Harry C. Blaney III
On Friday North Korea sent another missile over Japan with a range of about 2,300 miles. The Trump administration’s response was that they had “military options.” There was considerable “tough” military talk coming from all of the key national security actors. One pithy remark by NSC head McMaster was “For those ….who have been commenting on a lack of military option, there is a military option” ….adding that it would not be the Trump’s preferred choice. To add another quote: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is “begging for war,” US ambassador Haley said at an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
No kidding, all of this silly bullying along with outcome of millions of deaths!!! We must remember that Trump promised not to allow North Korea to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile. Already we have had the “threat, and just the “threat” by NK, which has been on going for a decade.
On the other side, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as quoted by the NK news agency KCNA, saying “it aims to reach an equilibrium” of military force with the United States. his actual quote: “Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option.”
Clearly, the picture is very gloomy and one has to hope, in time, clearer heads everywhere will prevail, but that will take good and massive efforts by all and a change of tone and substance and actions. But that means that there is a need for a systemic change in the landscape and in leader’s minds. Let me add a “military” option by either side is collective mass suicide.
We and nobody else has found a neat and risk free answer to the nuclear threats from North Korea. Everyone is playing the most disastrous game possible named “chicken racing” where each car races at high speed at the other waiting for the other to blink and get out of the way!! The result of this game we all know.
This topic is on the minds of many of our global leaders from Putin, May, Merkel, Xi, Abe and Kim. Of course Trump has it in his gun sights but it seems has little understanding so far of paths which both sides can accept and live with. The hope is this will, in time, change before we end in a nuclear cataclysm.
While the landscape is dangerous and complex solutions exist that both sides can accept and would be a “Win-win” for all providing they are seeking mutual security, not aggression against others and willingness to get rid of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and accept third party inspection.
The main problems are that most analysts think that Kim is committed to having a large arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles so that they can powerfully threaten and make other nations fear him and gain benefits especially goods, investments, and recognition as a major player in the region if not the world. The great irony is making peace could achieve many key rational goals!
The problem is compounded in America with the instability of Trump and his blindness to reality, but we don’t know if Trump fears war less than the distraction of our citizens by being a war president, and perhaps free himself from the danger of losing his office.
One approach which has been put forth argues as a more realistic policy, is on deterring Pyongyang from using its nuclear weapons rather than pursuing unlikely attempts to denuclearize the peninsula. The problem with this is that is what we are trying to do now, but the reaction has been more aggressive behavior. It has risks of error and craziness of Kim, and it all means added continued uncertain high risk for the entire world.
What are the key “change elements” that just might redirect this massive disastrous trajectory that makes our globe a very ugly place to survive no mater where we may be?
The first is for Trump to see this challenge not an opportunity for conflict or via mutual threats but via a sustainable true long-term strategy and the gains of bringing stability to all of Korea. That means using all the tools of diplomacy.
The second, is for China to see that a nuclear war on their border is more dangerous to their national interests and for their population and economy, than gains from continued support for the Kim dynasty and all their madness and threats. They need to recognize the ensuing instability and that a better option is a negotiated solution that likely they and all could easily live with. That means negotiations while NK nuclear program is hopefully at least in a “standstill”…something NK is strongly against now. But there is US talk of a true ban on Chinese trade if they do not cease trade with NK and fully implement the UN sanctions. The same goes for Putin’s Russia which right now has an ambiguous stance, agreeing to limited UN sanctions but continuing to secretly trade with North Korea. They would too be harmed by a nuclear war in the region.
The third, is for the international community including the United Nations Security Council, our European allies, Japan and other Asian nations, and other key actors to agree on a package of “carrots” that could be put on offer to North Korea that might tempt them to put away their nuke for a model of a normal and decent and prosperous nation.
Forth, is acknowledging that there should be a nuclear free zone in all of Korea, that NK withdraw its artillery and conventional missiles well beyond range of hitting SK cities and especial the capital, and most important there would be a dismantlement of the nuclear weapons and long range missiles in the NK verified by the IAEA similar but beyond to the ”deal” with Iran. Further, the border between NK and SK be policed by UN armed troops to keep both side apart and as a deterrence to armed action. We would recognize SK under any agreement and we would have a peace treaty to end the Korean war. We and our allies would pledge non-aggression to a NK that acts peacefully.
