August 9, 2017

NYT: "Trump’s Harsh Language on North Korea Has Little Precedent, Experts Say."

"Little Precedent" ≠ no precedent, and, in fact, the "little precedent" is — in the historical scheme, very big.

First, there was President Harry S. Truman, in 1945, demanding that the Japanese surrender or “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

Second, there was Bill Clinton, in 1993:
... during a speech in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea that if Pyongyang ever used nuclear weapons, “it would be the end of their country.”
Victor Cha (of the Center for Strategic and International Studies) said “I take Trump’s statement in the same spirit” as Bill Clinton's. It's “a message of deterrence, which is important now to avoid any miscalculation.”

There are 2 other experts quoted in the article. One is Michael Beschloss who wonders if Trump "was impulsive." To be impulsive in making a statement like that would (of course) "be very much out of the history of the presidency on matters like this.... You don’t have presidents blurting out things when lives are at stake, and if that is what it was, it would be scary."

Remember, what Trump said was: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

Did Trump speak on impulse or with attention to precedent? My opinion is influenced by the phrase "fire and fury." There's alliteration, like Truman's "rain of ruin," and the phrase after the alliterative phrase is almost the same as Truman's. Compare Trump's "like the world has never seen" to Truman's "the like of which has never been seen on this earth." Trump then repeats himself, with a bit of variation. He says "the likes of which this world has never seen before," which gets closer to Truman. It's almost as if he was aware of his difference from Truman and decided to repeat himself to tighten the connection.

He also added the non-alliterative "power" to "fire and fury," and that sounds like an ad lib to me because of the inclusion of the weak introductory word "frankly." Was that impulsive or blurting (to use Beschloss's words)? I wouldn't say so. "Power" conveys less of a threat of nuclear annihilation. It's more general and more opaque. There are endless ways to exercise power. It's a reference to America's great stature in the world — stature that we need to maintain, whatever we think of Donald Trump.

251 comments:

1 – 200 of 251   Newer›   Newest»
Ralph L said...

We seem to be having a North Korean-inspired poll.

John Lynch said...

Drawing a blank on this one.

Matthew Sablan said...

Standard Althouse Poll Complaint: I don't see any options I'd choose.

zipity said...

No poll shows.

We are sans poll.

There is a dearth of poll.

We are poll-less.

Achilles said...

Best online poll ever.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Hillary would find a way to make money off the Norks.

If Kim Jong Un makes a nice donation to the Clinton Foundation, perhaps she will look the other way after you bomb Guam.

Ambrose said...

I wish the partisan hack Michael Beschloss would stop pretending to be an objective historian/expert.

Achilles said...

"NYT: "Trump’s Harsh Language on North Korea Has Little Precedent, Experts Say.""

The part that doesn't have precedent is the media and the left's open sedition. They have attacked Republicans like this before.

The left has always made it clear their enemies are people between them and power. They just wish we were China or North Korea but can't say it out loud.

Earnest Prole said...

If I vote in your polls I do so by commenting on them, not by clicking a box, so this poll is perfect since it contains no boxes to click.

readering said...

Hard to choose on such serious subject

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

oooo Experts!

Levi Starks said...

Little = some

Sean Gleeson said...

Of course, the most salient difference between Truman's speech and Trump's tweet is, Truman was telling the plain truth. He was threatening to conduct a campaign of dropping atomic bombs all over Japan, which was not the sort of thing the world had ever seen.

As for Trump, I don't know what kind of operation he has in mind, but I expect it would be the sort of thing the world has seen quite a bit.

David Begley said...

There is, of course, no precedent for any of this. Crazy guy in North Korea just might nuke us. What has been done in the past didn't work.

The so-called experts should be quiet. The war on Trump is endless.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Whenever MSM says "Experts say" - my BS meter laughs.

Ralph L said...

you bomb Guam
That's bound to be someone's name somewhere.

Levi Starks said...

You don't have to listen to NPR long to see the bias in how facts are reported. They are experts at including/excluding pertenant facts in an effort to elicit the correct emotional response.

Earnest Prole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignorance is Bliss said...

My problem with Trump's statement, which makes it different from Clinton's is that Clinton's threat was that we would respond if North Korea used nukes. Trump, on the other hand, is threatening action if North Korea keeps making threats.

That seems like a significant difference.

Truman's was of course different because we were already in a full-blown war.

Bob Boyd said...

Trump should use a neutron bomb then build a golf course.

Nonapod said...

It seems more and more likely each day that a whole lot of people are going to die on the Korean peninsula before this is over. We're playing a game of chicken. Kim Jung Un won't back down, maybe he's just plain crazy, maybe he fears for his life if he doesn't maintain an aggressive posture, I don't know.

Christopher said...

Second, there was Bill Clinton, in 1993:
... [who said] during a speech in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea that if Pyongyang ever used nuclear weapons, “it would be the end of their country.”


Sure, but he didn't say anything about fire, so it's like compassionate annihilation.

Kind of like how killing people with an atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime, but burning them alive in Dresden was fine.

Ralph L said...

I expect it would be the sort of thing the world has seen quite a bit.
Not likely. NK has air and ground defenses that are unparalleled. In the 80's, they had more radar sites than towns and villages, and I doubt they have fewer now. The usual US tactics won't cut it there.

Danno said...

Did the Russians hack this post because it involved polls and voting?

TWW said...

Some of you don't get it. That IS the poll. That's the joke. That's the conceit. Make up your own possible answers then choose the one you like best.

Chuck said...

I was struck by this comment:

Levi Starks said...
You don't have to listen to NPR long to see the bias in how facts are reported. They are experts at including/excluding pertenant facts in an effort to elicit the correct emotional response.

And I was trying to figure out how the radio network, NPR, got into a post about the New York Times' newspaper reporting on rhetoric between Trump and North Korea.

Different news organizations. Different media (radio v. newspapers) even!

What's up with this?

Bob Boyd said...

"NK has air and ground defenses that are unparalleled"

Its old tech, though and maybe wouldn't work well detecting stealth aircraft.

Balfegor said...

Well it has the clear and precedent of North Korea threatening to turn Seoul into a "sea of flame," so it's not like Trump is actually escalating the rhetorical war. He's just responding in kind.

rhhardin said...

Today in WWII is American Technology Day.

Sean Gleeson said...

@Ralph L: Sure, "the usual US tactics" won't topple the NK regime. But what I am saying is, I don't think Trump is planning anything so grand (if he has a plan at all). I think he might, if provoked, launch a Tomahawk strike like the one he ordered on Syria back in April. And that is something the world has seen a few times recently.

Ralph L said...

Chuck, I think he posted on the wrong thread.

Rusty said...



Blogger Ralph L said...
"I expect it would be the sort of thing the world has seen quite a bit.
Not likely. NK has air and ground defenses that are unparalleled. In the 80's,"

And it's still unparalleled 80s defenses. Lil'Kim has sunk the major portion of his countys treasure on missiles and nukes at the expense of everything else.

tcrosse said...

Truman's was of course different because we were already in a full-blown war.

The Korean War never ended. There was a truce, but a state of War still exists.

Bill Peschel said...

Was there any mention of Obama's "bright line" if Syria used chemical weapons?

No?

Is it because even now, nobody takes anything he says seriously?

mockturtle said...

So...let them hit Guam then blast them into the Stone Age.

AReasonableMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hagar said...

If Buchanan or Lincoln had used some of such "unprecedented" language, maybe some adults in the South would have told the hotheads of Charleston to cool it?

Ralph L said...

Sean, Any possible number of Tomahawks won't work without nuke warheads (which they can do).
Stealth ain't perfect. Now I'm sounding like Stanley Baldwin, gak.

David Begley said...

When will the American people realize what a mess that Obama left? North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. But Russia!

Nonapod said...

Here's my guess as to what Althouses poll would've looked like:

What do you think Trumps intention was with this statement?

- Like many things Trump has said, it was impulsive

- It's a "message of deterrence", to get Kim Jung Un to back down

- It was a real threat that Trump is fully ready to make good on

Fernandinande said...

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of North Korea: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your dongs.

gspencer said...

Is Fire & Fury on a different plane than Shock & Awe?

Hagar said...

