Throughout his real estate career, Donald Trump has used bullying - added to ignoring the law and associating with mafia figures - to accomplish his goals. Stated another way, he thinks he can do whatever he wants and people are supposed to give in to him. It's a characteristic of many narcissist that they are so self-absorbed that they try to ride rough shod over others. Frighteningly, this mindset now animates the White House and it could yet have truly disastrous consequences for literally millions of people. With North Korea, Trump doesn't seem to grasp that he is facing a regime headed by an individual (or individuals) even more un-tethered from reality than he is himself. Throw in huge doses of paranoia and a near martyr complex among North Korea's leaders and it makes for an immensely dangerous mix. My fear is that Trump is in way, way over his head and that, if he acts in his usual manner, a catastrophe could be in the offing. Here are excerpts from New York Magazine that underscore the dangers we face with an unfit commander-in-chief in the White House:
President Trump and his advisers have taken a more and more threatening stance toward North Korea since January, and the isolated dictatorship has responded with threats of its own. Foreign-policy experts say a breaking point could be looming. Saturday marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, and the regime there commemorated the holiday with displays of military force — though, thankfully, not with a nuclear test, as many experts feared. Still, there is a sense of a collision course. Several days ago, the U.S. military moved a brigade of warships to the Korean Peninsula, as a show of force. Then on Friday, the North Korean government threatened to attack major American military bases in South Korea, saying it could destroy them almost instantly.
[W]e spoke with George Lopez, professor emeritus at the Krok Institute for International Peace Studies, which is based at Notre Dame University. He has advised the United Nations and various governments on North Korea and sanctions issues since 1992. Lopez also proposes a set of directions for getting out of this conflict — directions that favor diplomacy over military force. What American leaders fail to understand, he says, is that they can’t scare North Korea by threatening war.
Obama’s people told Trump’s top foreign-policy people this was their biggest worry. Obama seems to have told Trump in their one-on-one meeting that North Korea was going to be Trump’s biggest dilemma and that he needed a regional approach to it.
[T]his [past] week, the administration used what many would call a prohibited weapon in the Afghan theater, and it has also launched these strikes on Syria. . . . I think it was not without some delight in the White House that there was a secondary messaging effect to North Korea. These actions went in conjunction with the U.S. moving a small Navy brigade to the Korean Peninsula, and also with Trump’s meeting and phone calls with the Chinese president, to signal that our patience is running out.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear who is the Asia expert most influential in the White House’s national security staff, and the last time I checked the State Department chart, we still didn’t have a fully staffed Bureau of Asian Affairs. . . . .
[O]ne strategy that a group of us have advocated over the last couple weeks is to say, “Military force is so crazy to think about, the next best option is financial bankruptcy and economic strangulation.” That is, if you want to take the gloves off, take the gloves off in the trading and financial sector. Take a lesson from the tightening of the noose around Iran, and go after commodities, go after general trade sectors. You absolutely implement the top five or six recommendations of the U.N. Panel of Experts, which would hold all states in the Asian region responsible for ending corresponding banking accounts with not only North Korean banks, but with the shadow companies they’ve set up in Malaysia and China and elsewhere.
China needs to get tighter with the financial actors within its country who continue to sustain unabated channels to illicit financing for North Korea. There are a series of draconian financial measures that then get the attention of the great young dictator, and you can say, “The next move is yours. Do we talk or not?” But what this administration has done is put us in an all-or-nothing bind. Either he blinks or we blink.
[T]he issuing of the threat against South Korea [by North Korea] is a smart approach that says, “Well, let’s talk militarily. You could knock out our nuclear sites, but you can’t knock out the 175 major artillery batteries we have, poised to shoot at the minute we detect that we’re being attacked — and those can knock out 80 percent of Seoul. So the blood will be on your hands if you choose to initiate an attack against our nuclear sites.” In other words, “You’re not the only people who can issue ultimatums, and you’re not the only people who have military deliverables that are supposed to make us quake and fear that we must change our behavior.”
This regime has had an ideology, through three generations, that the war of liberation of South Korea will come when the United States oversteps its boundaries. And remember, they don’t have a peace treaty with the United States. If they were interested in peace, they would be proactive in coming back to the bargaining table and finishing off the armistice agreement from 1953.
This isn’t Syria. This isn’t Afghanistan. This is the point at which, if a U.S. missile crosses into North Korean territory, all bets on everything are off. It fits their worldview, that sooner or later, they will have to fire everything they have. That’s the only way the North could potentially survive an exchange.
[W]e need a U.S. policy that doesn’t put them in a position where their trigger fingers get nervous. You have to deal with the nuclear weapons and the missiles on their own terms, and you can’t use the potential for war against them as leverage. . . . They’re ready for war.
[W]e have to end their access to money — in all forms. We have to end the access of Korean diplomats marching off with big duffle bags, pretending they’re off to go play golf in Poland, when what they’re really doing is carrying gold bars and loads of cash, which ultimately goes to fund the various services that run the missiles. And you do need China’s help for that. Right now, China is looking the other way.
We’ve got to make sure our president doesn’t approach the microphone and says, “That’s the last straw. I’m taking actions in the next 48 hours, and they’ll never know what I’m going to do until I do it.” You can’t have that. In other words, someone needs to lasso him, quite frankly, and make sure we have a clearly articulated dynamic.
We think we can intimidate the North Korean leadership into keeping their powder dry. What we’re doing, more than anything else, is playing into their ongoing scenario of a likely, if not inevitable, confrontation with the West. . . . If you’re going to use as your calculus of success or failure, of an unarticulated policy, who blinks first, you’re on really, really shaky ground.
Be very, very afraid, Would that Trump voters had even considered this scenario rather falling for appeals to racism and resentment over lost white privilege and extremist religious beliefs. Elections have consequences as the world could soon find out.