Fifth, is a consensus “verboten” idea, simply at some point of “regime change,” either internally or externally but not engendered by America. But the outcome of such a change would have to be rational leaders that would see both prosperity and external help as a positive and not make nuclear weapons the fundamental requirement of their nation. This option most likely would be discarded absent major changes/crisis in NK.
One condition that would help which is rare in our new “Trumpain” age is return to the quality of sanity, search for common ground, thoughtful judgement, sense of proportion, of seeing ahead and, not least, decency and caring for all the planet.
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TRUMP AND A NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA AND THE LARGER STRATEGIC PICTURE:
Harry C. Blaney IIi
After the statements about what Trump might do to North Korea if it does not stand down on its nuclear weapon programs, there seems to be a great debate about Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy and even if there is one. As with his missile strakes on Syrian the question is what is next and is there any strategic vision or even reflection?
As best we can discern is it remains just based on “transactional” and “intuitive” feelings. We need to remember this is the man who said he knew more than the generals and who is cutting by about 30% our diplomacy and global assistance budget.
Among the key issues we face we still do not have a clue what ends he want including dealing with China, confronting North Korean nuclear ambitions, fixing the middle East conflicts, keeping our alliances intact, and dealing with Putin’s Russia.
We do know that on climate change he has cut the budget for almost all US programs in to address this existential and disastrous reality. He would take us out of the Paris Accord the only effective instrument we have to gain global cooperation.
An editorial in the New York Times on May 17th entitled “Mr. Trump’s lose talk on Korea” noted that Trump’s approach is more likely to endanger some peaceful solution than solve peaceably the conflict with North Korea. There is real reason to question where are we going with this and to what end?
Both nuclear weapons and the idea of a “preemptive strike” and harsh threats on both sides are dangerous elements.. This is especially true when both side are led by somewhat unhinged leaders who like to demonstrate their powers and egoism. The time has come to bring us back to a more rational approach before we start a game of “chicken.”
Surely at some point the leaders of China, North Korea and America must recognize in this option for an aggressive “game” the only end is destruction of all sides This is the worst case outcome when in reality there is a “win-win” outcome if only we all can recognize the harsh reality of nuclear conflict. There should be a point where all sides can accept gains for all sides with a diplomatic solution where Kim Jong Un, president, Xi Jinping, and Donald Trump control their fears and their egos. Any leader must look closely at the risks of mistakes and stupidity by the other..
The path of a better outcome is North Korea gains a de-nuclearize North and South Korea, food to feed his people. China gains added stability and security on its borders and eliminates the danger of a war that would be a total disaster for it and removal of nuclear weapons North and South. America gets rid of a nuclear threat to allies like Japan and South Korea and not least to America. Trump gets to enlarge his ego.
A FEW WEEKS AND MORE UNMITIGATED DISASTERS PERPETRATED BY TRUMP AND HIS BENIGHTED TEAM OF AMATEURS AND FOOLS
Harry C. Blaney III
It has been quite a few weeks of one disaster after another. All at the instigation of Donald Trump and his motley squad of amateurs, racists, bigots and extreme ideologues. There is no or little sign that either the new Secretary of Defense nor the new Secretary of State had much to say or influence in the weeks series of incompetence and unmitigated international disasters instigated by “The King of Chaos.” If there is any light so far the weekend visit of Japan Premiere Shinzo Abe has not yet produced a major blunder. But the problem is can Abe take to the bank anything that he is told by Trump? The Korean missile test was a clear signal that serious thought should be given to North Korea and its nuclear weapons. But equally clear is Trump has no effective strategy other than bluster.
Here is a shorthand summary of what has happen to the former respect and leadership that America had for decades since the end of WW II. In just three weeks or so Trump has not make “America Great” but made “America small and distrusted.”
– TRUMP STARTED HIS DERANGE SERIES OF INSULTS AND HARM TO OUR ALLIES EARLY: Early on Trump in just one or two days of tweets and interviews with European publications did more damage to the security and unity Europe and of the Atlantic community than Putin, with all his underhanded efforts of subversion of European democracy and unity. He earlier welcomed and praised parties and movements in Europe promoting far right fascists who are subverting European unity and democracy. Either, this was done, as I said earlier, from madness, stupidity, or something even more dark and terrible?
