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Words vs. war

Fire and fury like the world has never seen. Those are decidedly not diplomatic words—those are fighting words. Words that President Trump spoke about continued threats from North Korea.

Trump said if Kim Jong-Un’s regime persisted with its threats against the United States, North Korea would suffer the harshest military reaction ever seen by mankind.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson walked back Trump’s comments. He said that Americans can sleep easy at night, that there is no credible threat of a Korean ballistic nuclear weapon hitting the U.S.

Those are the two sides of the current American foreign policy coin:  tit for tat and diplomacy. Trump threatens a rain of military might while the nation’s top diplomat seeks to lower the tension. Unfortunately, Trump’s words ring too much like the Soviet Union’s Krushchev’s “We will bury you” speech at the height of the cold war.  Secretary of State Tillerson tried to calm the world upon his return from a visit to Asia.

Though he was chosen to lead the State Department due to his experience as a globe-trotting CEO of Exxon Mobil, he does not have the training, education or background that delicate situations such as North Korea need. Even with his limitations, we prefer Tillerson’s diplomacy over Trump’s bellicosity.

The West can believe that no man, especially a leader, would ever take the drastic step of starting a war of nukes. The problem is that Kim Jong-Un is an unknown quantity: would he—could he—order a missle tipped with a nuclear weapon be launched against Guam or some point in the western United States?

Until our intelligence sources can say, without a doubt, that Jong-Un is not the irrational child he appears to be and does not have his finger poised over the launch button, we need to opt for safety and security.

After Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ remarks the North Korea regime threatened to hurl a missle at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base and its 6,000 military personnel.

The tit for tat bluster serves no purpose. It is anyone’s guess which audience Jong-Un is playing to since he has so few allies; he might be playing to the hometown crowd. Nothing whips up patriotic frenzy like warning against an enemy.  Trump is playing to his base, which doesn’t tend to shy away from a fight. Words matter and war-mongering words matter more since they make other countries in east Asia nervous and uncertain which camp to gravitate to: America and the West, or China.

Some decry the lack of results from diplomacy, but as long as two sides are talking to each other they are not warring against each other. The key is talking to each other, not at each other. The United States sat down at a table with a delegation from North Vietnam for years at a chateau outside Paris. Negotiations eventually bore fruit, but it was an arduous journey.

In the early 1970s American diplomats purposely portrayed President Richard Nixon as a madman who was capable of anything so the Soviets and Vietnamese better deal with him before he did something rash. That strategy worked partly because both the Soviets and Chinese needed something from the U.S. North Korea needs nothing from America except respect and a promise not to invade. That seems an easy program to follow. It’s better than the unfathomable alternative.   —LAZ