How did we get into this situation? Chinese and Russian troops are amassing on the North Korean border. The U.S. has three carrier groups steaming into the area between Japan, Korea, and China. The first time such a display of force has been amassed in that region since the Second World War. Russian bombers are testing our air defense systems over Alaska. The machinations of previous proxy wars have matured and the entire region is now a potential tinderbox. Regime change is in the air, but at what cost? What is worse, the whole outcome may rest in the mind of a stunted, petty, drug addled, third world dictator.
Kim Jong Un has thumbed his nose at U.N. mandates, warnings from western powers and any shred of common sense for years. Just yesterday he threatened a “super mighty pre-emptive strike that will wipe out American Imperialist forces and…reduce their country to ashes”. This is beyond rhetoric and illustrative of the unstable and delusional thought processes of a national leader that has no business commanding anything. Credit Obama policies for non-enforcement of bad actors worldwide to lend Kim confidence that he could push the boundaries at will in years past. But now Trump comes along, and apparently with more hawkish and neo-con actors within his administration than his supporters counted on. Sixty Tomahawk missiles into Syria was a warm up act, and now a show of force in the Pacific to let North Korea know who is boss.
There is one problem with this whole scenario. Essentially the course of action upcoming will be determined by the reaction of a vicious, insulated-from-reality, generational dictator who would know as much about sensible diplomacy as a Barista knows about nuclear fission formulas.
And speaking of nuclear, this corrupted maniac has a trigger; a nuclear trigger. In a country where the governing regime cannot or will not provide basic food, sanitation or electricity to more than a small fraction of the population, that neglectful regime still has nuclear warheads. Unthinkable in a conscientious modern world, but illustrative of the potential madness we face. And that madness could indeed be triggered by a petulant, childish monster determined to hold onto power at any cost.
Indeed, how did we get into this situation? Let’s not forget the blackmail payment that the Clinton administration paid North Korea not to develop nukes. That did not go well. Let’s not forget the Obama administration’s talk-tough-then-do nothing foreign policy. Let’s not forget China’s rhetoric backing all things disobedient in North Korea. It is tough to hang this one on Trump. This pot was boiling long before he came into the kitchen.
Only one of two possible outcomes seems likely given the actions to date of Kim. He is either going to test the forces arrayed against him by launching more missiles and risk a regional or even global conflict, or he will be removed from power. With his mindset, a sensible and diplomatic resolution looks to be improbable. His removal would have to occur with China’s approval, and there are indications the Chinese may be tired of Kim’s shenanigans. Trump may have brokered a deal that gives China some concessions to support regime change, but that is speculation. And regime change will not happen unless a cooperative effort between the U.S and China, without interference from Russia, takes place. The possible scenarios are worrisome to say the least.
And the wild card remains Kim Jong Un. Would he be so bold as to launch a conventional or even a nuclear attack against Seoul, or try to reach Japan or the U.S., to create a motivated enemy as a scapegoat through which he can attempt to retain power? In a rational world such a move seems absurd. But who says Kim lives in a rational world? The biggest unknown is Kim’s own military. Are they as delusional as he is? Could a coup come from within, spurred on by Chinese infiltration and support of key military leaders with promises of a new, more open and prosperous North Korea after Kim? Only time will tell.
One other consideration is most concerning. The U.S. may be in a tough position here. Our own leadership has stated that our military has been reduced under Obama to the point where we would not be able to sustain a two front conflict. If Kim goes off in Korea and conflict spreads through the Middle East, we may not be in a position to influence outcomes we would prefer. In the meantime, the world must sit and watch as a man long divorced from the realities of everyday life contemplates his next move. Like a five year old who has just found his father’s loaded gun in a bedroom drawer, we must cautiously try and gently remove the gun from the child’s hands before any further harm is done. Only then will the world be able to exhale.