– A NASTY AND UNNEEDED INSULT BY TRUMP OF ONE OF OUR CLOSEST ALLIES AUSTRALIA IN A CALL WITH THEIR PRIME MINISTER OVER AN AGREED REFUGEE PROGRAM: Trump made a gratuitous and stupid insult to an ally that has fought by our side in World War II and in the Middle East and lost lives and hosts our Marines in deployments to the region to help the common defense in the Pacific.
– LIFTING SOME SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA AFTER A PHONE CALL FROM PUTIN?: He indicated lifting some sanctions on Russia unilaterally without consultation with our allies that have put on sanctions at our urging. He got after talking with Putin so far nothing in return except further aggression in Eastern Ukraine by Russia. Our allies are furious over this slight of our tradition of consultation. There is a pending summit between Trump and Putin and we must wonder what else will be given to Putin for but a bowel of portage or is it borsht? What has also come out is before Trump was president of talks between the Russian Ambassador and Lt, General Flynn representing Trump, which has elicited questions on a leaked transcript of that talk that might show took place and any deals discussed which would have been illegal.
– THE BAN ON MUSLIM REFUGEES AND VISITORS: What can one say. This act by Trump has both domestic constitutional and justice questions and impacts. It also caused a major deterioration on our relations throughout the world. It drew a massive rebuke by many Americans and world leaders. But it key stage was in American counts. It also brings to the fore the question of our democracy and the importance of respect for laws and treaties which binds us and other nations to a system of governance and cooperation. This is necessary for a world order that applies accepted rules and adherence to justice and binding agreements. These keep our security and global cooperation together. The White Houses’ last report is about putting out a new ban in an order that might pass judicial review so uncertainty reigns!
– DISASTROUS CHOICES FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS LEADERSHIP: No action by Trump indicates his direction and irresponsibility than his recent choices for leadership in this area. As in the Biblical saying “you should know them by their acts.” Trumps pick in both domestic and foreign affairs reflects, in almost all cases, a desire to cause real massive harm to past successful policies of Western unity and security.
The Trump instinct is to create chaos whenever possible it seems. The choice of Lt. General Flynn as National Security Council head, a man of distorted values and perspectives, who now seems to be ineffective in halting the “madman” actions of his boss. Or simply powerless. The initial banning from the NSC and Principles Group of the heads of the CIA and Director of National Intelligence, while putting on the Council Stephen Bannon the racist, KKK supported and White Nationalist leader and new Counselor to the President on both of these very sensitive and critical groups. His influence has been felt in every stupid and counterproductive act of Trump in the international domain.
DISRUPTING OUR RELATIONS WITH MEXICO: One of the first acts of incompetence in terms of talking with the leaders of other countries was the phone conservation with Mexico’s President. Trump carried out, according to reports, a blistering set of demands and insults about building and paying for a wall between the two countries. Further, Trump’s spokesman announced a 20% tax on Mexican imports to pay for the border wall on Thursday. Staff did strange clarifications to some of this. In the end the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, refused to meet Trump to discuss the issue and American relations with Mexico and its people went into deep disarray.
ISRAEL AND TRUMP’S POLICIES AND AMBASSADOR PICKS: MORE DISASTERS: Trump initially has sided with the extreme right wing hawk Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also the position of supporting Israeli and settlements. After being told that this would harm the possibility of negotiations with the Palestinians, cause more anger by the Gulf States, and bringing harm to our diplomats abroad, he pulled this back and stated that the settlements were a danger to peace and not a good idea. What position he really wants given his record of contradictory views is unknown. But we know his pick as our Ambassador to Israel loves the settlements!
MIXED GROUP OF IMBECILITIES: Among a mixed group of costly acts or policies which deserve their own analysis but for lack of space here is a short list:
First, the botched assault ordered by Trump by our forces in Yemen that got one of our own killed and death of innocent women and children which cause the local authorities to put restrictions on our actions. Yet another disturbing problem is the handling of the Iran sanctions issues where contradictory views are expressed by Trump and his key advisors – who is to be believed? Add to the list how Trump will deal with nuclear weapons and especially move to taking our and Russia’s nukes off hair trigger release? And will he stand down on massive costs for new weapons and un-needed military hardware since he has taken the occasion of the North Korea missile test to call for more, un-needed, military weapons.
