Saturday, August 12, 2017
Thoughts on the Korea Escalation
So, no sooner to I say that maybe Trump is too self-centered to notice a crisis and that therefore maybe we won't have to handcuff him, stuff something in his mouth, and lock him in the closet until it is over than he proves me wrong. He has now been (orally) proclaiming "fire and fury" on North Korea and add (again orally) that that threat might not be "tough enough" and tweet that the military option was "locked and loaded." At this point handcuffing him and stuffing something in his mouth starts to look like a good idea. Then all he would be able to say would be "Mumble mumble mumble, mumble mumble." A definite improvement!
And, it should be noted, this is entirely popular with Trump supporters, who think it is an outrage that he is being criticized. Some simply like the belligerent talk and consider it exactly what makes America great again. Others think war with North Korea is inevitable, fault Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama for not starting a war earlier (although they never quite come out and say so) and believe that it should be done quickly, before North Korea develops nuclear missiles that can hit us.
It should be noted that what happens to South Korea and Japan does not factor into their thinking. Nothing against those two countries, you understand; they just don't case. That is easy enough to understand (just look at the evidence). What may be harder for people on our side (anti-Trump conservatives included) is that Trump supporters see it as immoral to care what becomes of South Korea or Japan. Preferring depth to breadth has a very dark side, in this case, dismissing any concern over whether Seoul or Tokyo are destroyed as showing insufficiently deep commitment to our own.* And now the Chinese government has proclaimed that it will come to North Korea's defense if attacked, but will remain neutral if North Korea attacks the US first. What we definitely need now is some sort of de-escalation before things get out of hand.
On the plus side, there is evidence that things will not escalate out of hand. The U.S. military is not undertaking any preparations for war. Back channel communications remain open. And today a neo-Nazi rally in Charlotteville, Virginia, clashes with counter-demonstrators, a presumed neo-Nazi plowing his car into a crowd, and Donald Trump's failure to condemn the neo-Nazis explicitly have pushed Korea off the front pages. With luck, this latest uproar will distract our ADD patient in chief from Korea and the crisis will peter out. And so we will see that in case of crisis it is not necessary to handcuff Trump, stuff something in his mouth, and lock him in the closet, but merely to distract him till things settle down. We can hope.
*Cue Jonathan Haidt to explain why caring whether Seoul or Tokyo are destroyed simply demonstrates liberal moral myopia and excessive focus on harm avoidance to the exclusion of all other values, and if you look at it with a more balanced set of values, really any harm to South Korea or Japan are less important than maintaining loyalty to one's own. Yes, he annoys me sometimes.