Tag Archives: foreign policy

Trump’s Missed Opportunity: North Korea

It’s no secret that Donald Trump campaigned on being a tough guy — a strong, bold, new type of leader that would get the world to respect and fear the United States of America once again.

If President Trump could finally do something about North Korea, a persistent annoyance to the United States for the last few decades, he might accrue a significant accomplishment, deliver his voters’ expectations, and build the foundation for a possibly positive legacy.

Alas, an under-developed Communist nation with an economy the size of that of Birmingham, Alabama, has managed to outsmart the man at the helm of the most powerful military in the world.

Last April, the North Korean regime was still struggling to successfully test-launch missiles into the sea. It was doubtful the regime could strike any target outside the Western Pacific Rim. At that time, I advocated for war with the Kim regime on both moral and strategic grounds — to “quash the menace in its infancy” before the North Korean arsenal could catch up.

In the meantime, however, North Korean missile technology has become more impressive. It appears as though North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) could strike not only Guam and Alaska but the Western contiguous states as well. Worse yet, the North Koreans have discovered a way to miniaturize nuclear warheads and mount them onto these ICBMs. For the first time, North Korea stands unquestionably capable of striking the United States with a nuclear weapon.

And it happened on Trump’s watch.

Trump’s legacy, which already has a number of black marks, could soon bear one of the most unfortunate: “Allowed North Korea to become a nuclear rival in earnest.”

Welcome to Cold War II. All the rules from the first Cold War now apply. Say hello again to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

Let me be clear about one thing: I am glad that Trump did not preemptively nuke the entire country of North Korea into oblivion back in April. North Korea civilians are as worthy of life as nationals of any country. Such devastating action is not necessary and would deservedly face condemnation from the international community and lower Trump’s historical ranking as a president.

In addition, it is impossible to talk seriously about North Korea today without discussing China. While China has recently been a more reluctant ally of North Korea, U.S. aggression against North Korea could lead to a hot conflict with nuclear-equipped China, whose military power easily dwarfs that of North Korea.

However, back in April, the U.S. still had leverage to push for a denuclearized Korea, if not complete regime change. Before entering the Gulf War, George H.W. Bush threatened military action if Saddam Hussein did not end the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Likewise, the U.S. could have threatened North Korea to dismantle their nuclear program or else the U.S. would bomb their R&D and artillery facilities without fear of nuclear retaliation. Indeed, China and the United States were involved in negotiations regarding North Korea over the summer.

One wonders if we were willing enough then to negotiate with China over North Korea. In my view, North Korea’s growing threat to its own people, the United States, and the world would justify significant concessions to China in exchange for their help in pressuring North Korea. Trump promised to renegotiate trade deals with China, but that option is now off the table now that China has new leverage.

Much like climate change, U.S. leadership has waited too long to find the right solution, and the consequences are soon to follow. Now that North Korea can retaliate against the U.S. with intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Kim regime is less vulnerable than ever.

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Clintrump and You

Let’s face it. We’re looking at the worst presidential election match-up in history — cold, calculated, corrupt Hillary Clinton vs. brash, bombastic, bumbling Donald Trump. I admit it. I’ve thought about voting for a third-party candidate. Jill Stein shares most of my views, but she has some downright implausible ideas. She won’t win. Gary Johnson shares my views on social issues and even some economic issues. He’s positive and seemingly reasonable, but libertarianism is simply too inflexible to respond to changes in our world. My guy was Bernie Sanders but he simply won’t be the nominee. And maybe he would be too soft and get steamrolled by Republicans just like Obama had happen to him.

Now a lot of people are saying the lack of indictment for Hillary Clinton regarding the emails is politically motivated. FBI Director James Comey was a registered Republican but he later said he is no longer so. Perhaps Comey realizes there’s something more important in the greater scheme of things. Perhaps Comey has been so turned off by the idea of Donald Trump becoming president that he left the Republican Party. And maybe that is why he is letting Hillary off the hook. I’m sure Mr. Comey is aware that she is vulnerable to anything that would damage her reputation and such damage would give an edge to Trump.

What I find so perplexing is why so much time is wasted conducting witch-hunts on minor blunders and even victimless crimes. Sure, that is politically motivated. Republicans want to see Hillary fall apart. The death of four Americans at the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, sure doesn’t make Hillary look good. And I haven’t read the emails that the State Department and WikiLeaks released. And sure she shouldn’t have used a private email servers to send and receive classified information. Nevertheless, did storing her emails on a private server threaten national security or aid terrorist efforts? Has anyone died or suffered physically as a result of her using a private server as opposed to that of the State Department? I don’t know. This angle of the story doesn’t seem to reach many people when it should. There seems to be this obsession with the letter of the law when it comes to Hillary.

What I find more troubling about Mrs. Clinton is that she supported the overthrow of dictatorial regimes in Iraq and Libya. Trump recently said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, despite being a “very bad guy,” was good at killing terrorists. Well, he killed a lot of people because there was no due process and he wanted firm control. Because he was Sunni, the minority Sunnis felt they were important too. With Hussein out of the picture and the majority Shi’ites in control, many Sunnis couldn’t join the military because of their connections to Hussein’s Ba’ath Party. What else were these disaffected Sunnis going to do other than join ISIS? You see, dictators are very bad, inhumane people. However, their rule by predictable terror squashes unpredictable acts of terror.

Libya is similar. Gaddafi was a pretty terrible guy. He wasn’t the kind of guy to take home to mom and dad. Trump even said the U.S. should topple Gaddafi and that it would be very easy. Then, Trump flip-flopped on this issue because he realized this overthrow destabilized Libya. Gaddafi’s demise resulted in a power vacuum, allowing ISIS to establish a colony on the central northern shores of Libya. “Accidentally strengthened terrorist organization” does not look good on a political resumé.

When voting, Americans should know that Clinton and Trump have both made horrible decisions regarding foreign policy. However, a President Trump’s careless, impulsive, and insensitive approach to diplomacy and military interventions would present a greater threat to American national security. He too thought toppling Gaddafi would be a good idea. It hasn’t been good in Libya since. He even said ISIS should be allowed to topple Assad’s regime in Syria. Seriously?! Assad (and the American-backed Kurds) are the only reasons ISIS hasn’t taken over the entire freaking country!

If ISIS were to take over all of Syria, that would strengthen their claim to country status and legitimize them as the new caliphate for Muslims. We can’t do that now when they are losing territory day by day. The Iraqi army is making ISIS fighters retreat like never before. And yet, we’re seeing ISIS commit more terrorist acts as they lose more and more territory. They can only win right now with the element of surprise and hiding in plain sight. We need a strategy that protects us from terrorism. We need to realize that military intervention is not the only option, that Sunnis and Shias are never going to get along in Iraq, that we need a nuanced and conscientious approach that protects the lives of Americans wherever they may be. That includes diplomacy, more responsible nation creation (e.g., a three-state solution dividing Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds), and not toppling dictators just because we can.