Friday, November 10, 2017

North Korea and Saudi Arabia

Since we last chatted, Mr. Trump has assemble three carrier strike groups (USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz) off the coast of the Korean peninsula.  For the first time since 2007, three US aircraft carriers will conduct drills as a foot stomp to Mr. Trump's assertion that the US will not back down from North Korea.

Given the accidents involving two US Navy destroyers back in summer, the carrier strike groups are at risk not only from retaliation by the North Koreans but by whatever navigational glitches plagued the USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald.  Some have argued that the navigational systems on the US Navy vessels had been hacked.  To  me, it seems hacking into the civilian cargo ship systems would be easier but whatever the case the fleet is still at risk.

Perhaps to avoid the investigations of Robert Mueller (who looks posed to hand out an indictment on former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn), Mr. Trump has traveled to Asia in a rather heavy-handed, grandiose gesture to stare-down the North Koreans and Chinese. 

The question Mr. Trump and his White House have not answered, and probably don't want to think about, is what happens should foreign policy via Twitter fail?  There are 51 million South Koreans and around 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea that are vulnerable to any attack from the North.  It is only 120 miles roughly between Seoul and Pyongyang.  There is no time to evacuate or even shelter.  Hundreds of thousands of lives could be lost if North Korea retaliates.

Of course that does not include Japan or Guam.  So far North Korea seems focused on ballistic missiles rather than a conventional attack.  Japan and Guam therefore become the most likely targets as they are well within range of North Korean ballistic missiles.

How then would the US respond?  Any strikes to North Korea risk those living in South Korea.  The North Korean dictator is not going to lose face so his reactions to Mr. Trump's statements and Tweets will only worsen.  We should be concerned that few in the White House have the experience necessary to restore calm to US/North Korea relations.  If that were not concerning enough, Mr Trump has more or less said that he doesn't see his chief diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, being around for all four years!

It may be nothing more that the 21st Century way of bluster and posturing but doing so with a country determined to have nuclear weapons is dangerous.  One wrong step, one too many Tweets and a nuke gets launched. 

And now it appears matters have gotten worse.  Not because of anything Mr. Trump has done but because now Saudi Arabia and Lebanon may declare war with one another which could bring Israel and Iran into the conflict.  I truly hope Mr. Trump stays off of Twitter for this one.  There is too much history, too much bloodshed, too much intrigue to be handled by a few terse Tweets.

All of this seems an appropriate reminder why we celebrate Veteran's Day.  Regardless how the situation with North Korea or Middle East resolve, US troops will be called upon once again.  Happy Veteran's Day to all of my fellow vets!