> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Mark 
> Why Trump Is Wholly Unsuited to the North Korea Crisis
> By David A. Graham
> August 8, 2017
> http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2017/08/trump-north-korea/140114/ 
> <http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2017/08/trump-north-korea/140114/>
> For months, worried observers of the Trump administration have wondered 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/trumps-credibility-crisis-arrives/520347/>
>  what would happen when the president first faced a bona fide, urgent 
> international crisis out of his own control.
> This week, the world seems terrifyingly close to getting an answer.
> On Monday, the United Nations Security Council approved new sanctions on 
> North Korea. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the North Korean 
> regime has for the first time produced a miniaturized warhead that can be 
> attached to a nuclear missile 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/08/north-korea-nuclear/536235/>.
>  And later on Tuesday, speaking at a briefing on the opioid crisis, President 
> Trump offered an unusually warlike, blunt statement.
> “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” he said. 
> “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has 
> been very threatening beyond a normal statement, and as I said they will be 
> met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has 
> never seen before.”
> At a moment of nuclear brinksmanship like this, any citizen of the United 
> States wants a few things from a leader. You want someone who they can trust 
> to tell the truth, and who foreign leaders view as credible, so that threats 
> and statements alike are taken seriously. You want someone who is known to be 
> able to carefully sift through a lot of evidence and assess upsides from 
> downsides. You want someone who has a team of expert advisers whose judgment 
> he trusts and takes seriously. And you want someone who is able to take bad 
> news.
> The problem is that Trump has none of these characteristics. He has shown 
> himself to be prolifically dishonest 
> <https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims-database/?utm_term=.8e06b6eeb234>.
>  The president has lied to the public about matters great and small, from the 
> petty (the size of his inauguration crowd) to the serious (accusations of 
> wiretapping, his own position on major matters) to the absurd (outright 
> denying things he said publicly). As a result, Americans are in no position 
> to trust the things he might tell them in a crisis, whether those remarks are 
> delivered from behind the Resolute desk or via tweet.
> As if that were not bad enough, foreign leaders can’t trust what he says 
> either. An adversary has no idea whether to take threats from Trump seriously 
> (to say nothing of literally 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/trump-makes-his-case-in-pittsburgh/501335/>).
>  He’s a man who has made empty threats throughout his career, repeatedly 
> threatening to sue people who say and do things he doesn’t like. In many 
> cases, he has not followed through on those threats. If you’re North Korean 
> leader Kim Jong Un, why should you believe that his threats of force are any 
> more real? Trump’s strategy with North Korea has been compared to Nixon’s 
> “madman theory,” in which he wanted enemies to believe he was capable of 
> anything, because he was insane. An equally, or more, likely outcome is that 
> North Korea will conclude that Trump is capable of nothing, based on past 
> results.
> The dangers are higher since Trump’s counterpart is Kim, himself an 
> untrustworthy and unpredictable interlocutor prone to empty threats. “When 
> two leaders each habitually bluster and exaggerate, there’s a higher 
> likelihood of making a catastrophic mistake based on a bad guess,” Kathy 
> Gilsinan wrote in April 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/north-korea/523080/>.
> But it’s a problem for allies, too, since the U.S. would want friends in a 
> hot war or in a diplomatic crisis. They also have no reason to trust any 
> assurances that the president makes. As my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg warned 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/11/trump-nuclear-north-korea/506750/>
>  on the eve of the election, “Nuclear crises call for, among other things, 
> the most exacting possible calibration of language. This is not a skill 
> Donald Trump would bring to government service.”
> Trump’s promises of “fire and fury” do not instill new confidence. His 
> literally inflammatory threat is particularly baffling because of the 
> parameters he laid out: The president warned not that North Korea would be 
> punished fiercely for firing a missile at the U.S., or for conducting a 
> missile test, but indeed for issuing a threat. But that’s inevitable. Threats 
> are North Korea’s major export product. Trump, who ridiculed Barack Obama for 
> allowing Syria to cross his “red line” of chemical-weapons use, is 
> establishing a red line that will almost certainly be crossed—perhaps very 
> soon, if Kim is in a sporting mood.
> But even setting aside the public-messaging side of the ledger, should 
> citizens have faith in Trump’s decision-making process? Throughout his life, 
> he has bragged about his reliance on his gut instincts rather than on careful 
> study of the details of a case. His four corporate bankruptcies demonstrate 
> the limitations of that gut. He has a tendency to believe outrageously fake 
> stories 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/trump-fake-news/526704/>,
>  and his staff is reportedly wary of giving him unflattering and unhappy news 
> because he reacts volcanically to it. When told he cannot do something, his 
> impulse is often to insist on doing it.
> Those impulses do not serve the nation well in a nuclear standoff—a situation 
> where, as Mark Bowden laid out in the July/August Atlantic 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/the-worst-problem-on-earth/528717/>,
>  there are no good solutions, but only least-worst solutions. As Defense 
> Secretary James Mattis has put it 
> <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/war-with-north-korea-would-be-catastrophic-mattis-says/>,
>  “A conflict in North Korea … would be probably the worst kind of fighting in 
> most people's lifetimes.” While some optimistic reports have suggested that 
> new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly can and already has imposed better 
> discipline and information-circulation systems in the White House, the public 
> has little material evidence of changes (really, only Anthony Scaramucci’s 
> firing) and plenty of signs that Trump remains Trump, from his weird Twitter 
> assault on Senator Richard Blumenthal to his remarks Tuesday.
> The reasoning behind Trump’s threat is difficult to grasp. Senator Lindsey 
> Graham argued last week 
> <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/08/lindsey-graham-north-korea/535578/>
>  that the benefit of a war would be to keep North Korea from acquiring a 
> nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. But if it has already 
> happened, it’s too late for a preventive war, and the only advantage is to be 
> the first to strike. Military experts are dubious that the U.S. could knock 
> out the entire North Korean nuclear capability in one, quick assault.
> Perhaps the best hope for the world is that Trump, who is easily distracted 
> and has a short attention span, will in this case once more be distracted. 
> That would at least allow the immediate tension to dissipate, though the 
> longer-term problem of a nuclear North Korea would remain. Of course, 
> dropping the promise of American retaliation would only increase Trump’s 
> credibility problem, offering adversaries another example of an empty threat.
> A situation like this was easily foreseeable, and in fact foreseen. Since 
> successive presidents have failed to effectively curtail North Korea’s 
> nuclear program, it was practically inevitable that the 45th president would 
> face this very dilemma. Senator Marco Rubio, a rival of Trump’s in the GOP 
> primary, said he could not be trusted with nuclear weapons. Hillary Clinton 
> ran an ad focused <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lha5Gk-yCbw> on the danger 
> that Trump would start a nuclear war. Trump is in a box of his own creation, 
> and the American people, by virtue of their choices at the ballot box, are in 
> it with him.
> By David A. Graham // David Graham is a senior associate editor at The 
> Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for 
> Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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