That China and Russia let the US resolution pass in the UN is also new, and even more so that they join in the chorus of condemnation and promise to comply with the sanctions voted - though that remains to be seen, of course.

TreeJoe said...

I selected the "N/A" option on the poll.

...

There is literally a state-leader threatening our country with nuclear war and on a 20+ year undeterred path of building ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs/warheads. Our intelligence agencies are saying for the first time that has been accomplished.

And the news media is dominated by "Trump's rhetoric" - as if a ~7 month-in President and his rhetoric is the reason for this predicament. As if this would all go away if Trump just focused on sanctions.

Unknown said...

The Kadhaffi precedent is looking worse every day. Nobody is going to fall for the "Give up your WMD and we don't care what you do inside your country" line again.

Mike said...

Unlike Fox News Channel, the NYT has an ombudsman who can straighten this out for you Ann. There is no historical evidence that Ike or Bill Clinton ever tweeted threats at North Korea. By focusing exclusively on the content and not the medium you have committed an error of judgement, likely caused by reading other commentators here too closely.

Wait a minute. No. I called the Times' ombudsman and was told that she was actually laid off last week in the latest round of buyouts and mass firings of mainstream media drones. Of course, this by no means means that the Times is struggling or even close to failing like that hideous tweeter Trump likes to say. Shedding employees and removing editorial controls are a sign of a healthy media empire that is succeeding by driving eyeballs to its Web site. Since eyeballs cost less to satisfy than fingers or minds this is a great business model that is excelling in the Trump era by opposing his lies. Thriving in fact. Never been better.

But if they still had an ombudsman she would tell you that your analysis is wrong. And though it pains me to admit it, as a lifelong reader of the great NYT, I have to stand by them and their record of factual evenhandedness.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry about the absence of a poll. I was going off line and meant only to save this post. I couldn't complete the poll where I relocated and thought I was only finishing the draft (and editing out the poll).

I was alarmed, on publishing the "draft" to see all the comments. I worried that I'd written over some earlier post I would now need to reconstruct.

Sorry for all the confusion.

TosaGuy said...

"I wish the partisan hack Michael Beschloss would stop pretending to be an objective historian/expert."

Certain historians have made the great leap from writing books that no one reads to go-to pundit and they like the attention, even if it means giving up any sense of intellectual rigor.

Conversely, media types have about three of such folks on speed dial and each exist to fit a quote to a narrative, not actually apply their academic talent and analysis to the issue at hand. Folks like Beschloss, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Eric Foner know this and know what they need to do to keep themselves in that circle.

David said...

Trump delivered a precisely accurate description of what an attack on North Korea would be like. When a president says the usual ("All options are on the table") it is exactly the same message, but the evasive language masks the reality.

Apparently speaking the truth about the nature of war is a bad thing.

Crimso said...

"Is Fire & Fury on a different plane than Shock & Awe?"

The words used in that tweet didn't sound entirely like Trump to me. Sounded more like something a general might come up with.

Earnest Prole said...

I noticed the same thing you did: "fire and fury" in the second mention was accompanied by the contrasting word "power" and the weasel word "frankly." So I take it that "fire and fury" means something closer to "we'll get really really mad" and not actual thermonuclear annihilation.

AReasonableMan said...

I am enjoying this new episode of the Trump Clown Show. The new character, Kim, creates a lovely parallel with the main character on the show and largely compensates for the unfortunate loss of the wonderful Scaramucci character.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm on a different computer now, and I don't want to try to remember my password for the poll code account.

I hadn't meant to publish what was still only a draft.

I didn't know you liked polls so much! I like my polls, but they're a form of expression for me, not serious as real surveys.

But the poll would have been: Was Trump following precedent? The first option, which you can see I agree with, would have been: Trump followed Clinton and, especially, Truman.

BTW, Truman's statement was made AFTER the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It was: That's what we're doing now. Want more?

Trump's statement comes after more than 70 years of not dropping nuclear bombs.

Ralph L said...

Since Althouse doesn't care what we think, I'm going to stay home today.

JPS said...

David Begley, 10:21:

"When will the American people realize what a mess that Obama left?"

He did, but - for once he'd be entitled to throw much of the blame to his predecessors. He's fourth on my list of former presidents to blame for this situation.

Ann Althouse said...

I care to see how the poll is answered, and often I don't know which answer I'd choose, so it's a way for me to go through the mental exercise of inhabiting different points of view. I hope you experience the polls that way, and if you can choose an option, you can do that too.

TosaGuy said...

Waiting for the story about how Trump's "fire and fury" comment is a trademark infringement on the Fast and Furious movie franchise and that how that the resulting lawsuit will cause his impeachment.

Ralph L said...

Truman had to make threats because we were running out of nukes. By 1994, every foreign leader had to assume Clinton was just jawing.

The with-it historians now claim it was the USSR's declaration of war that made Japan surrender.

Glen Filthie said...


Precedent be damned, Ann.

Donald Trump stated fact. Contrary to the elderly pacifists and lib- and progtards, if somebody's dumb enough to nuke an American city you can bet there WILL be retaliation. Trump would be hounded out of the office if he turned craven.

All that goes in addition to the fact that rightly or wrongly, Trump makes his own rules. He doesn't need precedent for anything and that is why he got elected.

Bay Area Guy said...

There are two dynamics here:

1. Trump's statements and tone

2. The critics' response to Trump's statements and tone.

I do concede that sometimes (1) is a bit off, a bit wild, a bit unfocused.

The problem is that (2) is almost always hysterical and exaggerated.

It's almost as if David Brock or the DNC or whatever leftist group is in charge of Dem messaging, has issued a memo to the flock: whatever Trump says about any topic, you must challenge it forcefully!! If he says the sky is blue, you say, No, at sunset it's orange. If he says the grass is green, you say, not when you don't water it. Etc, etc.

In other words, I have pretty much tuned out Trump's critics, because they are hyperventilating chicken littles, who have lost almost all credibility.

Which means, by default, I have given Trump a mulligan on many things.

In sum: the critics need to drastically stand down and shut the fuck up, so we can restore balance and evaluate Trump's words and actions clearly and soberly.


Ralph L said...

it's a way for me to go through the mental exercise of inhabiting different points of view.
Must be that law school thing you did. Odd that so many lawyers are in journalism and politics, but they can't, or don't, seem to do that well.

Yancey Ward said...

There are no good options if you think Kim is insane and in complete control of his country's arsenal.

Kevin said...

Why is nobody talking about Cuba?

Kennedy charged the Soviet Union with subterfuge and outright deception in what he referred to as a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.” He dismissed Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko’s claim that the weapons in Cuba were of a purely defensive nature as “false.” Harking back to efforts to contain German, Italian, and Japanese aggression in the 1930s, Kennedy argued that war-like behavior, “if allowed to grow unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.

Bob Boyd said...

Trump moderated his tone pretty well.
He didn't say he'd have a golf bag and matching head covers made from Kim's hide for example.

rhhardin said...

Fire and fury is hendyadis. Fire of fury, or fury of fire.

rhhardin said...

hendiadys

always a toss-up.

tcrosse said...

Trump was reminding the Norks that they do not have First-Strike Capability.
The rap against Trump is that:
a. The crazy fucker is going to unleash nuclear armageddon.
b. He's bullshitting and is not going to unleash nuclear armageddon.

Yancey Ward said...

In other words, you don't have to publicly threaten Russia or China, for example, with a rain of fire because there is no reason to think their leaders are maniacs.

Jersey Fled said...

Just more evidence that the NYT sees Trump as the transcendent enemy, and not NK. After all, didnt Obama say that we could absorb a few attacks along the way? But Trump ...

traditionalguy said...

Kim understood him. And that was the point of that message to Kim.

Another difficult politician once said about messages sent to an opponent, " If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time-give it a tremendous whack."

The victory goes to the force that puts fire on target first. DJT expressed that is what he has coming.

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

Trump said if they use the weapons there will be consequences. Kennedy said if the weapons weren't removed, there would be consequences.

Guess which one is reported as "reckless" and "impulsive"?

Joe said...

Is Trump heading down the war rabbit hole?

I find it interesting that the more vocal Trump supporters are demanding a preemptive strike. I presume these are the same people critical of Obama's war against Libya. And the same folks who griped that the US shouldn't be the world's policemen. When it comes to foreign conquest, BOTH liberals and conservatives are remarkably inconsistent, to put it mildly.

