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The North Korea conundrum: a taste of Armageddon

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Last night I watched an episode of Star Trek called “A Taste of Armageddon” (Season 1, Ep. 23). In it, two planets have been at war for 500 years, but they no longer send weapons to destroy each others’ cities. Instead, a linked computer system models the attacks and determines casualties. These casualties then have 24 hours to report to a “disintegrator” to be killed. It’s clean, neat war, without the carnage.

This episode reminded me of our conundrum with North Korea. The two Koreas have been at war for 23,356 days since the Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953–just a few weeks shy of 64 years. And while nobody reports to a death chamber, there have been casualties along the way, which continue to this day.

In Star Trek, Kirk destroys the computers that simulate war and calculate casualties. This, in the treaty which preserves the state of war between the two planets, would result in “automatic escalation” to real weapons. In doing this, he forces the two sides to negotiate in order to avoid Armageddon.

If you read the rhetoric about North Korea and America’s options, this sounds mighty familiar. Any attack, no matter how surgical, seems to bring the argument that the North will respond with Armageddon. Eleven million residents of Seoul will die, we will face “catastrophic” war (as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has repeatedly said).

Charles Krauthammer wrote “we have kicked the North Korean can down the road. We are now out of road.” Examining the evidence, he concluded that we must accept a nuclear, ICBM-armed North Korea. We must accept them the same way we accepted a nuclear-armed China, or a nuclear-armed Russia.

North Korea is within China’s sphere of influence, like Mexico is within America’s. Just like America wouldn’t want Chinese troops, missiles and nuclear launchers in Mexico, to China, having American troops, or a close American ally sitting on its border is a non-starter. So China is caught between a rock and Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions.

So we sit and wait for this to unfold, in a stasis where nobody really wins, but the war continues.

I might suggest that someone needs to be Captain Kirk here and destroy the calculus computers. We need to face facts that the status quo is unsustainable, and in fact immoral. One day, North Korea will attack the South, after winning concession after concession due to its nuclear hegemony. And then, we will be faced with real Armageddon, or surrendering the south to the Juche-inspired north.

A war, in any capacity, in the Korean peninsula, is going to be bloody and awful. Liberals and doves in South Korea whine that President Trump has made their country less safe, as if sitting within range of 4,000 chemical-round-capable artillery and rocket batteries is or has ever been safe. We’ve spent 64 years calculating casualties, but nobody has reported for disintegration.

The reckoning will come. I don’t believe all Kim wants is to be left alone. I believe he wants the long game, to rule the Korean peninsula–all of it. If he doesn’t attain the goal, his successor will, or the next one after that. The Kims are very well trained to maintain ideological discipline (which is one reason Kim Jong Nam was assassinated), without regard to blood, friendship, or mercy.

Giving up and accepting a nuclear, ICBM-armed north is tantamount to surrender for the south. They are trapped in their nice, clean war right now, like the leaders in the Star Trek episode, so they don’t see the problem.

We haven’t dealt with North Korea because (a) until the 1990’s it wasn’t really a global security threat, (b) if there was a resumption of a large-scale shooting war, we would certainly win, and (c) we had bigger fish to fry. None of those things is true anymore. A nuclear north changes everything.

America must deal with North Korea, and I’m afraid our only option is to risk all-out war to do it. Obviously, Trump won’t telegraph his intentions, so we won’t see an announcement. But the north is watching very closely. I believe if Trump, Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson have come to the same conclusions I (and others) have, a strike is imminent.

It’s very possible all this talk about “catastrophic” war, negotiations with China, and more sanctions is simply preparation for a military option. Or it could be preparation for acquiescence. As much as I respect Charles Krauthammer, he’s dead wrong. Acquiescence is indeed unthinkable, because it will inevitably lead to war–a war that will pull America in the way Pearl Harbor pulled us in to World War II.

We have to face facts and realize that to avoid war, we might need to risk triggering the “automatic escalation” and end the phony war we’ve had for more than six decades. We’re at day 23,356 and counting. Tick tock.

Foreign Affairs

Saudi foreign minister does damage control on American press

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Saudi foreign minister does damage control on American press

The foreign relations mess stemming from Jamal Khashoggi’s murder continues to grow more chaotic despite Saudi Arabia’s attempt to cover it up with regularly changing stories. The latest attempt at damage control comes from Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

Fox News’ Bret Baier him, pressing multiple times about Mohammad bin Salman’s role in or knowledge of the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder. The blame is being placed on the individuals who carried out the operation; as much space is being created between the direct actors and Saudi leadership as possible.

One important note in the interview was when al-Jubier said they do not believe the entire 15-man “kill team” was at the consulate where when Khashoggi was killed there. He admitted he did not know whether Turkey really had a recording of what happened during the incident, nor whether the United States had intelligence that contradicted the Kingdom’s story.

The responses from the foreign minister were in stark contrast to the indignation exuding from the Kingdom for two weeks following the initial report of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

My Take

As I wrote last week, Saudi Arabia gravely underestimated the international response to this incident. They thought they could get rid of a dissident as they have done in the past and the response would be muted. They didn’t take into account his American ties and the desire of the Turks to expose them at every turn.

How is this going to end? It won’t, at least not for a while. Unlike other international news stories of similar magnitude, this one has multiple forces bent on keeping the story going until a satisfactory resolution is reached. It won’t be reached. The White House and the Kingdom will do whatever they can to sweep this under the rug and make people forget.

This stinks, but here’s the sad reality: “Justice” will not be delivered the way it should and the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States will return to the status quo in a few months.

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Foreign Affairs

Pulling out of the INF treaty isn’t just about Russia

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Pulling out of the INF treaty has very little to do with Russia

Russia has broken the treaty already, according to this administration as well as its predecessor. That’s enough to prompt President Trump to put out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, famously signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev in 1987.

President Trump to pull US from Russia missile treaty

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45930206The US will withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, President Donald Trump has confirmed.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Trump said Russia had “violated” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

The deal banned ground-launched medium-range missiles, with a range of between 500 and 5,500km (310-3,400 miles).

My Take

This isn’t about Russia. Their actions are the excuse for pulling out, but the reason for doing so is because China has no such restrictions. They’re advancements in weaponry have prompted the United States and our allies to explore means of warfare that have been prohibited.

Until now.

This is a counter to China’s continued aggressive actions. Russia will keep doing what Presidents Obama and Trump already acknowledged. No we can step up our missile program as well.

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The cover up begins: 18 Saudis arrested in death of Jamal Khashoggi

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The cover up begins 18 Saudis arrested in death of Jamal Khashoggi

The cover up has begun. Saudi Arabia has arrested 18 people in connection to the death of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. This is the first step in an alleged plan to separate the top levels of Saudi government, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, from any involvement in the journalist’s murder.

Soon, we will hear that “rogue killers” were responsible for the death. It will be positioned as a simple argument that escalated until Khashoggi was “inadvertently” killed. Once dead, the people responsible reacted by trying to cover up the incident, choosing to dismember his body for easier transport from the consulate.

This has been the dominant story in the West and Middle East since his disappearance on October 2nd. He went to the consulate with his fiancee to finalize his divorce. He went in and hasn’t been seen since.

The Turkish government obtained a plethora of circumstantial evidence against the Saudis to the point that any flat denial was no longer tenable. This is the best course of action in their opinion, to cover up an obvious hit against a Saudi dissident and harsh critic of the Crown Prince. It will be interesting to see how those charged with the crime treat their situation.

The story doesn’t end here. America and the world must watch closely as this perversion of justice unfolds.

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