The Transylvania Times -

Dangerous Statements


August 10, 2017

“This is a real blunder on the part of Mr. Trump.”

-Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump, apparently in response to reports that North Korea has developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could be placed on an intercontinental missile, said, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States ... He (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Since the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to bring World War II to an end, most people interpret the president’s statement, particlarly the phrase “the likes of which this world has never seen before,” to mean the president is willing to drop numerous nuclear bombs on North Korea.

Such a statement is dangerous and counter-productive. Instead of quelling North Korea’s bellicosity, the North Koreans responded by saying they would target Guam, a U.S. territory, and “turn the U.S. mainland into the theater of nuclear war.” At this point, those seem to be an idle threats since it’s unclear just how close North Korea is to putting all the pieces together to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. or our allies in the Pacific. And our superior defense systems could destroy most of their weapons.

But all it takes is one nuclear weapon to find its target and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives could be lost.

A conventional war would also yield devastating results. The U.S. would win, but there would most likely be hundreds of thousands of South Koreans killed, as well as many U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. As Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis said, “A conflict in North Korea ... would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”

Such a war could de-stabilize relations with other countries, particularly China. As we have seen in the past, a conflict that initially begins with two countries can expand to include many more. Due to the utter annihilation the U.S. and China could inflict on each other, such a conflict appears highly unlikely, but sometimes when a chain of events is set in motion they can inexorably move forward, no matter how stupid or detrimental they may be, as exemplified by the statement “In order to save the village we had to destroy it.”

But it’s not just China. The remaining South Koreans might rebuke the U.S. for starting what they might view as an unnecesssary war which would cost them most dearly.

And the world does not operate in a vacuum. Putting more resources into a fight against North Korea means fewer resources to fight ISIS and other terrorist organizations around the world.

All of these events could unfold if the president is serious. But if the president is bluffing, then that also undermines our credibility abroad. The president has previously said his administration will “handle” North Korea. Yet, the North Koreans continue undeterred with their nuclear weapons program. They appear to be calling his bluff.

North Korea, undoubtedly, presents a difficult situation. Previous presidents have tried to stifle the country’s aggressive militarization to no avail. And steps need to be taken to prevent the country from becoming capable of accurately delivering nuclear warheads to the U.S. and our allies. But threatening nuclear war publicly is not the answer.

We have no idea all that the U.S. has in its arsenal, but possibly there are cyberattacks similar to Stuxnet, which set the Iranian nuclear program back years, that could significantly delay North Korea’s nuclear progress. Or maybe there are more clandestine operations that could weaken Kim Jong Un. The recently imposed sanctions also should be given some time to see if they have any salutary effect. Diplomacy with and through China could be pursued.

The situation calls for incredible thoughtfulness and discussion based on all available evidence from military and diplomatic leaders. Plans and alternatives need to be created and reviewed. The possible ramifications of each potential action, even words from the president, need to be examined. Options need to be discussed privately. Our leaders should be tight-lipped, and when the proper time comes, we should act decisively and swiftly to resolve the situation.


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