Friday, September 1, 2017

Part 4 - The Damage: North Korea

This is an ongoing series about the damage that Donald Trump is doing to the United States on a daily basis. It is being done on request by a Trump Supporter.

The Rule: As this is being done by request, The Omnivore has a rule: Trump-supporters (and other readers for that matter) cannot simply stipulate that a point made by The Omnivore is wrong because of its source or The Omnivore's bias--if they are going to disbelieve a point they must provide affirmative evidence. The Omnivore expects this to be "the hard part" for Trump Supporters. That is intentional.

Part 4: North Korea

Trump is a political novice--he has experience (?) running (?) a large real estate enterprise. He has appeared on reality TV. He is good (!) and brand licensing. He doesn't seem to know anything about geo-politics. That, by itself, is not a problem - had he come through on his promise to "hire the best people" and listen to them, his lack of domain wouldn't be a critical issue.

If he was able to deliver on his promise of being a master negotiator--able to swing deals and influence people--having a deft hand at cost-benefit analysis in his actions--then he might bring an outside-the-box perspective to an intractable problem.

Of course he does neither - he doesn't hire "the best people." He doesn't listen to who he does hire. He refuses to learn on the job - and he works against the people involved who do have domain.

North Korea is our number one foreign crisis. The stakes are astronomical. On the table are three options (from worst to best).
  1. A War In Asia Kills, Literally, Millions
  2. North Korea becomes a Global Nuclear Power Able to Hit American Cities With Nuclear ICBMs
  3. North Korea is Forced to De-Nuclearize

The full range of actions and issues is beyond the scope of this post--but we can show, in every sense, how Trump's actions take a bad situation and make it worse.

Option 1: WAR

In this option we go to war with North Korea. The best case is an exchange that makes North Korea stand down--but more likely we see the "death flower" where they unleash nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. They might, for example, try to deliver a nuclear weapon to ISIS as part of a revanche move. Think about that.

How Trump Makes It Worse: Forget about the (entirely plausible) argument that Trump and Mattis are contradicting each other--no, The Omnivore doesn't need to go there. The Omnivore will instead point out an incontrovertible way that Trump makes the War outcome worse: In an Epochal Disaster (which is what that would be) tensions within the country--and outside our nation among our allies will run at all time highs.

Trump takes this disaster to the next level by being un-trusted, divisive, and seen as incompetent. Early reports are that world leaders, for example, are in no rush to offer assistance for Hurricane Harvey. In the event of a war where allied cities are destroyed and millions of American allies are dead, having a leader in which the world has little faith is going to take a disaster to the next level. Defense One writes:

People will get blamed. Trump, with his ambiguous hot-headed tweets, will be a blame magnet. He has set this up himself and Americans, for generations, will reap the consequences if North Korea goes to battle.

Option 2: Nuclear Nork

The most likely outcome is that we simply wind up living with a rogue nuclear state that has at least a passable chance to destroy American cities. Not optimal. If this happens, it will, again, haunt Americans for decades to come even if there is a positive resolution somewhere down the line. 

Trump makes this worse by weakening America even further if it does happen. Trump's hard-line Twitter-Tough-Guy stance turns America into a paper-tiger once North Korea demonstrates global nuclear capacity. This, in turn, encourages other rogue actors (Iran) to do the same.

Obama was, correctly, called out for setting a red-line with regards to chemical weapons-use in Syria. Trump is doing worse here: His statements are not just directed at a Middle Eastern dictator who is attacking subjects within his borders--they are concerning to our long time allies Japan and South Korea who will be under the greatest threat from a Nuclearized Nork.

Option 3: Diplomacy Works

The best outcome is that a diplomatic solution forces North Korea to stand down. If this happens, Trump doesn't make it worse--but he actively makes it less likely. Why? The components of a diplomatic win are (a) pressure from China and (b) unity among American allies. Trump is developing neither.

China: Trump's dealings with China are chaotic and adversarial. He makes threats (name them a currency manipulator) and backs down. He chides them (on Twitter) for not doing enough--and he flirts with Taiwan. None of this is encouraging China to stick its neck out to denuclearize North Korea. In fact, for them, North Korea is a bargaining chip--as Trump's exiled Chief Strategist publicly calls for trade-war, they are going to cling to it even more tightly (and, of course, Trump artfully de-fanged himself by exiting the TPP).

The savvy Trump voter will doubtless say that heads of these positions are unnecessary and the teams in place can manage everything on their own. The Omnivore tells you that is bullshit. In a crisis, you need coordination more than anything. Coordination is what we are lacking.


A nightmare situation for any administration is simply made worse by Trump's lack of discipline, lack of credibility, and lack of understanding. If the outcome is anything other than perfect, we, all of us, will be saddled with the question as to whether someone else could have done a better job. That (hugely legitimate) question will further our internal divisions and facilitate political finger-pointing for our lives and the lives of our children.

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