THOSE OF US OLD ENOUGH to have read history in school know the story of Theo. (Teddy) Roosevelt and his Great White Fleet. (Lest anyone be offended, the ships were painted white; ergo “The Great White Fleet.” See http://tinyurl.com/bpwybcu)
Teddy — “TR” — sent the battle group around the globe to impress other’s with America’s naval might. The journey lasted a little more than a year. This was long before air power, Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, America’s military might failed to discourage Austria-Hungary from decaling war against Serbia (July 28, 1914) and Germany following by declaring war against Russia (August 1, 1914), France (August 3, 1914), and Belgium (August 4, 1914) to start World War 1, the “war to end war.” (See http://tinyurl.com/y88765m7)
A BIT MORE THAN A CENTURY LATER, Kim Jung-on, South Korea’s dictator, following in his father’s footsteps, is starving his people in order to develop ICBMs that, armed with mini-nuclear warheads, threaten the U.S. and its interests (e.g., Guam).
In the so-called “Cold War” era, when the U.S. and the then Soviet Union threatened “mutual destruction” on each other — and not a few countries in the way — both government’s leadership knew it was better to pick up a “red phone” connecting D.C. to the Kremlin than to push the red button that could destroy much of mankind. Sanity prevailed.
Now, dealing with North Korea’s megalomaniac Kim, sanity has become a thing of the past. Unfortunately for Kim, he is not dealing with a weak Obama but a man who insists on “putting America first.” Fortunately, so far — and inspite of of Kim’s missile tests and photo ops with a sphere said to be a mini-nuclear bomb, the only war is a war of words.
- While Varvel’s cartoon portrays Trump and Kim and as two little boys in a sandbox, it pays to remember that words too frequently turn into unacceptable actions, e.g., war.
The problem for the U.S. is China.
During the UN’s Korean “policing action” — not a “war,” understand, although thousands of Americans died — Gen. Douglas MacArthur wanted to invade China which was providing troops and materials to the North Koreans. The then Soviet Union ostensibly controlled North Korea.
President Harry S Truman, not prepared for World War 3, told MacArthur to cancel invasion plans. MacArthur insisted on going ahead and Truman recalled, and fired, MacArthur. Right decision? Wrong decision? Either way, Americans were tired of war. (The U.S. has been in some level of combat almost consistently since the end of World War 2, regardless of political party in power.)
China has, since World War 2, developed a modern military force on land, sea, and air. It has a global presence. Moreover, the U.S. is indebted to China; it holds billions of dollars of U.S. IOUs.
China is North Korea’s backer — possibly it’s only political friend.
If the U.S. attacks North Korea in a preventive strike — surely justified based on Kim’s rhetoric and actions— even if as surgically precise as Israel’s attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the question is: “How will China react?”
Unlike the Soviet era, and now the Russian Federation era, Kim’s actions, and the inaction of the Chinese to reign him in, indicate that a threat of “mutual destruction” a non-issue.
Realistically, what can the U.S. do to temper Kim’s bellicose behavior? Sanctions are in place — with UN (including China) support — but what impact will they have on Kim. By most accounts, his people already are starving. Kim, on the other hand, looks well fed and clothed. Sanctions? They only will hurt his people.
Will China really join in the sanctions? Time will tell.
Will the UN-approved sanctions be observed by other nations and the EU? Even before Obama backed off sanctions on Iran, some EU countries already were trading with the ayatollah. North Korea, not surprisingly, was trading nuclear information with Iran as if sanctions did not exist.
- Who is crazier: the ayatollah or Kim? They both are cut from the same cloth?
President Trump’s blustering may — or may not — be appropriate. Certainly it is not “presidential” in the eyes of the leftists in the U.S. and around the world. But how else could Trump respond to Kim?
A pre-emptive strike?
Or be like Franklin D. Roosevelt (TR’s cousin) and ignore the threat until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and thousands of American’s died, or behave, as Trump’s predecessor did with Iran, and pretend it will all go away?
With Kim, the U.S. is “between a rock and a hard place.” No action is not an option; sanctions don’t directly impact Kim so they are of little value.
China holds the answer. It has it within its power to prevent a disaster for not just North Korea and the U.S. but the world — nuclear fall-out respects no borders.
Trump’s blustering may only be for show while diplomatic language is used with China’s leadership.
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