Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Yet another shot across the bow

While Trump is contending with Hurricane Harvey, Little Kim decided to take a shot across the bow of the good ship Japan this week, firing a ballistic missile over the northern island of Hokkaido.  Just last week, Donald J. Trump loudly proclaimed "[Kim Jong-Un] is starting to respect us."  It doesn't seem so.

If there is anything we have learned by now it is that Little Kim loves shooting off missiles.  It is going to take far more than bellicose words to get him to hold back.  The young dictator even went further to call this missile test a "meaningful prelude" to containing Guam, where the US has a sizable naval base.

Not only that but Russian officials said the US and its Western allies provoked this missile test with their joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan, along with the even more restrictive sanctions.  If the US was hoping that Russia and China would help contain North Korea, the opposite appears to be occurring.

Trump has squandered whatever good will he may have had from Russia prior to his election.  To hear him on the campaign trail, this was going to be the cornerstone of his foreign policy.  Instead, it has become an albatross around his neck.

Ever more allegations point to collusion between his campaign and Russia, with Trump now the focal point of the investigations.  After all, if he is going to pardon whoever the FBI brings under indictment, then you go after the president himself.  Kind of like bringing down the kingpin of a crime syndicate.  He can't very well pardon himself.  That's up to his successor.

Russia may have been some help in containing North Korea, especially given that it has assisted the country in developing its military arsenal.  During the Cold War, the Soviet Union saw North Korea as a deterrent to US presence in the region.  After the collapse of the communist nation, North Korea was forced to deal elsewhere for supplies, notably China and Pakistan.  It even showed interest in an agreement with the US in 1994 for light-water nuclear reactors if it began disarmament, but as we know that never came about and our relationship with North Korea has only grown worse since then.  Meanwhile, Russia has rebuilt its military and is once again exporting weapons technology.

Like Syria, North Korea is a well-placed bargaining chip.  It helps to foil whatever designs the US has in the region and so it is in Russia's interest to keep the Kim dynasty in place.  It also forces the US to recognize Russia as a geopolitical force, not simply a "regional power," which former president Obama casually dismissed it.  As such, any attempt to rein in North Korea involves not only China but Russia as well.

This pretty much allows Little Kim to act the way he does in the region.  He can bully South Korea and Japan because he knows China and Russia have his back.  The US can flex its naval muscles all it wants in the Sea of Japan, but it will not risk provoking a catastrophic war.  At least that was the case before Donald J. Trump became commander-in-chief.

His Trumpness is feeling cornered these days and who knows how he might lash out.   Gen. Mattis is having to spend more time containing his commander's ego than he would like, distracting him from far more serious concerns.

Little Kim is not stupid.  He sees what is going on and is taking full advantage of the situation.  He loves nothing more than giving Trump a black eye, or any US President for that matter.  The only difference is Obama refused to be taunted.  Trump appears to enjoy it.

Trump is the most shameless president we have ever had.  You look at all the indignity he has faced in the press and this guy just comes back for more.  It truly is "unpresidented."  It doesn't seem to matter how many "red lines" Kim crosses, Trump just keeps shouting "fire and fury."  But, at some point Trump has to deliver on these threats or he will lose what's left of his political audience.

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