One possible positive act of Trump is on a phone call with China’s president Xi Jinping Trump pledge agreement with the now decades old U.S. policy of one China. Again how long will this last and will Trump also back down on a trade war with China? The other relative calm meeting of Trump was with Japan’s Premier noted earlier but Japan can’t but have doubts about the steadiness of American commitment.
There seems to be a tug of war between some of Trump’s more realistic advisors and what can only be described as Trump’s dementia and mindless prejudices. This is reflected in the influence of people like Bannon who seems to want to see great chaos and destruction at home and abroad so he can re-build a White nationalist and fascist domestic authoritarian rule in the ashes of democracy and support extreme groups abroad to enhance the destruction of Western liberal democracies. Surely, these are also the goals of Putin.
Dear reader you can see it was a busy but catastrophic weeks for our country and an unhappy one of our allies and a great period for our opponents like Russia. Thank you Donald Trump.
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East Asia Security Meeting in London: Anxiety Grows in Region?
Harry C. Blaney III
On Thursday, November 14th Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) held an interesting meeting on “The Strategic Environment in East Asia.” The question addressed was first an assessment of the region’s key strategic issues and specifically the problem of North Korea, the relationship between China and America, and the strategic policy of the Japanese Prime Minister Abe. The second part of the meeting focused on the issue of the conflict over maritime conflict in the region especially in the South China Sea.
The perspectives were varied and the attendance of a strong contingent from Japan give the conference a good idea of the Japanese perspective and how that country viewed their security risks and their likely approach towards these risks. The Japanese government representative and those from a key “think tank” the Institute of International Affairs, noted a number of likely Japanese new initiatives related to foreign and security policy as well as strengthening existing alliances.
There appears to be a move towards altering the Japanese Constitution giving greater leeway for the Japanese government to undertake a more pro-active stance towards threats and future confrontations than is permitted by the strict “defense only” provisions in the constitution. Another question that will be coming up is what are the appropriate resources to allocate for their own defense forces. As with other nations there are limited funds and demands by sea, land, and air arms for added equipment and personnel. Nor least, is the indication that they want to reinforce their alliance with the United States and to get European powers like the U.K. to be more supportive of their ocean jurisdictional claims. The key phrase was that the U.S.- Japan alliance is a “core policy.” In many ways it was an affirmation of President Obama’s initiative of the “pivot to Asia.” But an “assertive” Japan still posses other problems for actors in the region.
The focus of the Japanese experts was the recognition that their security landscape has some major rising risks which need to be better addressed than has been the case up-to-now. They saw North Korea as a key unsettling force with a growing stock of nuclear weapons and also they were concerned with their relations with South Korea, which has to be a key partner on any solution to the future of the Korean Peninsula conundrum.
Yet the uncertainty of the direction and behavior of North Korea was seen as a serious problem and danger. They saw the U.S. bases in Japan as essential for the defense of South Korea. Another disturbing element was cooperation between North Korea, Iran, Israel, perhaps others, in military and nuclear equipment and arms. The conclusion was that in the current negotiations, “time was on the North Korean side” thus there was urgency in finding a solution.
From the South they saw the rise of China and its increased more capable military forces as well as the growth of a new nationalism and assertive and even dangerous behavior or confrontation in this maritime disputed area. One presenter showed a chart of the number and types of Chinese navel vessels and comparted them to weaker or smaller forces of other key nations in the Pacific including the U.S.
There was considerable discussion of how to make a bridge or rapprochement with China and find a way not only to find a solution to the South China Sea differences, but more importantly, over the long run to seek a more fundamental arrangement with China over the next decade seeking a peaceful and cooperative relationship. Several speakers said that economic ties would be key between the second and third largest global economies.
One issue that was raised was the concept of ‘the inevitable confrontation/war between the U.S. and China.” This is another myopic and ideological driven idea by the war hawks of the “Chicago School” and neo-cons in America and also fueled in China by some of its military. It is a concept that was rejected by one wise speaker and certainly by this writer and has the danger of being a “self-fulfilling” prophesy. It serves only those who make a living from conflict.
One question that was raised by this writer, was how could the collective nations of the Pacific region work in a better concerted way to point the path not only to a productive and peaceful regional and global role for China, but create key incentives for China to be a responsible partner and see a deep and lasting stake in collective security and prosperity for the whole region and a sense of joint interest in maintaining peace.
