The Omnivore goes on vacation for a week and this? You people can't keep it together for 7 days!! United Airlines beats a guy who won't randomly give up his seat--and then a scorpion falls from a luggage rack onto another United passenger ("Why?" asks the passenger, gasping, as the scorpion stings him. "You knew this was a United flight when you boarded," says the scorpion). Congress goes on sabbatical with no budget, no health care, no nothing--what is this? 2009?
And, of course, Kim-Jong-Fatman-Teh-Little-Boy [sic] is threatening to blow us all up.
Okay, that could be Tuesday.
The MAD Scenarios
Nuclear war scenarios generally have either one of two patterns: escalation or miscalculation/mistake. Neither seems likely in the case of North Korea. Any battle will take place over about 3 hours--that's precious little time for "escalation" and there seems to be no chance that Kim thinks he can actually win. Secondly, the whole situation is so centrally controlled that it's unlikely that Kim would "think he is under attack" unless he is under a MOAB.
Sure, he might get twitchy--or paranoid--but so far Kim and Trump have been the most rational of actors.
Trump just wants a win. A little win. A big win--any kind of win. If Kim mailed us a nuke and said (a) it was their only one and (b) he promises not to make any more because he's so scared of strong-man Trump, the Carl Venision would be steaming out of there so fast it would make your head spin.
Kim, on the other hand, is acting smart too. He knows that holding Seoul hostage is what has gotten him this far. If he could, say, hold Tokyo hostage too--or even Los Angeles--he'd be set. Set for his fat-little-life. He's not wrong about that.
All he needs is a possibly airborne nuke and he's good.
The problem here is that he needs a "win" too. By now Kim should know that General Matthis will not allow a real test of an ICBM with nuclear capacity--so he's not going to get that (even with his "but I'd never use it, guys" appeal). So what does he have?
After executing the guys who failed to launch his (and The Omnivore shits you not) No Dong missile this weekend. And the guys who named it "No Dong" for good measure, what does he do? What's his win? He needs one to stay comfortably on top of the regime.
A guy who executes his couch-potato big-brother doesn't seem all that comfortable up there to The Omnivore.
Trump, similarly, just got pasted on Health Care. Tax Reform isn't looking easy (who knew??), and the government operating budget is coming up like 4 days after congress gets back into town.
These days Congress can't find its dick with both hands down its pants.
So what does Trump do? Well, if dropping a MOAB makes him presidential, having Kim-Jong-Un drop a metaphorical "load" might make him Lincoln.
So he wants a fucking win.
So what we've got is a game of chicken--both sides keep escalating their rhetoric and plumage ruffling hoping the other other backs down by a public fraction so they can pack up and go home. In the mean-time, each of these displays of strength has a tiny--but non-zero--chance that the other side will determine that they're goin' for it.
So we've got escalation and miscalculation in one package!
Enter The Freedom Caucus
Trump thinks "If I could just get the FC to roll over on health care--just a little--I could pass tax reform which every republican would love!" So he's tryin'--he's tryin' to get those tax-cuts-for-the-rich done in health care so he doesn't have to put them in Tax Reform where they'll stick out.
But the FC ain't buying it. See: they need a win to take back to their confused constituents. Their little gerrymandered slices of paradise are all like "What the fuck, guys? Why didn't we repeal that shit? (Obamacare)" And there's no good answer. It turns out that the real answer is: "No one wants to throw millions of Trump-voters off health care," but they can't say that.
So they tell everyone the same story they've been telling and figure the eventual end-game gets pushed further and further out.
The problem is that what the FC needs for a win is something substantial--defunding Planned Parenthood (or Obamacare), legislating a stick in the eye for all liberals, outlawing gays, something like that. They want blood and they think they can get it--or at least get something.
So what win do they get? That's the problem--anything that gets added to a "clean budget extension" that helps the FC gives the Senate Democrats an excuse to kill it--and they will: they know that the FC will get the blame. The White House is theoretically in a leadership position here--but they're epicly hapless.
So both sides come to the table expecting the other to blink--to just give up something--and--blam? Government Shutdown?
The timing couldn't be worse. A White House that reportedly has trouble pulling off an Easter Egg Roll is going to have to battle North Korea, the Kushner-Bannon Clash of the Titans, and congress coming back into town with 4 days to head off a government shutdown that may not be disastrous but will definitely be dramatic.
This Is A Lot Of Chicken
The "everybody just needs a win" should make things easier. Just find something each side can go home with to their bases and call it a day. The fact that this is proving so difficult when, at least in theory, everyone's goals more or less align should be cause for real concern. Basically it means that everyone is so close to their margins that the space for a mutually beneficial outcome is almost non-existent. The Omnivore worries about the unknown-unknowns: what we don't know that we don't know.
- Does North Korea have something it thinks is a clever trick up its sleeve? It's not called "the Hermit Kingdom" for nothing. We have great satellites but what if we're missing something in the details?
- Does the Freedom Caucus have reason to believe they can get Paul Ryan's scalp as a win? The Right-Wing media runs on demonizing enemies. Right now we're in a liminal state where the major players are unsure who to demonize (The Omnivore means, Obama, of course, but that's less tasty than it could be). If the FC think their "win" is to wreck Ryan and use his metaphorical head on a spike as "what they got" when they didn't get any policy, could that send things into a Crash-und-Burn scenario?
- What Is Trump watching besides Fox News?
- How much of Russia's butt-hurt over Assad was real? The Omnivore thinks "almost none"--they were warned, we didn't actually hit anything, etc. But the fake-news machine revved up like it really counted. If there was a time Putin could have checked out and made Trump feel better, that was it. Why didn't he?
Geeze. The Omnivore can't leave you guys alone for a second.