Sunday, April 16, 2017

Brinkmanship, or Blinkmanship, or Two Arrogant Inexperienced Crazy Men

High Stakes Nuclear Poker: Who Will Blink First, or Fold, or Go All In  

Story mostly drawn from here — a great rundown:

Nearly every president is tested early in their tenure, but the speed with which Donald J. Trump and his administration have climbed the escalation ladder toward a showdown with North Korea over nuclear weapons has been dizzying and slightly crazy. A military confrontation with the heavily armed North Korean regime in Pyongyang would be frightening under any circumstances, but the dangers are multiplied by the personalities involved.

Take a look at the two players that the world sees who are untested and mercurial leaders: Donald J. Trump v. Kim, Jung-Un. The world not only sees those two, but now waits to see which one of them is likely to blink first or push the buttons for war first. These two, both of them, are quite frankly unstable and trigger-happy.

1. We have Donald J. Trump a man who prides himself on not showing his hand in negotiating “business” deals which he brags about all the time, but it is a style that now creates tensions and huge uncertainties when applied to geopolitics involving nuclear weapons and war.

2. We also have Kim, Jong-Un a man who greatly adds to the risk since he too is inexperienced in world affairs and any rational thinking. He is a young dictator just like is father and grandfather before him whose paranoia has already led him to murder a number of close aides, including his own uncle, and a half-brother.

Set the Scene: It was just two months ago that Trump met with and was dining with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, at Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf resort when news came of a new North Korean missile test. That caused the Trump young national security team to scramble for a response before curious diners at the exclusive club. A series of other events started thereafter: 

1.  A mere two weeks later, U.S. and South Korean forces began an annual military exercise that Pyongyang called provocative.
2.  Then five days after that, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles simultaneously into the Sea of Japan.
3.  Then shortly after that the U.S. military announced the deployment of an advanced missile defense system to South Korea that irritated both North Korea and China.
4.  Then right after that U.S. intelligence reports suggested that North Korea was preparing for its sixth nuclear weapons test on April 15 to celebrate the 105th birthday anniversary of Kim, Il-Sung, the current leader’s grandfather.

That news triggered Trump to order the Pentagon to dispatch the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike force to the Korean peninsula at the same time Trump announced via multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials and they to NBC News that the administration was prepared to launch a preemptive military strike against North Korea if it followed through with that nuclear test.

To underscore that stern “preemptive message” on April 14th our military for the first time ever dropped the largest conventional bomb in its inventory on an Islamic State cave complex in eastern Afghanistan – that was the 20,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB); nicknamed “The Mother Of All Bombs.”

That event followed a short week from when our 59 cruise missiles (Tomahawks) struck a Syrian airbase in response to Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held city that killed some 80 civilians and apparently drove Trump to authorize the attack.

That operation coincided with Trump’s dinner with Chinese President Xi Jin-Ping at Mar-a-Lago just like the other events while Trump was at that same FL golf resort.

If there was any inference that the use of the MOAB was meant to send a signal to North Korea and Kim, Jong-Un, then it was completely justified.

The tactical goal of the MOAB was to kill ISIS fighters (now reported to have killed over 90 ISIS members in the targeted cave and tunnel complex) who had gained a foothold in eastern Afghanistan. 

And, it was also meant as a strategic shot across the bow of the North Korean regime. That message also was apparently received loud and clear in Beijing, who in turn dispatched their top nuclear negotiator to North Korea. China also suspended regular Air China flights to Pyongyang and cancelled tons of coal scheduled for shipment to North Korea.

Background on preemptive warfare that Trump threatened to use against North Korea:  

In the summer of 1994, then Secretary of Defense William Perry was poised to implement “Op plan 5027,” which called for a preemptive strike using cruise missiles on the North Korean nuclear reactor at Yong-byon. The plan also called for American reinforcements to Korea and the evacuation of thousands of American civilians from South Korea.

What most worried Perry at the time, and still concerns him more so today, is that a preemptive U.S. strike could quickly escalate to an all-out war on the peninsula that the Pentagon has estimated would claim one million lives or more in Seoul, a mere 30 miles from North Korea with cities in between well within range of artillery dug into the mountains just across the DMZ trained on those places south to Seoul as well as several U.S./ROK bases.

Perry also said in his interview: “The difference is back then this evil regime didn’t yet have a nuclear arsenal and today it does, and that poses a much greater danger. Pyongyang would almost certainly avoid using nuclear weapons preemptively because that would be suicidal, but it’s likely to respond with conventional artillery buried in caves in the mountains along the demilitarized zone overlooking the South Korean capital of Seoul. A U.S. preemptive strike would likely involve cruise missiles such as the Trump administration launched in Syria, which was a relatively low-cost and successful operation. But unlike in Syria, North Korea is likely to respond militarily in a way that does terrible damage to South Korea, and might rapidly escalate to an all-out war that the North Koreans are bound to lose. A doomed North Korean regime about to be overthrown might then unleash nuclear Armageddon.”

Perry, however, also believes the Trump administration has actually accomplished two important objectives: (1) convinced North Korea that the U.S. is serious about possible military action, and (2) convinced China that it is in their best interest to help find a way to defuse the crisis, and Perry added: “Those two preconditions present a rare opportunity for successful diplomacy with North Korea, if that is the Trump administration’s strategy. But I don’t know if they even have a strategy.”

From Bill Richardson, the former NM governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has negotiated with North Korea on a number of occasions to win the release of Western hostages who said: “I worry that Kim, Jong-Un is different from his father and grandfather, because he’s very inward looking and unpredictable, and apparently bent on constantly sending messages of his own invincibility. Whether it’s murdering family members or ratcheting up the pace of nuclear weapons tests and missile launches, the young inexperienced North Korean leader exhibits an unrestrained streak of aggression. I really believe this is the most dangerous time I’ve ever witnessed on the Korean Peninsula.”

And, here we are now: Two major powerful leaders untested on this grand of a scale – who are by all accounts unpredictable and trigger-happy who always strive to stay in the limelight no matter the cost. 

So, who will blink first is the $64,000 question. However, that cost will exceed $64,000 or even 64,000 lives – more like millions of lives are on the line, and billions of dollars.

Stay close to this one ... I too am greatly concerned. 

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