Frankly, the meeting only reinforced the need for a more concerted and focused effort by regional actors to see a common interests. But to do that it is necessary to get the North Korean threat resolved favorably as it is a systemic dangerous disruption to an area wide reconciliation and understanding. Also some accommodation on Taiwan by all sides, an acceptable deal perhaps on some kind of joint exploitation of resources in the South China Sea, and not least a major expansion of trade between all Pacific powers. Helpful would be an agreement of restraint on military/nuclear weapons growth and competition.
What is interesting is that the Japanese have reorganized their national security decision making along the lines of the U.S. modal with even a process of policy papers called National Security Studies (NSS) much along lines established by Henry Kissinger for our NSC in the Nixon administration. But this is aimed for a whole new look at their security position and aimed at a more active security role in the region.
Not surprising, the Chinese have also just announced a reorganization of their own national security decision making machinery, making it more streamlined and tightknit. And it is clear that also they are having a major debate on their own future global role and new threat assessment. One would hope it will give the more calm and wiser heads more say over the militant military types that sometime have dominated the Chinese decision making in this area in the past.
But, America, as this blog has noted, is doing a “re-think” on both resources and strategic threats and options for a complex and changing environment. At the same time the British here in London carrying out a major re-examination of their strategic posture, force alignments, resources, and risks. The problem, as we will look at more in time here, is that it is being carried out when there is a forced major cut in funding which will necessitate some hard decision on personnel and equipment – not the wisest way to make strategic decisions, as we know in the U.S. with the Republican created “sequester”cuts. It is time for a more collective “re-think” rather than isolated limited studies as joint efforts, compatibility, and interoperability in tactics, communication, and training would help in a time of joint enforced “austerity” but a time of security uncertainty.
We welcome your comments!
The on going, made for TV, North Korean crisis rattles on and there are now two main camps of thought. One is that Kim Jong-un is mostly “blister and threat,” but seeks some advantage from the allies rather than full out war. The other is that Kim is irrational and may just blunder into a real “war” by miscalculation. Some are arguing that stern and harsh responses are the way to deal with the North – a view of some South Korean officials and politicians and of our home grown American “war hawks.” The other is a view that we should “stand down” and do nothing that might provoke Kim Jong-un to commit foolish acts.
My own reading is that the Obama administration and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have what I will call a “precautionary and preparedness” strategy. Namely, to do what is necessary to put in place our military assets that are largely defensive and to not act in a preemptive and overly aggressive stance that might lead to unnecessary and dangerous escalation. Not a bad combination.
My hope in the meanwhile is that they are working the diplomatic tract with China, as I have suggested earlier, to clamp down the “upward trajectory of conflict.” Again, here China is the key as they can’t be anything but alarmed that a major conflict in the Korean peninsula would be a total disaster for them in strategic, economic, and political terms.
Right now my judgment is “just right” in terms of American moves and words……and hope that back channel intensive work is being done on all fronts. Here our allies in Japan, South Korea, and, yes, China on this issue, need to be using the same playbook. In time, with the right moves, the immediate round of escalation might ratchet down, but in the long-term we need to address North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat and we need to find some modus vivendi. This might take many years of work and lots of creative constructs to put this danger back into a safe bottle.
We can hope the reporting was just an April Fools joke, but is there really a possibility that President Obama is considering sending Caroline Kennedy as American Ambassador to Japan? Has she had some related experience? How good is her Japanese? Would she like to join the ranks of those who, for no substantive reason, are charged with representing the USG and the American people in countries of great importance to the US and its national security? Has she contributed money to Democratic candidates -Obama or others – or is she expected to do so in the future, or is it a question of family name and reputation? Let’s hope it was a joke, but the matter of political appointments to ambassadorships abroad is not funny.
It was also reported recently that Hillary Clinton is for the moment not accepting donations to the presidential campaign she is widely expected to conduct as 2016 draws near. Now, then, is the time to extract promises in advance from potential or declared successors to Obama that professionals, i.e., experienced foreign service officers with proven expertise, will be assigned to run our embassies and conduct relations at the highest level in foreign capitals. Obama has outdone his predecessors in rewarding big donors with nice embassies in glamorous capitals or sunny climes, continuing the practice of hampering the conduct of foreign relations and insulting our friends abroad in the bargain. Our recently departed Secretary of State, who is surely aware of the problem, should be bombarded now with pleas that she should discontinue this disgraceful, purely American, sale of our embassies to the highest bidders.