found (NC has a good proposal involving guarantees and money) in the political and economic area. Then again will a guy who is a little crazy recognize a good deal. It may be a simple as inviting him to the U.S. and giving him a big state dinner at the White House. He’s a little fatty who wants recognition. Maybe swallow our pride and play up to him. War is out of the question. Even a little attack can set off a conflagration.

      If it was easy it would not be lingering on since Kennedy/Nixon days.

  3. The more immediate problem is that if nothing is done Japan and S. Korea will soon be facing a nuclear power with the delivery systems to kill tens of millions of their citizens. They can’t wait. Either action is taken or our two allies go nuclear. That is the most troubling scenario for China. They don’t want to face a Japan with hundreds of atomic weapons. 2. The South would have to evacuate the 25 million in the Seoul region prior to any conflict. Not an easy task. A late great military expert told me three years ago that the U S Airforce would wipe out the NK military. But who would provide the ground forces and how many losses are acceptable? 3. Maybe a deal along the lines of the Cuban missile crisis can be had. North Korea dismantles it nuclear and missile programs under U N inspection in return for a guarantee by the U S and China not to invade along with a three billion annual aid package from the IMF. The NK’s main interest is survival.

    1. NC:

      1. You may be right about South Korea and Japan. The U.S. under Trump has shown itself to be a less than reliable ally. They might figure out that they do need their own deterrent and can no longer rely on American commitments.

      2, Have you ever tried evacuating 25 million people? Even if that were possible what would they come home to? How do you start up a thriving democracy from zero. Trump like to talk in dollars and cents; has he any idea what that would cost. Maybe he figures he could get some good deals for land for his hotels after Seoul is reduced to rubble.

      Also, you cannot win a war with an Air Force but that would be the thinking of some military people. Have you seen the millions of goose stepping true believers in Kim Jung-un’s army? Then there is the China and Russia wild cards. War is unthinkable.

      3. The deal you propose makes sense. The problem with it is usually you need at least two parties to the deal to be sane enough to want to make the deal. Bad haircut does not fit that category having killed his uncle and brother; on the other hand the Trump is not so much interested in a deal as in a win. But what you propose makes sense if clear heads prevail.

  4. I think The Bad Haircut in NK is completely insane. I believe his threats. We must believe his threats. There is no reason to think he is bluffing. Forty-five years ago a man I knew that worked for SAC told me that if he were in charge he would decimate NK. His reason was simple. “They are the most dangerous loose cannon on the planet.” Plus, there would be no civilian casualties because there are no civilians. Its elephants all the way down.

    And if there is any question to the man in charge in NK being insane remember that the only US citizen he has met with is Dennis Rodman. Wow!

    1. Honest:

      It would be good if you can convince our president that Kim Jung-un is a nut. I’m not sure he realizes he is dealing with an insane man.

  5. Hi Matt,
    I see the aircraft carrier that was supposed to be stationed off Korea was actually 3,000 miles away and headed in the opposite direction for training exercises with the Australian navy! On Saturday, the day Kim Jong-un put on his missile floor show in Pyongyang, the Carl Vinson was photographed sailing between two Indonesian islands en route o the Indian Ocean.

    It looks to me like Trump backed down, though the Carl Vinson may now be headed for Korean waters. Nobody is quite sure. Trump can’t have been too worried about a showdown with North Korea, since he managed to squeeze in two rounds of golf over the weekend. Presumably, he was kept up to date about the real location of his Fake Naval Armada.

    1. Dan:

      I’m surprised at that because I believed it was already on its way there but I see it won’d get there until the end of April after doing the training you noted. http://wtkr.com/2017/04/18/uss-carl-vinson-carrier-group-expected-off-korea-at-end-of-april/ I’ll have to look at our other carriers since there are supposed to be three heading for that area. It is probable that all can be there by May.

      I have no idea what that will accomplish in any event. I wouldn’t suggest Trump backed down it is just he needs time to think and that is what he does on the golf course where he makes his major decisions. Never criticize him for being on the golf course because it is one of the few times he is not watching cable TV and getting his orders from Fox.

      Keep in mind Trump tweeted about a poll that had him at a 50% approval rate. He will attribute that to his military moves in Syria and Afghanistan. He has a great incentive to keep pushing the military button. I’m hoping he does back down and tries to negotiate out of this problem. Unfortunately he’s dared Kim Jung-un to try him. Had he any sense he would not know not to challenge a mad man (murdered uncle, his family, his brother, and others with anti-aircraft guns). All we can do is wait and see what happens and hopefully he’ll stay on the bright or the golf course.

