Following President Donald Trump’s much-anticipated speech to the United Nations in September 2017, the New Jersey Star-Ledger weighed in with The Trump policy toward North Korea is largely irrational.
Let me start by saying Trump’s speech contained some refreshing perspectives, such as defending America’s right to its own self-interest, and calling out socialism for what it is. On socialism, Trump said:
The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.
Of course, identifying the philosophical roots of socialism—that is, altruism and collectivism—is paramount to backing up that statement. But Trump’s statement is true, nonetheless, and good to hear.
That said, Trump’s vow to “completely destroy North Korea” (as opposed to destroying its military capability or its regime) was bizarre. That rhetoric is what the Star-Ledger focussed on. I zeroed in on this segment of the editorial:
Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Bush administration stalwart, called his book "The Reluctant Sheriff" to describe America's best role in the world a one that leads a posse of states that can help police the globe, making our expansive power easier to support in the international community in circumstances such as these.
And its conclusion:
To fully understand where this is headed, consult your worst nightmare.
I left these comments, edited for clarity:
I largely agree with the logic expressed here. Who actually believes that, short of an initial strike against the United States, Trump would “totally destroy” North Korea? Uncredible threats are hollow, and worse than saying nothing.
But let’s be honest. Trump has been following Richard Haass’s “posse of states” strategy, even urging the U.N to step up. He’s even gotten sanctions through the Security Council. The difference between Trump’s approach and previous approaches is that he at least understands that diplomacy with war-mongering regimes must be backed up by a credible potential of military strength.
Which leads to the most glaring omission in this editorial. “To fully understand where this is headed, consult your worst nightmare,” the Star-Ledger concludes. According to that link, the “Nuclear threat [is] at [the] highest level since [the] Cold War.” Fair enough. But we must therefore ask, how did we get here? The answer: Since the fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War, we have seen a quarter Century of failed diplomacy by three successive Administrations to buy off North Korea in exchange for it giving up its nuclear program. Each time, the North Koreans took the economic goodies and went right ahead with its program. It may be true that “The need to consistently use military deterrence without diplomacy only leads to escalation.” But when dealing with war-mongering dictatorships, diplomacy without credible military deterrence—which means the willingness to use it—only appeases aggressive tyrants and leads to the brink of war.
Trump may be a loose cannon. He may not be the most thoughtful or polished leader. Those are not good qualities. But give him his due: He inherited the North Korean problem.
DIPLOMACY ONLY ENCOURAGES NORTH KOREA’S BELLIGERENCE—Elan Journo for ARI Blog [This article was written in 2006.]
OUR NORTH KOREA POLICY: APPEASE, EMBOLDEN. REPEAT.—Carl Svanberg for ARI Blog
My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Lines from President Trump’s U.N. Address—Dr. Michael Hurd