The blame for North Korea can be laid at China's proverbial feet. They created this monstrosity. But, what side will they take if the US acts militarily? I'm guessing, not ours.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

"Guess which one is reported as "reckless" and "impulsive"?"

I think it pretty damn obvious that Trump was spouting off without any "long game". Not a fan of Kennedy, but he didn't run out into the street in the middle of the night screaming, "Damn you Cuba!"

Unknown said...

"So...let them hit Guam then blast them into the Stone Age."

Is it worth sacrificing over a hundred thousand people's lives in Guam to order to blast North Korea into the Stone Age? What sort of human says something like this?

Todd said...

Yancey Ward said...

There are no good options if you think Kim is insane and in complete control of his country's arsenal.

8/9/17, 10:54 AM


If Kim is insane and in control, the only option is to hit them hard and hit them fast such that they have little to no time to respond. Any other action is going to produce greater non-NK casualties (in lives and property). So, you have just made the case for a first strike, if Kim is at the controls AND nuts.

Hagar said...

Kim understood him. And that was the point of that message to Kim.

Xi Jinping understood him. And that was the point of that message to Kim.

FIFY.

Ann Althouse said...

Let's say Kim Jong Un nukes Guam. The population is about 170,000. Let's say they all die. Is the right response to kill all the 25 million people in North Korea? Just the 3 million people in Pyongyang? As many of the 25 million as can be hit without hurting anyone in South Korea?

What are we talking about? Is the answer that no one knows because the game is just to impress upon Kim Jong Un that he should never use his nukes? But his threat has always been that he'll only use his weapons if he is attacked. He's only playing the same MAD game that we've been playing since WW2. I've never understood the argument that NK is forbidden to do what the other nuclear powers are doing.

I know I sound like Jill Stein.

Howard said...

Kevin: No one is talking about Cuber because NorK isn't 90-miles from Miami Beach and their missiles and warheads aren't Soviet who was kicking our ass at the time in the space race. Time to start thinking like a man if you ever expect to get a google job.

Unknown said...

"Trump said if they use the weapons there will be consequences."

No, Trump said if they keep threatening us there will be fire and fury. Why are you trying to clean up the reckless and dangerous comment Trump made?

Bay Area Guy said...

"Let's say Kim Jong Un nukes Guam. The population is about 170,000. Let's say they all die. Is the right response to kill all the 25 million people in North Korea? Just the 3 million people in Pyongyang? As many of the 25 million as can be hit without hurting anyone in South Korea?"

Well, the right response has to factor in whether Kim Jong Un has the means to lob a few more nukes after Guam, right? If Yes, then, well, you gotta probably obliterate the entire threat.

MadisonMan said...

"Experts say" is right up there with "A Source close to the Administration"

It means the Journalist made things up, found one person -- or maybe two -- who agreed, and then went with it.

Howard said...

In answer to the Professor: If 170K are vaporized, then the response will likely be Neutron bombs to limit the fallout (double entendre pun intended) in non-target asia

Clayton Hennesey said...

I wonder what would happen if Kim Jong-un dropped one, or two, or three of his silly, primitive wobbly nukes into the Yellowstone caldera. Of course, his guidance systems would have to be much improved to hit a 50 mile wide side of a barn. Well, no biggy; I've already seen Old Faithful.

And that would be suicide for him. Deep in his highly fortified mountain bunker, stocked with the best concubines and food and drink, he could only look on helplessly as his starving countrymen were given the coup de grâce of nuclear retribution while the entire Korean peninsula was washed in nuclear fallout.

By the time the dust settled he'd be, gosh, a middle-aged man.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AllenS said...

Trump should have kept his response simpler to something like this: "Kim Jong Un, make my day."

Unknown said...

"A rational one."

No, one who needs therapy.

BDNYC said...

Ah, the old " ... experts say"

mockturtle said...

Is it worth sacrificing over a hundred thousand people's lives in Guam to order to blast North Korea into the Stone Age? What sort of human says something like this?

Sorry, I wanted to edit my response and deleted it. My answer is still 'a rational one'. People can be safely evacuated from Guam.

roesch/voltaire said...

People are foolish to think this only would involve bombing the yellow folks in North Korea, which is the cat'Paw for China. Look to our last Korean War for the implications.

JPS said...

Prof. Althouse,

"But his threat has always been that he'll only use his weapons if he is attacked."

Sure. The problem is, he has an expansive and flexible idea of what constitutes an attack on him. Not to mention a tendency to project.

Every spring and late summer, the US military and the RoK hold joint exercises. The North claims that the exercises are a cover story and a prelude to war. (Which is exactly how the North explained their military buildup along the border in 1950, before they rolled south and took Seoul in three days.) And every time, they make bloodcurdling threats. "We will turn Seoul into a sea of nuclear fire" is a recurring one.

So I disagree that he's just playing the same game we've been playing.

Unknown said...

"People can be safely evacuated from Guam."

So everyone on Guam can be evacuated, just in case Kim Jung Un decides to nuke it in response to Trump's provocations? Or maybe he'll do it just for shits and giggles. How do we know when to evacuate 170.000 people?

J. Farmer said...

Most everything here seems to be a rehash of what has been said in the previous North Korean thread. So, I'll reiterate my overall point of view of the situation:

The main purpose of nuclear weapons is insurance against invasion, occupation, and regime change. North Korea is an extremely isolated country whose strategic position is virtually nonexistent. Its primary concern is self-preservation, and this seems to be the main reason it wants such weapons...to stay in power. It makes absolutely no strategic sense for the North Koreans to launch an attack on the US, since the counterattack would obliterate them. They would get less nothing from such a maneuver. Also, the North Koreans have engaged in this kind of bluster and saber-rattling for years now. My preferred solution is for Americans to leave the Korean peninsula and hand over responsibility for dealing with North Korea to the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Russians.

mockturtle said...

OK, Unknowing and reich/volt: What would be your reasoned response to a bombing of Guam?

antiphone said...

The Kadhaffi precedent is looking worse every day. Nobody is going to fall for the "Give up your WMD and we don't care what you do inside your country" line again.

The precedent would be Saddam Hussein unless we're still pretending he had WMD.

mockturtle said...

Or, more to your point, how do prevent N.K. from bombing Guam if they choose to?

eric said...

It seems to me Trump's rhetoric is meeting the same sort of resistance Bush met when he said you're either with us, or against us.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

Or, more to your point, how do prevent N.K. from bombing Guam if they choose to?

Why would they do such a thing? What strategic benefit would North Korea obtain by inviting a devastating counterattack from a superpower?

Rae said...

This became inevitable once the Obama administration allowed North Korea to have nukes.

And yes, Obama had a bunch of shitty options. That doesn't absolve him.

And the Clinton and Bush administrations are absolved either.

mockturtle said...

J. Farmer suggests: My preferred solution is for Americans to leave the Korean peninsula and hand over responsibility for dealing with North Korea to the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Russians.

We do have a Mutual Defense Agreement with S. Korea. How long would S. Korea last if we removed our 15 military bases?

mockturtle said...

J. Farmer asks: Why would they do such a thing? What strategic benefit would North Korea obtain by inviting a devastating counterattack from a superpower?

Kim doesn't give a fat rat's ass about strategy. He's all about power and respect. A mouse that roars, if you will.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

Kim doesn't give a fat rat's ass about strategy. He's all about power and respect. A mouse that roars, if you will.

How do you know this?

Unknown said...

"What would be your reasoned response to a bombing of Guam?"

Retaliatory attack of course.

However, you're moving the goal posts from your earlier comment. You didn't say a word about the residents of Guam, the US military base and the military dependents there, when you so glibly said "let them hit Guam".

"So...let them hit Guam then blast them into the Stone Age."

Unknown said...

"How do you know this?"

Maybe she identifies with him.

mockturtle said...

How do you know this?

Observation and sheer speculation. Just like you.

Todd said...

Ann Althouse said...

Let's say Kim Jong Un nukes Guam. The population is about 170,000. Let's say they all die. Is the right response to kill all the 25 million people in North Korea? Just the 3 million people in Pyongyang? As many of the 25 million as can be hit without hurting anyone in South Korea?

