President Trump doubled down on his inflammatory rhetoric about North Korea yesterday, saying that his now-infamous “fire and fury” line wasn’t tough enough. Well, as you might expect, the president has carried that reckless attitude into yet another day with his tweets this morning.
The president spent the first hour or so of his day retweeting stories from the Fox & Friends cable news show, even seeming to confirm that he thinks Mitch McConnell should quit. But by 7:29am Eastern time, he started on North Korea, saying that the military solutions are “now fully in place” and that the US is “locked and loaded.”
It should be noted that even the most hawkish American observers believe one of the most important things that should happen before any possible military engagement in North Korea would be an evacuation of American civilians in South Korea. And that hasn’t happened yet, despite Trump’s claims that military solutions are “now fully in place.”
Historically, US presidents, whether liberal or conservative, have all tried to be diplomatic and measured when responding to the tensions on the Korean peninsula. None of the over-the-top threats from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un are new. What’s new is that an American president seems intent on matching that bizarre style in both tone and substance.
As many commentators have pointed out, modern presidents have never even hinted at a possible first nuclear strike against North Korea. But that’s certainly how many people are interpreting Trump’s “fire and fury” comments. His tweet this morning won’t dissuade North Korea from believing that Trump is capable of nuking North Korea.
And while some conservative commentators have pointed out to parallels between Trump’s comments and Nixon’s Madman Theory of making the enemy believe that you’re capable of anything, there’s a fatal flaw to that reasoning. The Madman Theory only works if both sides believe they have second strike capabilities. If North Korea thinks Trump will strike first, they might just take the opportunity to launch a nuclear weapon because they’ve got nothing else to lose and no ability to retaliate if they get hit first.
The folks over at War on the Rocks have explained it really well:
However, the stabilizing features of MAD evaporate quickly if one or both states has reason to fear that its arsenal won’t survive a strike — for instance, if its nuclear arsenal or delivery capabilities are small or vulnerable to attack. Similarly, if the states attempt to make themselves less vulnerable by pursuing counterforce capabilities and strategies that might disarm the adversary, the adversary may worry that it will lose all of its nuclear forces in a conflict and be unable to deter nuclear use against it, stripped of its ability to retaliate.
This should sound familiar. North Korea has a small, vulnerable arsenal, and cannot be at all confident it has a second-strike capability (it only has a limited number of ICBMs and transporter erectors, and presumably only a small number of operational warheads compared to the United States; its ICBMs have not been declared operational).
So, yes, as you probably guessed, Trump’s bluster is only making the world less safe. And China has finally come out and signaled what it would do in the event of war between North Korea and the United States. The short version? China will stay neutral if North Korea attacks first. But if the US bombs North Korea, we’ve probably got World War III on our hands.
“It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand,” said the Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper.
“If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so,” the paper continued.
So there you have it. President Trump is putting the US into a more and more dangerous position with each passing tweet. He might think he’s a tough guy, but he’s playing with the possibility of a nuclear weapon being used somewhere on Earth in the very near future. And if you believe that’s a good thing, you’re objectively a bad person. Or, I guess, possibly just a Trump supporter with no idea what the hell you’re rooting for.