by Toby O'Ryan
Two developments this very week underscore the dangers of Trump's finger on the nuclear trigger.
First, while Trump did not repeat either his genocidal "fire and fury" and "we will destroy North Korea" rhetoric or his moronic but highly dangerous insults to Kim Jong-un, a) his speech to the South Korean parliament continued to threaten war, if in more measured tone, and b) he informally continued to act every bit the thug, bragging about U.S. military power and how "it doesn't turn out well" for anyone who challenges it.* He did it in more measured tones and he read it from a teleprompter--but that is hardly something to take comfort in. Moreover, Trump was constrained by the reality that the currently dominant section of the South Korean ruling class disagrees with him on his approach and has been extremely worried that he will drag them into a war that could mean millions of deaths for that country. So, as the New York Times noted in explaining Trump's more measured tones:
[T]o let that difference [with South Korea] in approach spill out into the open would have played right into North Korea's hands. It has tried, over nearly seven decades, to break the alliance. So the two leaders decided to stick to common, long-range goals.- Advertisement -
Mr. Trump's change in tone notwithstanding, his advisers have been making the case that North Korea's ambition is to reunify the Korean peninsula by force, and that traditional deterrence cannot stop the North once it has a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.
That Trumpian premise--is basically untrue, and they know it. The North Korean rulers correctly understand that without nuclear weapons the U.S. will then face much less constraint in knocking out their regime, as the U.S. did in making war on Libya after it had given up its nukes based on U.S. assurance. The Trumpian premise forms the underpinning of the highly aggressive policy that Republican Senator Corker has said puts the U.S. on course to launch World War 3. Trump's actual policy--and yes, he is backed up in this and will be backed up in this by Kelly, McMaster, and Mattis who are not "adults" but war criminals--is a very aggressive U.S. foreign policy that requires "victories" to keep the momentum going. Trump can now say, "Look, I went to Asia and talked with people and tried to be reasonable and peaceful, and North Korea still did not give up their nukes." Then he can seize on anything--most recently, the rumor has been floated that they will launch a first strike on North Korea if it tests another intercontinental ballistic missile--to pose as the victim and go to war and the Democrats will, almost to a person, "rally round the flag"--and Trump's approval ratings will soar. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The other big thing this week ratcheting up the danger level has been the internal coup in Saudi Arabia and its subsequent provocations against Iran. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman arrested over 500 people in the Saudi ruling class on vague charges of corruption (this coming from someone who used government funds to buy a personal yacht worth more than half a billion dollars), and centralized power in his own hands. In a highly unusual move, Trump raced to his twitter account to hail the action. At the same time, the now-unchallenged Saudi strongman accused Iran of launching a missile into Saudi territory from Yemen, calling it an "act of war" (the Iranians denied doing this and the Saudis have given no evidence to any international observers of this supposed deed). Just before the arrests the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Harari, popped up on Saudi TV to resign his office, claiming that the Saudi enemy Hezbollah (a powerful Lebanese political party with its own army and an ally of Iran, currently fighting in Syria and Iraq) had driven him into exile. Not only did Hezbollah deny this, there were many who speculated that Harari had been forced to make this move by the Saudis. In writing of this explosive stew, Times columnist Thomas Friedman voiced the worry that those who have been "urging [the Saudis] to be more aggressive in confronting Iran" like the [United Arab Emirates], Trump, Jared Kushner and Bibi Netanyahu [head of Israel]--will push [the Saudis] into a war abroad and at home at the same time, and we could see Saudi Arabia and the whole region spin out of control at the same time. Be afraid." [emphasis in original]
*Here it does have to be said for the record that while the U.S. has been able to wreak horrible amounts of destruction and murder on people all over the Middle East, their much vaunted military has not been able to actually win a solid, lasting victory in some time; this is actually part of what led to Trump's ascension, why he now feels compelled to demonstrate U.S. might in a convincing "victory" somewhere, and what makes the danger of war--which is built into any imperialist system like the U.S.--much more heightened with a fascist regime in power
Toby O'Ryan is an advocate for Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. His wide-ranging writings for revcom.us include commentary on current events and cultural phenomena, as well as deep theoretical wranglings. Some of his articles are "Trump's Statement [on Charlottesville]: A Steaming Pile of Fascist Double-Talk," "We Call Bullshit: 4 Big Lies and the 1 Truth of Lincoln," "On the Controversy Over a Painting of Emmett Till: 'Open Casket'--Should Oppression be Owned, or Abolished?...," and "You Can't Defeat Fascism by Ignoring It."
(Article changed on November 12, 2017 at 04:30)
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