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North Korea Passes Key Nuclear Threshold

Kim Jong Un North Korean Flag

In a report citing sources inside the U.S. intelligence community, The Washington Post is reporting that analysts have concluded that North Korea has passed a key technological point in its effort to obtain the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon as far as the Continental United States:

North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.

The new analysis completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some independent experts believe the number of bombs is much smaller.

The findings are likely to deepen concerns about an evolving North Korean military threat that appears to be advancing far more rapidly than many experts had predicted. U.S. officials last month concluded that Pyongyang is also outpacing expectations in its effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking cities on the American mainland.

While more than a decade has passed since North Korea’s first nuclear detonation, many analysts believed it would be years before the country’s weapons scientists could design a compact warhead that could be delivered by missile to distant targets. But the new assessment, a summary document dated July 28, concludes that this critical milestone has already been reached.

“The IC [intelligence community] assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” the assessment states, in an excerpt read to The Washington Post. The assessment’s broad conclusions were verified by two U.S. officials familiar with the document. It is not yet known whether the reclusive regime has successfully tested the smaller design, although North Korea officially last year claimed to have done so.

The DIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

An assessment this week by the Japanese Ministry of Defense also concludes there is evidence to suggest that North Korea has achieved miniaturization.

Kim Jong Un is becoming increasingly confident in the reliability of his nuclear arsenal, analysts have concluded, explaining perhaps the dictator’s willingness to engage in defiant behavior, including missile tests that have drawn criticism even from North Korea’s closest ally, China. On Saturday, both China and Russia joined other members of the U.N. Security Council in approving punishing new economic sanctions, including a ban on exports that supply up to a third of North Korea’s annual $3 billion earnings.

The nuclear progress further raises the stakes for President Trump, who has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons. In an interview broadcast Saturday on MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt Show, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the prospect of a North Korea armed with nuclear-tipped ICBMs would be “intolerable, from the president’s perspective.”

“We have to provide all options . . . and that includes a military option,” he said. But McMaster said the administration would do everything short of war to “pressure Kim Jong Un and those around him, such that they conclude it is in their interest to denuclearize.” The options said to be under discussion ranged from new multilateral negotiations to reintroducing U.S. battlefield nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula, officials familiar with internal discussions said.

(…)

The nuclear progress further raises the stakes for President Trump, who has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons. In an interview broadcast Saturday on MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt Show, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the prospect of a North Korea armed with nuclear-tipped ICBMs would be “intolerable, from the president’s perspective.”

“We have to provide all options . . . and that includes a military option,” he said. But McMaster said the administration would do everything short of war to “pressure Kim Jong Un and those around him, such that they conclude it is in their interest to denuclearize.” The options said to be under discussion ranged from new multilateral negotiations to reintroducing U.S. battlefield nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula, officials familiar with internal discussions said.

This news comes on the same day that it is being reported that U.S. spy satellites have detected North Korea moving anti-ship missiles onto patrol boats, potentially posing a danger to the American naval presence that has gathered nearby in response to recent North Korean missile tests:

Despite the United States’ insistence that North Korea halt its missile tests, U.S. spy agencies detected the rogue communist regime loading two anti-ship cruise missiles on a patrol boat on the country’s east coast just days ago.

It’s the first time these missiles have been deployed on this type of platform since 2014, U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region told Fox News on Monday.

It also points to more evidence that North Korea isn’t listening to the diplomatic threats from the West.

“The best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in the Philippines Monday.

North Korea loaded two Stormpetrel anti-ship cruise missiles on a Wonsan guided-missile patrol boat at Toejo Dong on North Korea’s east coast.

“North Korea is not showing any evidence it plans to halt its missile tests,” said one official who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “It’s a trend that does not bode well for hopes of de-escalating tensions on the [Korean] peninsula.”

The latest moves by Pyongyang point to a likely missile test in the days ahead or it could be a defense measure should the U.S. Navy dispatch more warships to the Korean peninsula, officials said.

It also happens to coincide with the release of a new poll by CBS News that finds the American public is increasingly uneasy about the situation on the Korean peninsula and doubtful of the President’s ability to handle the matter successfully. The poll finds that 72% of respondents are “uneasy about possible conflict” resulting from the situation in the region, while just 26% are confident that things will be resolved. At the same time, 60% of respondents say that they think North Korea is a threat that can be contained, while 29% say that the regime in Pyongyang is a threat requiring immediate military action and 7% says that they don’t believe that the Kim regime poses any threat at all to the United States or its interests. Of the most concern, perhaps, is the fact that 61% of respondents say they are “uneasy” about President Trump’s ability to handle the North Korean nuclear situation while 35% are confident in his ability to handle the matter. Among Republicans and Democrats, the numbers in response to this poll are predictable but, most strikingly, 64% of self-identified Independents saying they are uneasy about Trump’s ability to handle the situation and 31% expressing confidence in the President.