8/9/17, 11:15 AM


What would be the right response from Mead if someone punches you in the face while he is standing next to you? Is it to threaten sanctions or to apply enough force to eliminate the "threat"?

In part, this is a result of "Elite Politics" in that most use soft, fussy phrases and words that can mean different things and when threats are made, they are typically empty. Tin-pot dictators are taught that the world will do anything to avoid a confrontation and if need be, will pay off the petty thug to kick the can down the road a bit. These regimes start to get an inflated sense of their power and influence and like with any thug with an easy mark, they can't help but come back to get more. Had they been shown the error of their ways on day one, they would have learned to play nice with everyone else. Now Trump is getting heat for having to deal with a 30 year old problem. What is little Kim to think after Obama's red lines? This will likely not end well.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

We do have a Mutual Defense Agreement with S. Korea. How long would S. Korea last if we removed our 15 military bases?

Yes, I am generally against MDA's. But South Korea has more than enough resources to defend itself against the north. It's among the top 10 military spenders in the world, and its economically and technologically light years ahead of the North's crumbling, obsolete military hardware.

Gahrie said...

But South Korea has more than enough resources to defend itself against the north.

That's what we thought in June 1950.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

Observation and sheer speculation. Just like you.

Yes, I am aware how knowledge works. My question is what observations have led you to that conclusion? Most everything I have read about the situation suggests just the opposite:

Kim Jong Un Is a Survivor, Not a Madman

Kim Jong Un Is Cruel And Dangerous But Not Crazy, North Korean Experts Say

exhelodrvr1 said...

Stature that Obama deliberately lowered.

Ann Althouse said...

"What strategic benefit would North Korea obtain by inviting a devastating counterattack from a superpower?"

That's a rhetorical question that translates into the realization that NK has joined the MAD crowd.

Todd said...

J. Farmer said...

The main purpose of nuclear weapons is insurance against invasion, occupation, and regime change. North Korea is an extremely isolated country whose strategic position is virtually nonexistent. Its primary concern is self-preservation, and this seems to be the main reason it wants such weapons...to stay in power. It makes absolutely no strategic sense for the North Koreans to launch an attack on the US, since the counterattack would obliterate them. They would get less nothing from such a maneuver. Also, the North Koreans have engaged in this kind of bluster and saber-rattling for years now. My preferred solution is for Americans to leave the Korean peninsula and hand over responsibility for dealing with North Korea to the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Russians.

8/9/17, 11:36 AM


Sorry but that strikes me as extremely naive. NK is [just about] broke. NK citizens are practically slaves to the state. Kim likes being in power very, very much. Where to get more money? Why not black-mail the world? Give me food and money so I can feed my people (who are starving due to my actions) or else I might use my new fancy nukes.

And/OR little Kim is nuts and if he can get his way, will be out anyway, so why not use these new toys for shits-n-grins? Deterrence only works if all the players are sane.

J. Farmer said...

@Gahrie:

That's what we thought in June 1950.

Compare the South Korea of 1950 with the South Korea of 2017. It's a slightly different scenario 67 years later.

rhhardin said...

With non-state Islam, the game theoretic response to a nuke attack is to an attack is to nuke all muslims everywhere.

Analysis from Richard Fernandez.

Ralph L said...

South Korea and Japan would build their own nukes, they just need some warning. And our other allies would get really nervous, and not just TDS nervous.

J. Farmer said...

@Todd:

Deterrence only works if all the players are sane.

Well, there is not a scintilla of evidence that Kim Jung Un is insane.

Kim likes being in power very, very much.

And his surest way of being out of power and his country reduced to rubble would be to launch an attack against the United States. I agree that Kim is driven by self-preservation, but that's precisely why initiating a nuclear attack would be a dead end. Literally.

Yancey Ward said...

MAD works if none of the parties with control of the weapons are insane or homicidal. MAD doesn't work if that condition is untrue. That is why the assessment of Kim is important, as is the assessment of the amount of control he actually has. You might make a threat like Trump did precisely to change that latter assessment- the people under Kim have an incentive to not allow him to start such a conflict, and surely most of them are not insane.

exhelodrvr1 said...

"I've never understood the argument that NK is forbidden to do what the other nuclear powers are doing. "

If you don't understand the argument, that would mean that you don't see a difference between an Iran/North Korea with nukes, and a Russia/China/USA with nukes. I find that hard to believe.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

God, I wish I had Trump's power to drive a large chunk of the populace into hysterics at will. The comedic possibilities are endless.

JAORE said...

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

I wonder why Henry II didn't think he had to destroy the entire church?

Yancey Ward said...

J. Farmer,

"Not a scintilla" isn't really true unless you completely disbelieve the stories about what he has done to "traitors". Suicidally insane isn't uncommon, and Kim comes as close to that as any leader with nuclear weapons in history.

mockturtle said...

Per J. Farmer: Yes, I am aware how knowledge works. My question is what observations have led you to that conclusion? Most everything I have read about the situation suggests just the opposite:

I believe he thinks he could get away with bombing, say Guam, without military repercussions because Americans are too humane to bomb 'innocent' people.

As far as S. Korea defending itself, do you believe China would remain neutral?

Todd said...

J. Farmer said...

I agree that Kim is driven by self-preservation, but that's precisely why initiating a nuclear attack would be a dead end. Literally.

8/9/17, 11:57 AM


If that is the case, why all the tough talk from Kim? Why the nukes? Trump had no public issues there before Kim started flapping his gums and shooting off nukes. America had no policy to oust Kim. He made himself an issue. Why?

mockturtle said...

Cracker laments: God, I wish I had Trump's power to drive a large chunk of the populace into hysterics at will. The comedic possibilities are endless.

These TDS folk would be bored stiff without Trump. All they would have is their yoga classes to get fired up about.

hombre said...

It looks like Trump deliberately put the ball in China and Russia's court. Good move.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

"Kim Jong Un is cruel and dangerous, but not crazy, North Korean Experts say"

Sounds right. I trust North Korean experts over any supposed American media "expert."


point aside: Who needs crazy when you have cruel and dangerous? Little Kim builds a lot of prisons to house those who would be fired from Google for thought-crime.

Trumpit said...

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States."

In proper Queen's English, I think he should have said "had better not." I don't use "best not" myself, although I normally don't add the word "had," which is optional to my understanding of the grammar involved.

Alex Jones of Infowars infamy, suggested dropping neutron bombs on North Korea. The unstoppable radiation would kill every living thing save the infrastructure. The North Koreans would not know what hit them. As Donald Trump, Jr. would say about the idea, "I love it."

Balfegor said...

Re: Gahrie:

That's what we thought in June 1950.

But did we really? If so, that's just more evidence of how totally ignorant we were of the Asian situation back then.

We'd installed kleptocrat Syngman Rhee largely because (1) we were concerned that the independent Korean government established with the support of the outgoing Imperial Japanese administration was going to go communist, and (2) Rhee could speak English, unlike other potential leaders (Rhee had also spent the war in the US, while most other independence activists had spent the war in Korea, some supporting Japan against the West).

After Rhee's regime was installed in 1948, they then proceeded to massacre, with our knowledge, tens of thousands of rebels in Jeju. At the outbreak of the Korean War, the Americans knew that South Korea didn't have tanks or other military equipment because we had denied their requests for the same (not without reason -- we just saw them massacre tens of thousands of civilians in Jeju after all).

If we actually thought South Korea could hold off North Korea in 1950, we were utter fools. The South Korean army at the time was underequipped and poorly trained -- the only people with serious military experience were a handful of Korean IJA officers who had commanded troops in China. I forget whether Park Chunghee had served in a combat role (I think he might have done). There are a few others. But Korean troops were disproportionately likely to serve as prison guards and the like; comparatively few Korean officers and soldiers served in offensive units where they would have acquired battlefield experience.

JPS said...

Trumpit,

"Alex Jones of Infowars infamy, suggested dropping neutron bombs on North Korea. The unstoppable radiation would kill every living thing save the infrastructure. The North Koreans would not know what hit them."

There are some remarkable misconceptions out there about neutron bombs. That statement packs some of the key ones densely.

