Friday, 28 April 2017

The North Korean Crisis 2017-Madmen at Work.

The problem with the aggressive brinkmanship by the US over the North Korean Missile crisis of 2017 is that it's so easy to 'slither over the brink', not least when the man on the brink happens to be President Donald Trump. The point of the gunboat diplomacy, military drills and deployment of THAAD to South Korea is to force a peace.

Yet it depends on a return of President Nixon's 'Madman Theory' of war, the idea that US credibility, that 'we really mean it', is to be achieved by the readiness in unleashing US bomb power to force the Great Powers to negotiate the fate of smaller ones, as did Kissinger over Vietnam in the 1970s, and leave the lesser fried less leeway.

Trump's threatening war to get China to bring maximum pressure to bear on China, still officially treaty bound to North Korea, to desist from its nuclear programme, now trumped up as an imminent possible threat to California. The more he ramps up the rhetoric, the more he needs a deal to take away from his 'bullying'.

But the idea China really does have that much leverage over North Korea is a myth and if it fails to meets Trump's standards of artful dealing with Pyongyang, then Trump could 'up the ante' to even higher levels that raise Chinese fears of destabilisation and so its own attempts to deter Trump and 'get him to the table'.

The capacity for misunderstanding of one another's motives, in a spiral of warmongering paranoia, opens up a potential for misinterpretation and a potential catastrophe. North Korea might have nothing to lose in ratcheting up the aggression and nuclear missile threats further in abject fear of renewed Korean War.

Bruce Cumings has made plain that threats of US bombing are really taken seriously in the retarded Cold War time and space capsule that is North Korea; its society was rebuilt and militarised after US bombing destroyed its urban centres almost entirely in the war between 1950-53, involving widespread napalm use on civilians.

Pyongyang remembers this history viscerally and will see Trump's threats as less of a diplomatic game but as an actual rehearsal for war and a repeat of the Korean War, even involving nuclear weapons use. After all, Trump venerates General MacArthur, who was fired by Truman for advancing the idea of  A-Bomb use on Manchuria.

North Korea has always used nuclear missile tests as its way of trying to gain attention and extract concessions diplomatically. But if Pyongyang misinterprets Trump's moves to mean it no longer has anything to lose, this crisis could really boil over and China might intervene to deter Washington in ways that humiliate Trump.

After all, China fears THAAD is also about encircling it through US clients from East China Sea down to the South China Sea with an anti-ballistic system that downgrades its own nuclear deterrent's potential. Treating XI as though he were a pliant junior partner to solve North Korea could be resented as 'loss of face' too.

Jenkins appears far too sanguine about the possibility this Kissinger style diplomacy could yield peace, not least because McMasters, Tillerson and Trump are potentially as ruthless as Nixon and Kissinger were but without their ability to use secret back channel diplomacy and also because of Trump's arrogant open 'public diplomacy'

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

President Donald Trump and the Mad Emperor 'Act'

It's barely been noticed the way Congressional Investigations into Trump's alleged 'Russian connections' have gone much quieter. Within a week Trump performed a total political somersault and intervened militarily against Assad in Syria, Russia's client, and all seemed mostly to have been forgiven.

Tillerson's sinister Russian links became a sign of his "expertise" in dealing firmly with the Kremlin. Liberals whinging about the fact their even more aggressive and warmongering candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost in a humiliating defeat, then started chiming in with showering praise upon the Leader for being Presidential.

The conspiracy theories about Trump being a Russian stooge mysteriously vanished into thin air. The change in the line required a new way of mentally managing the reality of Trump winning. The shift in line would mean any future Congressional Investigations would be directed more towards Russian attempts at destabilising US 'democracy'.

So now Trump's administration ratchets up the rhetoric against North Korea in another Iraq War style countdown to conflict over Weapons of Mass Destruction ( i.e. nuclear weapons ) that, this time, they actually do have. The UN was accused yesterday of being incapable of dealing with the regime of Kim Jong Un.

As much as North Korea needs dealing with through careful diplomacy , the fact Trump wants to stake out his credentials as a War President does not seem to have been connected to consolidating his 'credibility' domestically a being pro-Establishment and for US Global Power and not the absurd idea he was pro-Russian.

Either Trump really is a master of the Art of the Deal or basically the conspiracy theories showed how any candidate in supposed democracies would simply be 'taken out' if they really threatened to pursue isolationism or not support the existing set of alliance systems and foreign entanglements ( a.k.a "engagements").

The hazard now is the Trump administration feels impelled to reunify and rally America behind him through upping the rhetoric in dealing with resolving conflicts in many flashpoints across the globe. Kissinger style realpolitik would appear to be making a return and that means deploying Trump as Madman or even Mad Emperor.

Partly, this is about having Trump as the 'reality TV' President, the strongman who could literally fire and fry any leader and regime on earth. In dealing with North Korea, the tactic appears to be about pressuring China into threatening Kim Jong Un with pulling all lifelines for his regime, while Trump gears up for war.

The problem is that Trump seems to have let the generals off the leash and neither he nor McMasters are of the calibre of Richard Nixon and Kissinger, who for all their flaws and appalling cruelties, were sane enough to know how to use the madman act as part of a realpolitik strategy that fell short of outright global war.

So in many ways, the US is going back to the 1970s, an era of paranoia and brutal global realpolitik in which strategic realignment is brought about by threatening to unleash ever greater bombing in order to get other Great Powers to exert pressure upon smaller ones as the Globe becomes more openly a Grand Chessboard.

The terrible danger with that, is the Cold War was less a conflict over strategic resource interests, than they are in 2017, though they were always present. The Syria and Iraq Wars are interconnected with the quest for exerting control over energy flows as is the vying for control over the South China Sea. North Korea far much less so.

Britain after Brexit is far more likely to deepen the strategic alignment with the US in conjunction with the Gulf States, with the possibility of Iran being targeted should Trump need to maintain face over Syria: Russia's support for Assad could be countered by diminishing Iranian backed Hizbollah and support through threats.

In Britain, ever the willing junior model pupil, if Corbyn ever came close to winning the election or did, the sheer scale of the dirty tactics and American concern would probably result in some sort of coup d'etat against him for not wanting to be in NATO or because of his dislike and opposition to US led foreign policies and wars.

Freedom to choose can never ever be too free, lest the electorate err.