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Trump’s Irresponsible North Korea Rhetoric

Reading over the text [1] of Trump’s U.N. speech, I was most struck by the impossible goal he has set for U.S. policy towards North Korea:

It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.

That may have been a plausible goal a decade and a half ago when North Korea didn’t already possess dozens of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, but now that North Korea has them it isn’t going to give them up. It isn’t reasonable to threaten to “totally destroy” a regime in one breath and then urge them to abandon the only things that ought to guarantee their security from attack in the next. Everything Trump has done since taking office has confirmed the North Korean government in its view that denuclearization is one thing they should never agree to. North Korea won’t “realize” that it has to denuclearize because there is no incentive the U.S. can give it that is valuable enough to get them to agree, and the cautionary tale of Gaddafi makes them assume that any deal that they might make with the U.S. would be broken later on. Trump’s obvious desire to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran also gives them reason to disbelieve any commitments the U.S. might make.

The danger here is that Trump has defined everything except North Korean denuclearization as unacceptable, and that implies that the U.S. won’t tolerate North Korea’s continued possession of nuclear weapons. That suggests that Trump could be contemplating launching an illegal preventive war, and such a war would likely escalate to a nuclear exchange that would claim the lives of millions at a minimum. That is the trap that Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric is creating for the U.S. It is imperative that Congress and the public do everything possible oppose any drive for starting a war with North Korea.

12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Trump’s Irresponsible North Korea Rhetoric"

#1 Comment By Ollie On September 19, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

Has any so-called world leader ever before threatened the “complete destruction” of another soverign nation to the assembled United Nations? Where does terrorism begin and where does terrorism end ? Trump is trouble.

#2 Comment By Someone in the crowd On September 19, 2017 @ 1:14 pm

There is something wrong with a policy goal that can only make sense if one’s negotiation partner is irrational.

As Larison quite correctly points out, if North Korea’s leadership is rational, they will certainly not surrender their nuclear weapons program.

#3 Comment By c matt On September 19, 2017 @ 3:32 pm

Of course, the US has been saying NK nukes are intolerable for what, 15, 20 years now? At this point, there is little the US can do other than bluster (hopefully).

#4 Comment By b. On September 19, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

As Martin van Creveld pointed out, in demands for “unconditional surrender” the idea of war as a continuation of politics is stood on its head – if there are no politicial choices left to negotiate, the primacy of political will has been eviscerated. It was an ill choice for Churchill and Roosevelt, in Trump history repeats as tragedy and farce.

#5 Comment By cdugga On September 19, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

I do not believe that the don is contemplating pre-emption, since it would require tactical nukes. I do think that if kimmy launches a missile heading for the US, or if one lands in japan, that retaliation with tactical nukes is a decision that may have already been made. Like, we may have to accept that north korea is a nuclear power capable of launching nuclear missiles. I doubt the don or any other president will accept them doing it. The launches over japan were surprising and indicate kimmy is crazy no matter how smart people think he is. A missile heading for guam or hawaii? Putting forces in place for an all out response is only prudent, not irresponsible. My generation feared a nuclear war with the soviet union. The real fear was that it would come about by accident. Kimmy is an accident waiting to happen. Now, we probably should contemplate the probability that north korea is still acting as a chinese proxy, and that our response to his missile launches is being observed in every possible fashion by the chinese. Probing is an obvious game to determine where who and what is and what they do and who they communicate with. We probe…redacted.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 19, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

” I doubt the don or any other president will accept them doing it.”

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t mater here he tests his/their missiles. Those looking for an excuse for regime e change will find it.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 19, 2017 @ 6:17 pm

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t Pres Trump. I hear the old establishment goals of Iraq, Iran and N. Korea.

#8 Comment By dee On September 19, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

This from CNN (The hated enemy of the people, purveyors of fake news)…

The President’s speech to the UN General Assembly made clear to the world and to the American public that the President is sticking firmly to his “America First” vision of US foreign policy and abiding by much of the rhetoric he has used to articulate that vision — both on the campaign trail and since taking office.

Good lord, an “America First” policy would would be about extricating America (USA actually) from having to defend everyone from all others. America First would be about getting us the hell out of all these traps, where the US taxpayer has to take hit the for defending the world.. America First policy would be about cutting a deal that says we do not want to spend billions anymore defending peoples we do not know against peoples we do not know. America First would get us the hell out of Mideast wars, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Europe, the list goes on and on.. what a joke, on us..

Trump is only and forever about trump first. He knows like anyone with a brain that feeding the media/military/US sports teams/ neocon punditry that he can get good “ratings” because they can make more money..

take the money wasted “over there” and spend it “over here” on infrastructure, healthcare etc..

#9 Comment By a spencer On September 19, 2017 @ 6:56 pm

c matt,
And Iran has been “on notice” for longer than that.

Nonetheless this clown seems like he’s begging for a false flag. Appropriately, I believe Tonkin will be addressed in tonight’s Ken Burns Vietnam series.

#10 Comment By Richard On September 19, 2017 @ 8:40 pm

Technically, we’re still at war with North Korea because we’ve only agreed on an armistice. North Korea declares the armistice invalid every few years.

#11 Comment By Mel Profit On September 20, 2017 @ 9:16 am

I understand the author’s concern, but Trump has shown himself, again and again, to be all talk and very little action. That of course is both good and bad–good in that, all bluster aside, he will do nothing about North Korea; and bad in that he will follow through on none of the promises he made as a candidate.

Trump’s “legacy” was determined on day one by his arrogance, laziness and ineptitude. Enveloped by the preposterous Russia frenzy; the enemy of Democrats and Republicans both; someone who neither means what he says nor knows what he thinks; a pudding with no discernible theme, he is actually the perfect president for a US in freefall.

But a man who will launch a preemptive attack on North Korea, thus precipitating a global nuclear war? Too messy and too confining–as in requiring one’s attention for more than twenty minutes. Trump doesn’t “do” real crisis.

#12 Comment By rayray On September 20, 2017 @ 11:43 am

@Mel Profit
I think you are largely correct. That said, should investigations and other humiliations, especially close to his re-election, hit home it is not out of the question that he will find some way to distract and “unify” the electorate.

As far more astute observers than I have noted, Trump is also dealing with a significant diminution in his intellectual powers, which were never considerable anyway.

And on the Russian meddling – you’re 100% right that they meddled everywhere and continue to do so – but they had real leverage over Trump, on a number of levels (although the hotel dalliance tape would dissuade no one amongst Trump’s core supporters anyway). That’s what Mueller’s investigation is really about.