Balfegor:

After a visit to the RoK war museum a few years ago, I wanted to read more about Rhee, who comes off rather heroically in the museum's unabashedly propagandistic displays. (Visitors may get the sense that the United States helped out, peripherally, in that war, though MacArthur gets his due for the Inchon landings.) I was pretty startled. If there's a more loathsome example of "at least he's ourson of a bitch" than Syngman Rhee, I can't think of him just now, though surely Robert Cook et al. could jog my memory.

Sebastian said...

Late to the party, and apologies to earlier commenters upthread, but to make sure he's taken seriously Trump should threaten to turn NK into a golf course.

Anyway, we should set not red lines but deadlines behind the scenes--China, we're giving you this much time to make him stop; RoK, get your civil defense in order.

There are no good solutions, blah, blah, blah. But for the US the "end of their country" is a not-worst solution. Trump should beat the America First drum.

Clyde said...

It's not bluster if you can actually do it, and we can. Kim needed to know that any attack on us would result in the destruction of everything between the DMZ and the Chinese border, and then we would make the rubble dance. Not a "proportional response," but utter annihilation. Don't fuck with us!

Kevin said...

And his surest way of being out of power and his country reduced to rubble would be to launch an attack against the United States. I agree that Kim is driven by self-preservation, but that's precisely why initiating a nuclear attack would be a dead end. Literally.

This is only one side of the multivariate equation. What happens if Kim is opposed by his own people, or is threatened, but not by the US?

Do you think he'd keep his nuclear weapon holstered and transfer the weapons to those who opposed him? Or do you think he'd say, "If I'm going down, I'm going to punish the world for letting it happen", and launch his nukes in a fit of rage?

If he's faced with an internal uprising, and he called the US and said, "either get in here and put down the rebellion or lose Seattle", what are we going to say? Are we going to become his extended security force because he's a madman with a nuclear weapon?

What about Kim's emerging ability to sell nuclear technology - now ICBM's and miniaturization of nuclear weapons to third parties? Does he want to accelerate the Iranian program? He does need the cash.

Those are only three situations. There are many more possibilities.

To simply apply the Russia/China template without considering whether it even fits, is to really misunderstand all the analysis which went into the Russia/China template from the beginning.

Jim at said...

"No, one who needs therapy."


Self-awareness, Ms. Patriot.
Have some.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

"It looks like Trump deliberately put the ball in China and Russia's court. Good move."

Exactly. But so many seem to think this kind of gamesmanship was just invented yesterday. Either a profound ignorance of history or just indulgent high-chair pounding.

Drago said...

Unknown: "Retaliatory attack of course."

LOL

Move immediately to the -Trump forced the attack by NK to throw off the investigation!-

100% guarantee that would be the primary talking point on Chucks beloved MSNBC and Democrat Underground.

Drago said...

Trumpit: "In proper Queen's English, I think he should have said "had better not." I don't use "best not" myself, although I normally don't add the word "had," which is optional to my understanding of the grammar involved"

"I don't feel no way taaaaa-rrrrrr----eeeeeddddd"'

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

"The unstoppable radiation would kill every living thing save the infrastructure."

Oh yeah, North Korean infrastructure, that's what we want. I know a surgeon who has done mission trips into North Korea and who surreptitiously took some photographs. The rural village he photographed looks like something from the Middle Ages.

Bad Lieutenant said...

The main purpose of nuclear weapons is insurance against invasion, occupation, and regime change. North Korea is an extremely isolated country whose strategic position is virtually nonexistent. Its primary concern is self-preservation, and this seems to be the main reason it wants such weapons...to stay in power. It makes absolutely no strategic sense for the North Koreans to launch an attack on the US, since the counterattack would obliterate them. They would get less nothing from such a maneuver. Also, the North Koreans have engaged in this kind of bluster and saber-rattling for years now. My preferred solution is for Americans to leave the Korean peninsula and hand over responsibility for dealing with North Korea to the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Russians.

J. Farmer, just to be clear, without our involvement do you think the issue is more, or less, likely to be settled pacifically and/or successfully? In what way? Is it unfair to say you don't really care if bad things happen over there, as long as our hands are clean? As long as we are not put to expense/harm? Are you really that much of a moralist? Is that really moral?

Bad Lieutenant said...

"I've never understood the argument that NK is forbidden to do what the other nuclear powers are doing. "

If you don't understand the argument, that would mean that you don't see a difference between an Iran/North Korea with nukes, and a Russia/China/USA with nukes. I find that hard to believe.



Ann, please read the last 75 years of literature on the problem of nuclear proliferation. Please.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

"Ann, please read the last 75 years of literature on the problem of nuclear proliferation. Please."

Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes. Buy it through the Cracker Amazon portal. He still doesn't understand Reagan but he's pretty solid on everything else.

Bad Lieutenant said...

It's not bluster if you can actually do it, and we can. Kim needed to know that any attack on us would result in the destruction of everything between the DMZ and the Chinese border, and then we would make the rubble dance. Not a "proportional response," but utter annihilation. Don't fuck with us!



Moreover, future proliferators need to learn/be reminded of this. Due to prior appeasement the wrong lessons have been learned.


Also, any action which does not result in destruction, paralysis or capitulation of DPRK inevitably means Seoul-on-fire. I'd like to know the composition of the conventional or even the nuclear strike package which could reasonably assure this.

The only clean solution I see is the assassination, coup or other removal of the current leadership.

Joe said...

"North Korea had best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

It is possible that Trump is using his shorthand and dropping sentences, but a plain reading is that if North Korea continues to make threats, the US will nuke them. And this doesn't alarm anyone?

J. Farmer said...

@Yancey Ward:

J. Farmer,

"Not a scintilla" isn't really true unless you completely disbelieve the stories about what he has done to "traitors". Suicidally insane isn't uncommon, and Kim comes as close to that as any leader with nuclear weapons in history.


You can completely believed those stories and still conclude he is not insane. It is not "insane" to murder people you think might usurp your power. It's cold and calculating, but it's not insane. In fact, it's been pretty standard fare for despotic rulers to do such things for millennia.

@mockturtle:

I believe he thinks he could get away with bombing, say Guam, without military repercussions because Americans are too humane to bomb 'innocent' people.

Again, what is the evidence for concluding he thinks this way? Has he not been paying attention for the last 16 years as America has bombed numerous countries and gotten a lot of innocent people killed?

As far as S. Korea defending itself, do you believe China would remain neutral?

No, anymore than we would remain neutral if a violent war broke out in Mexico. But I also believe that Japan would not stay neutral.

@Todd:

If that is the case, why all the tough talk from Kim? Why the nukes?

Again, the nukes are most likely insurance against invasion, occupation, and regime change. As for the "tough talk," it's been a feature of the North Korean regime for years. A lot of it is intended for domestic consumption and to defend autocratic rule as necessary to prevent war from the "imperialist capitalist." The North Korean regime is still much more wrapped up in foolish Leninism ideology than any of the other official communist powers.

@Kevin:

This is only one side of the multivariate equation. What happens if Kim is opposed by his own people, or is threatened, but not by the US?

Do you think he'd keep his nuclear weapon holstered and transfer the weapons to those who opposed him? Or do you think he'd say, "If I'm going down, I'm going to punish the world for letting it happen", and launch his nukes in a fit of rage?


I think that's a very fanciful scenario, and I cannot imagine a situation where Kim Jung Un was really "going down" but still had the power to launch nuclear weapons. If Kim was in such a fragile state, it's highly unlikely he would be left in much control of the country. Plus, conventional military containment has kept the north on their side of the DMZ for 60 years. That doesn't look like an insane regime to me ready to annihilate itself at any moment. That looks like a regime to me that is obsessed with self-preservation.

@Bad Lieutenant:

Is it unfair to say you don't really care if bad things happen over there, as long as our hands are clean? As long as we are not put to expense/harm?

No.

Are you really that much of a moralist? Is that really moral?

I am not sure what you're asking, but I don't think a moral case (pro or con) really helps the argument much. Today, about 3,000,000 children under 5 starve to death in the world, tens of millions live in modern slavery. I think those horrific situations, and I could not imagine them. Yet, I don't believe the US government should exert great resources to trying to stop it. I don't find either of those two beliefs contradictory. We live in a finite world with finite resources, and priorities have to be set.



