Two men sit at a chess board. Player ‘One’ is quiet and scheming; player ‘Two’, brash, given to occasional ill-thought-out moves. He is the more powerful player of the two. He is very competitive. The word ‘lose’ is not in his dictionary.
Player ‘One’ started from a position of weakness. Some pieces were missing from his side of the board. He’s had to play with a handicap, compared to his opponent, and he knows it. But by carefully calculating his moves, rattling player ‘Two’ into making the occasional error, he’s now been able to call “Check!” on his opponent. A quick glance at the board shows that player ‘One’ has left player ‘Two’ little room for manoeuvre. The most player ‘Two’ can hope for is a draw, but that could mean annihilating much of the human race.
Kim Jong-un has Donald Trump by the ‘short ‘n curlies’, figuratively speaking. Trump’s ego needs him to come out on top, but he sees only two ways to possibly achieve that, and both involve military intervention. If he attacks North Korea with conventional weaponry, Kim will almost certainly retaliate with nuclear weapons likely aimed at the United States. That would mean relying on America’s missile defence systems to take down Kim’s warheads before they reach their target. It would only take one to get through for unimagined devastation to occur. America’s MDS has never been tested against an actual nuclear attack. Dare he take that risk?
The second choice for Trump is an all-out nuclear strike to take out Kim’s nuclear arsenal before he has time to fire it. That option truly doesn’t bear thinking about. With thousands of U.S. citizens stationed just across the border in the South, and China only a whisker away, the aftermath of such a strike would be too horrific to contemplate.
Western media is united in condemning North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but consider for a moment the position of Kim Jong-un and his country. No-one, apart from the regime, would argue that this isn’t a dastardly dictatorship, but there’s little doubt it deservedly feels threatened. With U.S. military bases in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Guam, half the U.S. navy parked in the East China Sea, and a brand new missile defence system partly installed in South Korea, plus decades of U.S. political rhetoric condemning the regime, and George W Bush labeling it part of the “Axis of Evil”, if Kim and his cohorts are feeling decidedly edgy one can hardly blame them.
Is there another option? Yes, there is, but it’s unlikely Donald Trump will consider it.
Basically, Kim wants the U.S. to back off, get out of his front yard, treat North Korea with a little respect (meaning lift all the sanctions) and stop threatening him. Tillerson keeps telling him the U.S. isn’t interested in ousting him from power, but he’s seen what America has done to Iraq and Libya, and would like to do in Syria, so he’s not too keen to believe all that baloney. He knows he stands between America (in the form of ally, South Korea) and China, and the U.S. government would love to be able to position itself militarily right on Xi Jinping’s border (and, incidentally, next door to Russia).
All of which means America is unlikely to back off, and of course it wants regime change in North Korea, just as badly as China wants to preserve it. Any other U.S. president would have been pushing hard for diplomacy to cool the tensions. Trump is no diplomat. He’s allowing Bannon and his military advisers to call the tune.
Donald Trump is just completing his first six months as president of the United States. In that time he’s brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. What will he achieve in the next six months?
It’s your move – Mister President!