Who Will We Go To War With? (North Korea, Maybe?)

North Korea isn’t just LOL political assassinations and half-starved refugees escaping into South Korea, gangster totalitarian rule and visits from Dennis Rodman. They also have a nuclear program and have been firing off test missiles like they’re going out of style. Do missiles have expiration dates?

Given these unavoidable facts, diplomatic relations with Kim Jong Un’s nightmarish, peninsular prison of a country require subtly, a deft hand and an even temper. Something like… this?

North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished neighbor, said in a Tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without China’s help.

Oh gods, no. That’s the opposite of what is needed. Unless Trump thinks what’s needed is to start wars with both of the world’s other major superpowers at the same time (China over North Korea, Russia over Syria). His bullying isn’t doing much to aid his domestic agenda. What makes him think it will work on other countries that have soldiers and equipment and in some cases nuclear weapons?

If Donald Trump triggers the nuclear annihilation of all life on earth, there’s no way I’m voting for him in 2020.‡‡

(Year Zero/Day Eighty-Two)

Continue reading →

Who Will We Go To War With? (Hint: Syria, Probably)

With a stripped State Department, a turbocharged military budget and a blustering egomaniac who can’t even get along with our allies, a full-scale official armed conflict between America and one or more countries is inevitable.

War is a force that gives us meaning (at least, that’s the thesis of Chris Hedges’ book of the same name) and history is littered with affirmative case studies. Politically, warfare can rally the populace around an unpopular leader and chill criticism of their actions. Practically, many of the structures of our society are designed to maintain perpetual state violence.

Following Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed somewhere around 85 people (not only anti-Assad combatants but at least 20 children), the Trump administration is expressing growing bellicosity towards his regime. The United States’ military involvement in Syria has just escalated dramatically:

“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Mr. Trump said in remarks at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

Mr. Trump — who was accompanied by senior advisers, including Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist; Reince Priebus, his chief of staff; his daughter Ivanka Trump; and others — said his decision had been prompted in part by what he called the failures by the world community to respond effectively to the Syrian civil war.

Coming from the same man who made forestalling the arrival of Syrian refuges a major focus of his fledgling presidency, this rhetoric is particularly hard to swallow. But in the 21st century, deploying the language of humanitarianism is prerequisite to justifying forced regime change. To be sure, Assad is a monster, but an individual’s monstrosity is rarely the main impetus for a push to war.

(Year Zero/Day Seventy-Seven)