J. Farmer said...

@Bad Lieutenant:

The only clean solution I see is the assassination, coup or other removal of the current leadership.

And what makes you think the "current leadership" won't be replaced by something exactly the same, or worse?

Ralph L said...

Joe, I don't think Trump was talking about nuking NK. South Korea wouldn't like that at all.

William Chadwick said...

"It is possible that Trump is using his shorthand and dropping sentences, but a plain reading is that if North Korea continues to make threats, the US will nuke them. And this doesn't alarm anyone?"

It alarms me, Joe, simply because the prospects of nukes flying anywhere--even to incinerate the little fat Commie--is cause for alarm; but what, then, should Trump do? I know about as much about geopolitics as your average "liberal" knows about economics and logic (yup, that little); but if someone has a weapon, and threatens me with it, all things being equal, I would feel totally justified in wasting him on the spot. I would feel no moral obligation to let him have first shot. Should Trump let Kim incinerate Guam or Hawaii before he uses force? Just wondering.

Nonapod said...

Again, the nukes are most likely insurance against invasion, occupation, and regime change

If we're assuming sanity here, what would lead Kim Jung Un to the conclusion that he was going to be invaded unless he developed nukes? What would lead a sane autocrat to feel he needed insurance, even if acquiring this insurance itself was highly risky and perhaps even fatal?

Personally I have no idea if Kim Jung Un is a cold, calculating despot who is sane and a bit paranoid (since all cruel despots have to be a bit paranoid to surive long), or a full on hyper-paranoid lunatic. I just don't have the tools or the information to make that determination.

Balfegor said...

Re: JPS:

After a visit to the RoK war museum a few years ago, I wanted to read more about Rhee, who comes off rather heroically in the museum's unabashedly propagandistic displays. (Visitors may get the sense that the United States helped out, peripherally, in that war, though MacArthur gets his due for the Inchon landings.) I was pretty startled. If there's a more loathsome example of "at least he's ourson of a bitch" than Syngman Rhee, I can't think of him just now, though surely Robert Cook et al. could jog my memory.

Syngman Rhee was just awful. For reasons of family history, I tend to align with the rightists in Korea, many of whom still honour Rhee as a father of the country, but he just seems a ridiculous character who somehow conned the Americans into propping up his regime.
For me, the modern Republic of Korea doesn't really kick off until Park Chunghee. Before that, it was just gangster government and massacres. Huge massacres.

Honestly, of all the countries aligned with the Axis powers in World War II, I think Korea got by far the worst deal (Japan possibly got the best).

mockturtle said...

Kim may have been hoping for a big bribe like that Iran received but he's dealing with a new US regime now.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@Nonapod:

If we're assuming sanity here, what would lead Kim Jung Un to the conclusion that he was going to be invaded unless he developed nukes? What would lead a sane autocrat to feel he needed insurance, even if acquiring this insurance itself was highly risky and perhaps even fatal?

Iraq and Libya are two recent examples that spring readily to mind.

@mockturle:

Kim may have been hoping for a big bribe like that Iran received but he's dealing with a new US regime now.

That wasn't a bribe. Sanctions relief was always the bargaining chip. That's the reason you put sanctions on a country in the first place, to compel their behavior. And had the US abandoned the talks, the sanctions regime would have crumbled and the money would still end up in Tehran without any of the major concessions the deal was able to extract. The Iranian deal was one of the very few positives to come out of the Obama administration, and it's disheartening that the new administration is so adamant in wanting to rip it up. The hyperventilating about Iran's supposed "windfall" was always overblown. During Ahmadinejad's eight-year presidency, Iran received up to $800 billion in oil revenues, and yet no significant shift in power terms has accrued as a result. Considering that what the Iranians received from sanctions relief was just a fraction of that and also will not significantly alter the balance of power in the region.

Nonapod said...

Iraq and Libya are two recent examples that spring readily to mind.

So, despite those events happening under a different administration and under wildly different circumstances, despite well over 60 years of no attempts at invasion, despite all the risk of going down the nuclear path, despite virtually every other nation on Earth being against it and even their closest ally China not being thrilled about it, despite there being new American president who prides himself on not taking things off the table, Kim Jung Un decides his only option is to ignore all that and aggressively pursue intercontinental ballistic nuclear weaponry? I'm not so certain as you seem to be that those are the actions of a fully rational mind.

Kevin said...

I think that's a very fanciful scenario, and I cannot imagine a situation where Kim Jung Un was really "going down" but still had the power to launch nuclear weapons.

Thankfully people in positions of responsibility are paid to do just that. "I can't conceive of that thing happening" is the opening for every man-made disaster the world has ever experienced.

J. Farmer said...

@Nonapod:

So, despite those events happening under a different administration and under wildly different circumstances...

I don't know how differences the circumstances were, particularly with regard to Iraq. Also, there is a pretty consistent line in American foreign policy, regardless of the occupant of the White House. To take the examples I gave, Iraq was launched under a so called conservative Republican administration and Libya under a so called liberal Democratic administration. Further, North Korea's nuclear ambitions did not begin with Kim Jung Un but with his grandfather and has been a decades-long endeavor. The collapse of the Soviet Union, and China's increasing desire to be seen as a responsible steward on the global stage have also probably influenced the calculations of the North Korean regime.

@Kevin:

Thankfully people in positions of responsibility are paid to do just that.

I think you are far more comforted by the conclusions and behavior of our foreign policy/intelligence apparatus over the decades than I ever would be. Whether its the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, the incessant cry of do somethingism has frequently led us down a foolish, destructive path.

Scott said...

AM
J. Farmer said...

@Todd:

Deterrence only works if all the players are sane.

Well, there is not a scintilla of evidence that Kim Jung Un is insane.

How about assassinating your half brother in the public airport of a friendly neutral to you with WMD (VX nerve agent)? Is that insane enough to qualify?

mockturtle said...


I think you are far more comforted by the conclusions and behavior of our foreign policy/intelligence apparatus over the decades than I ever would be. Whether its the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, the incessant cry of do somethingism has frequently led us down a foolish, destructive path.


I agree with you on this, J. Farmer. We've been far too involved in far too many places for far too long. And I don't believe we should 'do' anything to N. Korea unless N. Korea does it first. You don't seem to think they will but I'm not so sure.

mockturtle said...

How about assassinating your half brother in the public airport of a friendly neutral to you with WMD (VX nerve agent)? Is that insane enough to qualify?

Impulsive and amoral but maybe not insane in the psychiatric sense.

J. Farmer said...

@Scott:

How about assassinating your half brother in the public airport of a friendly neutral to you with WMD (VX nerve agent)? Is that insane enough to qualify?

No, as I said before, murdering a perceived political opponent is not insane. It may be cold, cruel, and calculating, but it's not insane. There were over 15,000 murders in the US last year. Is everyone that committed those murders insane and in needing of a treatment facility over prison? I don't think so. Also, murdering of political opponents has been part of the human political conditions for thousands of years. The Saudi monarchy routinely punishes by death figures they consider a threat to their regime. Do we conclude that the Saudis are therefore insane?

Achilles said...

Ann Althouse said...

What are we talking about? Is the answer that no one knows because the game is just to impress upon Kim Jong Un that he should never use his nukes?

No. They point is to kill him and all of his supporters. After we wiped out their Army we would move in, invest the place, and start putting heads on spikes at the gates.

To the extent there is collateral damage the goal is that in the future there will be less collateral damage from future rogue actors. We would probably try extremely hard to avoid civilian casualties where possible.

Crimso said...

"He's only playing the same MAD game that we've been playing since WW2."

You've used the term "MAD" more than once. In this case, at this time, it's AD. The calculus of that is slightly different.

J. Farmer said...

@Achilles:

Just out of curiosity, where do you come down on the whole pro-life/pro-abortion divide?

Crimso said...

And how about an EMP weapon? Once you've got an ICBM, and an ICBM-capable bomb, how difficult is it to detonate the device in such a way as to cause severe disruption ("severe" as in causing a large no. of deaths, though nothing quite like a general nuclear exchange)? Maybe MAD is at play here.

Clayton Hennesey said...

No. They point is to kill him and all of his supporters. After we wiped out their Army we would move in, invest the place, and start putting heads on spikes at the gates.

