Thursday, December 14, 2017

Moving the Embassy

As the country breathes a sigh of relief over the loss of Roy Moore, the collective consciousness of the American public has already forgotten about Mr. Trump's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Mr. Trump was able to do this without any prior notice thanks to the Jerusalem Embassy Act which was passed in 1995.  It more or less authorized the acquisition of buildings and materials necessary to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel according to the Israelis but not recognized by the majority of countries. 

Clinton, Bush and Obama all avoided implementing the Jerusalem Embassy Act.  Perhaps all three saw little to be gained by unilaterally declaring Jerusalem as the undivided capitol of Israel, something the Palestinians and most Middle Eastern countries disagree with.

Mr. Trump, as far as I can tell, did not implement his decision on any foreign policy or national security basis.  Instead, he needed a victory back home to after failing to repeal Obamacare and lack of progress on tax reform.  It was essentially a middle finger to the Republicans and a reminder to the Trump-faithful that he was still shaking things up.

Most foreign policy experts predicted outbreaks of violence in the Middle East which have occurred but the real issue is US has now seemingly allied itself with Israel to the exclusion (and perhaps detriment) to it is relationship with the rest of the Middle East.

It was this type of thing that resulted in the 1973 Energy Crisis.  For those too young to remember, the US provided arms and support to Israel during the Yom Kippur War.  In retaliation, OPEC proclaimed and oil embargo.  The price of oil shot up from $3 to $12 a barrel.  Lines at gas stations wrapped around for blocks as people waited for gas.

Something like that could happen as well as an increase in further terrorist attacks.  One lone bomber detonated a pipe bomb in New York city, fortunately injuring mainly himself.  The United Kingdom is bracing for more terrorist attacks as well.

Hardcore Trump fans feel moving the embassy was long overdue.  I'm not persuaded that it does anything to further US interests in the region.  Israel was already a long standing ally.  So why now?

I began with Roy Moore and it seems fitting to finish with his failed election.  Mr. Trump originally had asked Moore to step down.  When he didn't, Mr. Trump switched his position and backed Moore.  These two decisions, backing Moore and moving the embassy, have resulted in Mr. Trump having only 32 percent approval rating. 

Hopefully lead Mr. Trump to take some other action as a means of regaining popularity.  North Korea remains extremely volatile and now China is making noise that will not remain on the fence in the event of an attack by the US.  With our attention so diverted, Russia has now started to build back up its nuclear arsenal as well as building bunkers.  Making it to the end of Mr. Trump's first term without a war is increasingly unlikely.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Is a nuclear attack imminent?

News cycles are driven by whatever generates the most views.  No new revelation there, however since the Trump campaign introduced us to "fake news" the major news sites have to increasingly must forsake news for scandal.  Hence, the constant bombardment of whoever the latest victim of sexual assault gets more views than say North Korea's missile program.

As we've all heard by now, North Korea successfully launched a missile that can strike to the Continental US.  Trump's top generals are sounding alarms that war could be imminent.  Yet most people are going about their business without regard to the imposing threat.  Having grown up doing the Cold War, I remember most people being very concerned that the Soviets could strike without warning.

The sociological and psychological factors are different in 2017 that say in 1967 or even 1987. People were acutely aware of the threat of a nuclear attack.  Perhaps 9-11 and the subsequent unending threat from terrorism has dulled their senses to new threats.  Or perhaps Mr. Trumps predilection for calling Kim Jung Un "Little Rocket Man" has smugly convinced the public that North Korea is a joke rather than a threat.

Why then hasn't Mr. Trump ordered a preemptive strike (as he has strongly hinted at in the past) to take out North Korea's missiles or manufacturing sites?

Mr. Trump has always been about the bluster more so than the action.  He may now realize that even with three carrier strike groups in the region, there is no way to take out North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities BEFORE North Korea retaliates by lobbing thousands of 175mm shells and 240mm rockets into Seoul.  Ten of thousands of South Koreans would be killed before US and ROK forces could even respond.

The other scenario is that North Korea has no intention of actually using ballistic missiles to strike at the US.  It would much easier to place a nuclear device in a shipping container destined for a US port and then detonating the weapon upon arrival.  Detecting such a device in time my not be possible unlike the scenarios we see in TV shows and movies.

Another and more alarming scenario could see North Korea retaliate by using biological weapons in the US.  Detecting these in time is extremely difficult and may result in hundreds of America dying of exposure (with hundreds of thousands panicking).

Mr. Trump may also be distracted by the flipping of Michael Flynn to Mueller's investigation.  Even if Mr. Trump isn't worried, his cabinet has to been feeling the pressure and are not focused as much on North Korea was we would like.

Insults via Twitter won't be enough to bring North Korea to the table.  The rumors of Secretary Tillerson soon being fired don't help.  Neither does leaving multiple diplomatic positions vacant.

We should also be concerned about the US Navy which will take the lead should an attack on North Korea occur.  There has been several warships damaged this year along with at least one aircraft loss which all seem to point to an overworked, under resourced service.  The Navy had to re-shuffle its entire fleet of F/A-18 fighters just to be able to deploy all three carriers to the region.  Sailors are not re-upping meaning the Navy has to rely more and more on the newest sailors to operate their systems.

I had a Navy vet recently hare with me that sonar and radar operators on US Navy ships often receive no training PRIOR to arriving on the ship.  Basic seamanship skills are also no longer taught in boot camp and follow schools.  If this is true then it goes a long way in explaining what happened with the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain.

Can the US prevail against North Korea?  Sure, why not but the big question is what happens to the people of South Korea and the US in the process?