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Stop Comparing North Korea to Libya

Marc Thiessen has more awful advice [1] for Trump on North Korea:

Trump should make clear to both North Korea and China, absent an agreement, that sanctions will get tighter and military action is possible. And that means the “Libya model” is indeed on the table.

Thiessen’s “analysis” of why North Korea reacted so angrily to the “Libyan model” rhetoric is wrong as usual, but the more important thing that he misses is that North Korea today and Libya c. 2003-04 don’t have much in common except for their pariah status. North Korea’s government took offense from the Libya comparison above all because they found it demeaning to be likened to a government with a much less developed nuclear program. Inasmuch as North Korea’s government desires to be acknowledged as a nuclear-weapons state on par with the others, talking about them in the same breath with Libya was an insult as well as a threat.

Talking about military action against North Korea as though it were anything like bombing Libya in 2011 is also profoundly misleading and dangerous. Unlike Gaddafi’s Libya, North Korea is prepared and able to retaliate against an attack and could do enormous damage to South Korea and Japan and possibly to the U.S. as well. Attacking Libya was ill-advised, but attacking North Korea would be insane. Backing a rebellion against a relatively weak dictator with an air campaign is very different from initiating a war with a nuclear-armed state. Trump and Pence’s threats against North Korea over the last week were so alarming to American observers in part because neither of them seemed to grasp how much more destructive and disastrous war with North Korea would be than the 2011 intervention in Libya was. Intervention in Libya was a serious mistake, but war with North Korea would be a catastrophe, and pairing the two makes the latter seem easier and much less dangerous than it really is. Only ideologues and fanatics would keep insisting that there is a military option against North Korea.

Sanctions aren’t going to get any tighter than they have been. “Maximum pressure” was not what brought North Korea to the table anyway, and now that it has come to the table China and South Korea have little incentive to support increasing pressure. By blindsiding U.S. allies and everyone else with his summit decision, Trump made it easier for other governments to ignore what he wants and he has reduced U.S. influence with all of them. Thiessen was wrong last week [2] when he said Trump had North Korea “cornered,” and he is wrong again that Trump can resume and intensify the pressure campaign.

The U.S. still needs to lower its expectations and reduce its demands, and then maybe some compromise agreement could be worked out if the administration is prepared to accept one. The administration has to stop thinking of North Korea as another Libya in any way, and to do that they need to come to terms with the reality that North Korea isn’t going to agree to their maximalist demands.

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7 Comments To "Stop Comparing North Korea to Libya"

#1 Comment By ukm1 On May 26, 2018 @ 2:31 pm

In any general survey, American people still believe that, American govt. could militarily defeat Soviet Union and de-nuclearize Russian government.

So, if American govt. of President Ronald Wilson Reagan could de-nuclearize Soviet Union or Russia, North Korea must be a piece of cake or a bowl of rice-pudding!

Vast majority of Americans are very optimistic people indeed.

#2 Comment By b. On May 26, 2018 @ 2:33 pm

“Only ideologues and fanatics would keep insisting that there is a military option against North Korea.”

Succinct and important. The armchairmen of the presidential-congressional-military-industrial profits are applying scale model brains to their cognitive “Libya scale model” of North Korea.

Moon and Kim just met again. South Korea and China both appears to be signalling that they consider the best option for peace and stability is engagement regardless of US posture. Trump has no sanctions w/o the support of China and Russia, and he has already used sanctions in an attempt to coerce both Russia and China – the next available escalation is an open military naval blockade of North Korea. It will be educational to see whether South Korea is going to join the “coalition of the usual suspects” – as the Trump administration already implied some EU participation – and whether South Korea will be able to keep the US navy and its “allies” from operating within South Korean territorial waters without the consent of the Moon government, and use facilities and bases in South Korea to support such an escalation.

“Maximum pressure” is beginning to sound like Mattis, Bolton, Pompeo et.al. are beginning to suffer from cognitive constipation – or incontinence?

#3 Comment By Bergen On May 26, 2018 @ 2:35 pm

Since when threatening your negotiation partner with murder is a good idea, especially in a peace negotation?

#4 Comment By DP On May 26, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

Thiessen is and always has been a dishonest hack. He also claims North Korea wants the “Iran model,” which he calls sanction relief without full denuclearization. This is again either completely missing the point or deliberately lying about it. Iran had no actual nuclear weapons capability. North Korea has built bombs. Just as with Libya, there is no comparison between the Iran and North Korea situations.

This administration’s direction is being decided by a motley mismatch of people who don’t understand the situation and people who want war. Pray they cancel each other out and other countries take the lead in developing a sensible approach.

#5 Comment By Don’t Bother On May 27, 2018 @ 4:48 am

“The administration has to stop thinking of North Korea as another Libya in any way,”

Maybe so, but the American people need to start thinking of Trump as a combination of the worst aspects of Bush II (Iraq, Afghanistan) and Obama (Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria).

How dare Bolton and Pompeo openly sh!t on Trump voters with a gratuitous positive citation of the Libya disaster – an Obama and Clinton-engineered disaster that we voted against and that Trump campaigned against.

And how dare Trump hire these bastards in the first place?

#6 Comment By fabian On May 29, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

Didn’t China said some months ago that if NK attacks they are on their own but that if they are attacked they will defend them?

#7 Comment By rayray On May 29, 2018 @ 3:28 pm

@Don’t Bother
By all accounts most Trump voters fully support what Trump is doing in Foreign Policy, not to mention that Trump made it fairly clear in his campaign that he’d be comfortable with both intervention intervention in the Middle East and fully supporting Israel. The NK stuff feels like the natural outgrowth of his propensity to ignorance, and his need to look tough.

True, he said other things as well. But he seems like the kind of guy that shoots first, then aims, then blames someone else.

I’m not buying the “buyer’s remorse” about Trump that keeps getting bandied about out there. Everyone knew who this guy was – he’s been a well documented liar and narcissist for decades.