To the extent there is collateral damage the goal is that in the future there will be less collateral damage from future rogue actors. We would probably try extremely hard to avoid civilian casualties where possible.


Again, it's not quite yet necessary that we kill China's regional pit bull, a threat to us which also functions as China's handy "bad cop" proxy with respect to China's larger hegemonic aspirations in the South China Sea (See what we just did with North Korea, China? Now let's talk about those Spratly Islands.), if we can instead successfully geld it by shooting its balls off.

There's absolutely no good reason at this point why we cannot (2) shoot down any further North Korean intercontinental missiles launched that we may have missed when (1) immediately Tomahawking any sites where missiles are detected being spun up for launch. Destroy Kim's materiel while making "missile technician" a synonym for "martyr" in North Korean. Do the same thing to any North Korean naval assets which might become naughty. These actions are known as "sanctions". So terribly sorry, North Korea, it's true: you just don't get the same respect we accord other nations. Yes, it's true, it's because you're different. Terribly rude of us, we know.

The international community may be faux-outraged. Our response? "Oh. Okay. Huh."

(And what would happen if someone successfully detonated a nuclear device in the Yellowstone caldera?)

Drago said...

It seems like only yesterday the lefties were cheering a Hugo Chavez rhetorical attack on GWBush while speaking at the UN.

Good times for the lefties. Good times.

Crimso said...

The biggest immediate problem with any military action against N.K. is the no. of South Koreans within arty range of N.K., and the amount of arty deployed within that range. Estimates are that a large no. of South Koreans would be killed before the N.K. arty could be silenced (tens of thousands?).

mockturtle said...

Crimso considers: The biggest immediate problem with any military action against N.K. is the no. of South Koreans within arty range of N.K., and the amount of arty deployed within that range. Estimates are that a large no. of South Koreans would be killed before the N.K. arty could be silenced (tens of thousands?).

We should at least wait until after the Winter Olympics in February.

Sammy Finkelman said...

trump planed this but without consukting non political staff

Clayton Hennesey said...

The biggest immediate problem with any military action against N.K. is the no. of South Koreans within arty range of N.K., and the amount of arty deployed within that range. Estimates are that a large no. of South Koreans would be killed before the N.K. arty could be silenced (tens of thousands?).

This is true. As with Otto Warmbier, allowing oneself to become a North Korean hostage can easily become a death sentence.

But the North can also fire on Seoul on any given morning Kim Jong-un wakes up and decides to. Allowing oneself to become a North Korean hostage can easily become a death sentence.

Howard said...

Nice deflect, Drago. Your point is "Your Fuckup is just as bad as Our Fuckup. Ha ha ha ha ha Gottcha there, ditto ditto" I think the weight of your DFC is cutting off circulation to your noodle. Maybe it's CO induced hypoxia?

Howard said...

Sammy get's the Mr. Obvious Trophy!

Bad Lieutenant said...

J. Farmer said...
@Bad Lieutenant:

The only clean solution I see is the assassination, coup or other removal of the current leadership.

And what makes you think the "current leadership" won't be replaced by something exactly the same, or worse?
8/9/17, 1:57 PM



Could I get a little better response from you than that?

Narayanan Subramanian said...

Why not present China with a crisis? Our nuclear weapons in Taiwan to balance their nork puppets

Stephen said...

Perhaps this is too obvious, but Truman was making a threat to a nation with whom we were engaged in a desperate military struggle and it was a threat that he had already decided to carry out if it was not effective in bringing and end to that struggle. The decision to make the threat was obviously one that was deliberated on at the highest levels and agreed upon by his advisors. Moreover, Japan had no way to respond to that threat that was not already in play.

Contrast Trump:

1. He's making a threat to respond to continued threats, not actual ongoing military action.

2. It's not a threat that he has decided to carry out, or that would necessarily make sense to carry out. So he has the risk of being exposed as a blowhard.

3. There are lots of ways for North Korea to respond that would vastly increase the risks involved, including conventional warfare threats to South Korea's civilian population.

4. He did not vet this language with his advisors and they are rushing to cut it back.

Sounds like Truman is a bad comparison to me. And advertising US strength hardly seems necessary or advisable if it can't be used in a way that doesn't threaten huge damage to important allies.

J. Farmer said...

@Bad Lieutenant:

Could I get a little better response from you than that?

How about if you answer the question, and we go from there.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

J. Farmer,

In the previous North Korea comment thread you had a lengthy exchange with The Toothless Revolutionary. Was he sane? Was he rational? Functionally, in the context of your exchange, is there a difference between the two? History is littered with the bodies of people who were at the command of the clinically sane, but wildly irrational

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

Or simply indifferent to the lives of those under their control.

Kevin said...

I think you are far more comforted by the conclusions and behavior of our foreign policy/intelligence apparatus over the decades than I ever would be. Whether its the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, the incessant cry of do somethingism has frequently led us down a foolish, destructive path.

I think you like to cut off the parts of people's responses which would make your answer more difficult. My answer had to do with the litany of man-made disasters from believing that something could never happen and thus dismissing it.

You answered with a bunch of situations which taken out of context seem like a witty rejoinder. But when they are considered in context of the entirety of my response only serve to validate my point. Whether we did something - or failed to do something - because we believed something couldn't happen, each instance was the fault of an incomplete analysis of the situation.

I appreciate your sincere intention to keep a lot of threads going in a polite way, but I don't think you're likely doing any of the ideas presented to you the justice they deserve. I'm looking more for a thoughtful discussion than a tennis match, so I'll step aside to let you concentrate on other people's comments.

JAORE said...

Perhaps Kim is not insane. But there are numerous stories that he is surrounded by, for sake of self-preservation,the worlds most vehement yes-men in history.

How do you think his Generals respond when Kim asks things like:
"Can we hit the US with a nuke?"
"Will they retaliate if we Nuke Guam?"
"Can the US stop our ICBMs?"
(After 40 years of appeasement) "Will the US actually take action?"

So, insane or not, perhaps he believes he can do as he wishes and either win or we will do nothing.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

"It is possible that Trump is using his shorthand and dropping sentences, but a plain reading is that if North Korea continues to make threats, the US will nuke them. And this doesn't alarm anyone?"

Never once does he say so. But if "plain reading" means literal and willfully disingenuous then, sure, why not?

Bad Lieutenant said...

Fine, doped up on painkiller, let me try.

Worse? That seems unlikely.

Worse by what standard? More oppressive? You don't care about that. More likely to play nuclear chicken with the US? If you don't think they are ineducable retards, the rendering of KJU into bone-flecked jam ought to be a teachable moment.

I've posted on this before at some length, fairly recently, though I won't presume you've read it. After you put a. 50 in his ear from a mile out, or a .22 or an icepick from rather closer, or a JDAM from 30,000 feet, you then communicate with surviving leadership cadres-they have three choices:

1)Do you want what he got?

2)Would you like to be the Savior Of Your Country and lead DPRK out of Juche and into well-fed modernity?

3)Would you like to be the new boss and continue to operate NK as the world's largest supermax, but without annoying the neighbors?

3) is fine/kinda ok as long as they observe certain guidelines e.g. no more shaking nukes at us and no more 10,000 tubes.

But since that is all patently obvious, I feel you just asked it as a timesuck.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Also, I don't think he said make threats, I think he said threaten. With a gun in your hand you don't have to say a word.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Your point is "Your Fuckup is just as bad as Our Fuckup"

Why didn't you care about Your Fuckup, though?

J. Farmer said...

@The Cracker Emcee Activist:

J. Farmer,

In the previous North Korea comment thread you had a lengthy exchange with The Toothless Revolutionary.


It was 2am; I was on call; I had time to kill. But I take your point.

Functionally, in the context of your exchange, is there a difference between the two?

Let me try to answer your question by way of an example. India and Pakistan have possessed nuclear weapons for almost 20 years now. They have fought four wars with each other since the late 1940s. They have decades of mutual hostility, territorial disputes in Kashmir, and sectarian conflict. Anti-Muslims pogroms continue in India, BJP politicians are frequently involved in stoking anti-muslims violence; Pakistan's ISI support and helped fund Naxalite terrorist violence in India. They have varying degrees of loyalty to salafist groups in northwest Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Now, I think the political leaders of these countries are sane. Do I think they're rational? Well. that's a very big question. They have a very big history together that I can probably only begin to understand at the margins. That said, I don't expect missiles to be flying between Islamabad and Delhi anytime soon. Because however rational or irrational they are, I do believe that they possess a pretty common human trait: to not die. And yes, obviously there are people willing to kill themselves for a cause. These people are the cannon fodder; they are not the political class.