      1. Matt: I know this is serious business, but I can’t help thinking of Kim Jong-un as the villain in a James Bond movie. There is indeed much to be worried about. Consider the outrageous assassination of Kim Jong Nam. This man was a harmless playboy, shuttling from gambling casino to brothel and back again. He was certainly no threat to North Korea or anybody else.

        To have him murdered in the middle of an international airport suggests to me that Kim Jong-un has a dangerously warped view of the world around him. That said, we have to deal with him. I’d let China take the lead and avoid any actions that might set him off. As you’ve already suggested, thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands of people in the Seoul area could be killed without the use of a single atomic weapon.

  6. Wa-llahi! I’m for buying Kim off. It’s worked well in the past. NK’s game is extortion. Nukes is how they do it. China has taken a hand in the matter. The Chinese have turned back coal shipments from NK. Without Chinese economic co-operation, the dictator can’t provide the life-style his ruling clique demand. Kim looks politically strong, but, is, actually, very weak. The day after the threatened artillery bombardment of Seoul, the NK regime would collapse. It’s a house of cards. Without access to luxury goods, Kim can’t keep his security, and, military services, in line. The Hermit Kingdom has never prospered in complete solitude. China’s econ moves need time to take effect. Patience is what’s needed, now.

  7. Matt,
    Always a pleasure reading your blog. Collateral Damage, etc………etc. Any action by the USA against NK would be disastrous if we responded with nuclear weapons. UNLESS, however, we used the strength of the bomb we exploded over Japan – one-mega-ton – I believe. The effective radius would be under five miles if my calculation is correct. In any event, the nit-wit in charge in NK should be taken out. He is a very immature, narcissistic, and dangerous person. He kills his own relatives to secure his power. Just my humble thoughts.

  8. Agree on the virtue of patience. I suspect that Trump will soon grow bored with Korea and move on to Iran. This could set up a confrontation with Russia. Never a dull moment …..

  9. If China is its main source of money, it is probably the source for it’s weapons program. Economic isolation may put a hurt on them. The only problem is that the USA may actually have to sacrifice some of it’s high standard of living and do some sacrificing of it’s own (more $$$ for goods). We all know that that won’t happen.

  10. Matt- I’ve been reading your blog since it’s earliest days, when I had just finished Brutalman Weeks first novel. At the time, I was still infatuated enough with the Bulger story that I was seeking the most relevant perspective available- which I found in this blog.

    I have frequently since the end of the whitey saga. I (and I believe yourself as well, to a different extent) realized that by giving so much attention to Bulger, we were no better than the majority of people that could not resist the traditional narrative about bulger: ignore the crimes of Weeks along w Murderman Martarano, Flemmi the pedophile, ‘the mask wearing patriot’ pat nee….and, as you know better than anyone else, the other shooter in the back seat of the all those murders martarano committed during the….winter? The reason being that Bulger was just another kid who never grew up. The attention, whatever it was, enhanced his image of being some larger than life crime figure that he was not outside of a very small community in South Boston.

    My point here is not to reminisce over the Whitey days, or criticize the validity of any claims in this article. The purpose is rather to demonstrate the very important lesson you taught me many years ago: don’t get too caught up in proving someone or something wrong to the extent that you can no longer understand the greater importance of a story or narrative.

    You are clearly no fan of President Trump. For what it’s worth, I am not either. However, your posts regarding politics these days seem rather one-sided. For example, I just searched for the name Susan Rice on this blog. Why is it that the most recent article or comment mentioning her name is from 2014? I only ask because you seem to be criticizing the president’s decisions quite frequently, and there is legitimate reason to believe that those decisions are driven by a hostile relationship created by what, of true, would be the greatest political scandal in history. if you’re going to write about Norh Korea, a country US citizens apparently just realized we’re a hostile threat to the US and it’s citizens, maybe the Rice story deserves some attention as well. Would love to hear your thoughts. Let me know if you need links to sources of info.

    1. Trial,

      I thought the conclusion of the Susan Rice matter was that she didn’t do anything wrong. After I read that it disappeared from the news. She though is ancient history. I like to deal with the here and now. Some suggest Clinton was worse than O’Reilly. I’m sure people we’re worse than both.

      Thanks for sticking around a long time. I’m sure my bias against Trump is quite obvious but in part it is based on my continuing wondering what disaster will he next bring about.

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