To take a non-nuclear example, consider Saudi Arabia. This is a regime, an absolute dynastic monarchy, that tortures and executes political dissidents and its adversaries. They are currently in the process of carrying out a devastating bombardment of Yemen. This is much more significant than anything that North Korea has done for decades. Yet no one declares the Saudis unhinged madmen eager for self-immolation.

And to take an American example, Richard Nixon was a famous proponent of the "madman theory." That is, to convince unfriendly Communist nations that Nixon was volatile, unhinged, and unpredictable and prone to start a war for no damn good reason. The theory holds that this attitude would deter such nations from provocative behavior. Now, I don't know of Kim is trying to employ a similar strategy, but it seems to me at least as probable as the contention that he is an unhinged madman.

And if it were true that Kim was sufficiently rational that he would go to war with a superpower, he can already do that. If he wanted to provoke a war, he could start attacking US or South Korean troops or civilians immediately. What is stopping him from doing that? If we concede that conventional military deterrence is containing the North Koreans, then why wouldn't nuclear deterrence contain him. He won't risk conventional military attack, but he will risk nuclear war?

J. Farmer said...

@Kevin:

think you like to cut off the parts of people's responses which would make your answer more difficult.

In your first response to me, you asked me like 8 or 9 different questions. I don't really have the attention span (nor the desire to take up the space) to write responses to everything. I chose the one where I had particular disagreements and tried to elucidate why.

As for this "litany of man-made disasters from believing that something could never happen and thus dismissing it," I never said something could "never happen" and thus is worth being dismissed. Many things are possible but that I don't think are probable to happen anytime soon. I have a belief about the risks posed by North Korea and I try to defend my point of view with current and historical information. I am more than happy to engage in the discussion on those terms.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

I think Clinton's use is mitigated by the fact that back then the NORK standoffs were just becoming more belligerent and not accompanied by the capacity for nukes on their part. Trump gets in after we've been dealing with this stuff for 20 or more years. The right language and diplomatic approach for dealing with their tantrums should be a little more practiced and better understood at this point.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

No. They point is to kill him and all of his supporters. After we wiped out their Army we would move in, invest the place, and start putting heads on spikes at the gates.

Hopefully with a rebate from all those handsomely rewarded military contractors, to the point of being free of charge!

I love cost-free military adventures.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Is J. Farmer wasting another thread on the idea that rationality is a goal unto itself and that the priorities and interests that inform a reasoned plan for achieving them can never be criticized as more or less impulsive, more or less risky, more or less worthwhile.

I bet he is. I also bet that he will use catcalls to signal his frustration at not succeeding at that point, but not until he wastes a few hours saying that his ad hominems were the point he was trying to make all along.

Along the way will come an appeal to authority devoid of an explanation of what point said authority is trying to make.

Rusty said...

JAORE said...
"Perhaps Kim is not insane. But there are numerous stories that he is surrounded by, for sake of self-preservation,the worlds most vehement yes-men in history.

How do you think his Generals respond when Kim asks things like:
"Can we hit the US with a nuke?"
"Will they retaliate if we Nuke Guam?"
"Can the US stop our ICBMs?"
(After 40 years of appeasement) "Will the US actually take action?"

So, insane or not, perhaps he believes he can do as he wishes and either win or we will do nothing."

Everyone is looking at this from a US vs Lil'Kim. There are other players involved. But let's assume for a minute that Lil'Kim is a rational actor from our point of view. What does Lil'Kim hope to accomplish? Why has he forsaken conventional weapons in favor of nukes and missiles? It must be obvious even to him and his generals that they'd only get one chance at lobbing a nuke at American territory. So why the aggressive rhetoric? Simple. It works. Every administration prior to this one has backed down. Even rewarded him in some cases. So why nukes and missiles? Easy. Lil'Kim wants to be a player in the area. He wants parity with the big boys. He sees how China can ignore international law and just do what they please. Lil'Kim wants to be able to influence the foreign policy of the other players in his favor. He and his generals think this is they way to do it.
OK, Rusty, you say, but what about Trumps over the top response? Trump isn't speaking to just Lil'Kim. He is also speaking to China and the rhetoric reassures our friends in the area we mean business. It is also a warning to Lil'Kims generals. Regime change could work out quite well for the person or clique that deposes Lil'Kim. You can bet there are members of Lil'Kims general staff that are thinking long and hard about this. China is staging navy drills off the near their shared boarder with N Korea. You can bet there are some late nights at the Chinese Central Committee.
Lil'Kim either has to move or back down.

mockturtle said...

Lil'Kim wants to be a player in the area. He wants parity with the big boys. He sees how China can ignore international law and just do what they please. Lil'Kim wants to be able to influence the foreign policy of the other players in his favor. He and his generals think this is they way to do it.

That's what I've been saying, Rusty. Kim doesn't give two hoots for his people, just his own image. And he thinks he can get away with 'pushing the US around' in full view of the world. Not gonna happen. We'll see just how far he's willing to go to test us but an actual attack is not out of the question.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

It's uncontroversial that sociopaths can be rational, and actually typically are. Very much so, in fact.

If there's one thing our self-appointed host of the NORK threads seems to understand, it's that. He really does seem to understand them and their talents very well, that way. For some reason.

Clayton Hennesey said...

Kim Jong-un would be an imminent threat to the U. S. merely as the proprietor of Li'l Kim's Suitcase-sized Nukes & Kimchee Emporium. And, believe it or not, suicide is what all the cool kids are doing these days in international warfare.

Hagar said...

There is a non-trivial chance that the Chinese do not have Kim Jong'un under as close observation and control as they think they do.

Joe said...

"Never once does he say so."

Trump: "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Did Trump actually mean what he said. If the latter, what fire and fury has the world never seen? Or is Trump simply historically illiterate?

mockturtle said...

It's uncontroversial that sociopaths can be rational, and actually typically are. Very much so, in fact.

Exactly so, TR! Psychopaths, too. Rationality in the absence of empathy.

Howard said...

Bad Lieutenant: Hope it's just a temporary condition. The only thing worse than taking painkillers is needing to take painkillers. They make it hard to sleep with that jinky junkie feeling. I found melatonin to help, but be careful, most melatonin pills come in 5mg and the effective dose is 0.5mg.

I think Hillary and the Clinton foundation should be investigated. Lock them all up. Obozo was a huge failure. Bailed out Wall Street, ramped up domestic spying, rat-fucked the arab spring, got his bluff called in Syria which emboldened ISIS and Putin, let Turkey slip into Islamism, the drone strikes on wedding parties didn't help, the soft withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan accomplished nothing, not getting any republican support caused Obama care to create unnecessary rate hikes and further split the country... other than that, I thought he was great on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Thank you Howard! My ankle just blew up today, I don't know if it's plantar fasciitis or what. Doctor at the Urgent Care seems to like gout. I don't think so but I guess the labs will come back and we'll see. (But she said gout is a clinical diagnosis which means even if she can't prove it she thinks it's gout. Sigh, colchicine is cheap, right?)

So obviously time for a podiatrist, which I couldn't find one with a free slot for a week...although maybe it will just subside on its own.

Thanks for the well wishes, and I appreciate your straight up on the horrors of the previous POTUS. The pity is that many conservatives and many supporters of Trump would like to discuss him more fully but the defensiveness seems necessary in the face of the unrelenting attacks. You know, one has to be on the side one's on.

mockturtle said...

Sorry to hear of your condition, BL! Did you get an MRI?

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Rationality in the absence of empathy.

Rationality is simply calculation. It can't inform people of what they might want to calculate. Ultimately their goals are set by what appeals to them; hence, a feeling. Reason then configures a plan for achieving them.

Also, most rationalizing is post-hoc - i.e. to to justify doing what you already wanted to do anyway.

Humanity won't evolve until it figures that the real question is to ask why people want the things they do.

Fabi said...

Here's to a quick recovery, Bad Lieutenant!

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