For his part, President Trump responded to these reports with a statement from his “working vacation” at his golf club in New Jersey promising “fire and fury” if the DRPK continues to threaten the United States:

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump threatened on Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangers the United States as tensions with the isolated nuclear-armed state grow into perhaps the most serious foreign policy challenge yet in his young administration.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

The president’s comments came as North Korea earlier in the day escalated its criticism of the United States, as well as its neighboring allies, by warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation against the latest round of United Nations sanctions.

The statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, was the strongest indication yet that the country could conduct another nuclear or missile test, as it had often done in response to past United Nations sanctions. Until now, the North’s response to the latest sanctions had been limited to strident yet vague warnings, such as threatening retaliation “thousands of times over.”

“Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said. “They should be mindful that the D.P.R.K.’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength.”

If true, this latest report about North Korea passing the miniaturization threshold is quite obviously disconcerting, to say the least. In addition to the development of a reliable Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, an area where recent testing has apparently shown that the Kim regime is making advances with each test launch, the development of nuclear weapons that are small enough to be placed in the warhead of such missiles has been cited as a key threshold for the North Koreans to develop a nuclear weapons program that would pose a threat to the United States, Russia, China, Australia, as well as areas as far away as the Middle East and parts of Europe as well, of course, as its immediate neighbors in Japan and South Korea. Once the ability to both miniaturize a working warhead and build and launch an ICBM that can be relied upon to reach its target and deliver its payload, the Kim regime will have significantly changed the playing field on the Korean peninsula and made the situation for the United States and its allies in the region, the Chinese, the Russians, and anyone else who is a potential target of its weapons. This is why it the development of such an ability has long been said to be a “red line” by American Presidents going back to Bill Clinton. Time after time, though, the North Koreans have resisted efforts to rein in the program and largely ignored diplomatic and other entreaties on the matter.

As I’ve said in virtually every post I’ve written here at OTB when it comes to North Korea, it’s difficult to see what can be done diplomatically to prevent the Kim regime from achieving its goal of developing what would amount to an effective nuclear deterrent. Over the past twenty years, the United States has imposed numerous economic and other sanctions on the regime for both its missile and nuclear weapons development programs. To a large degree, these efforts have been supported by the regime’s closest ally China, albeit on some occasions that support has come grudgingly and China continues to engage in commerce with the regime that provides Kim Jong Un with access to both hard currency and necessary supplies such as food and medicines which he then uses to both ensure the support of the military and those closest to him in the power structure and to provide to a populace that has seemingly been deluded into believing the quasi-religious propaganda that has been fed to it by the regime for the past seven decades.

If diplomacy doesn’t work, though, the other options are far from palatable. At this point, a limited military strike aimed at setting back either the DPRK’s nuclear program or its missile research efforts seems as though it would only be a temporary solution. There have been multiple indications that many of the essential research sites for both programs have been relocated to locations deep underground or in the mountainous region of the country, where it would be difficult for military forces to effectively destroy without a sustained campaign. Second, any military strike on the north risks the prospect of either retaliation directed against South Korea and/or Japan, or a wider war which would involve significant danger to the civilian population of South Korea and Japan. In the end, the North Koreans would not survive such a conflict, of course, but they have the ability to do a lot of damage on the way out the door. Additionally, there would be no telling how the Chinese would react to a conflict on the peninsula, meaning that any military action would be unwise without much consultation with Beijing in advance.

Finally, it’s clear that allowing the North Koreans to develop what they want would pose problems of its own. If Kim Jong Un is successful in his efforts, then he will have fundamentally altered the state of play on the Korean peninsula and made the odds that his regime will be brought down in the manner of rulers such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi far, far less likely. In much the same way that the existence of nuclear weapons has made the prospect of a hot war between the United States and either Russia or China, a nuclear armed North Korea would be one that has a significant bargaining chip in its favor, one that could potentially be used to fundamentally alter the politics of the entire region in ways that would not be in anyone’s interests. For years now, the standard answer in the West has been that the key to solving the North Korean problem is getting the Chinese on board. Well, we’ve basically reached that point and it’s apparent that China does not have the influence over Pyongyang that we’ve long thought it does. With an operational nuclear deterrent, Kim Jong Un would be largely immune to even pressure from the DPRK’s patron in Beijing. How we solve the North Korean problem at that point is a question I don’t have an answer to, and I’m not sure that even the people who are supposed to be the experts regarding this matter have an answer either. At some point, though, we’re going to have to figure something out.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Breaking:

    WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened North Korea, promising “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” following new reports the country has escalated its nuclear program.
    “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” he said in a short statement to reporters before a meeting on the opioid crisis at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
    “He has been very threatening, beyond a normal statement,” Trump said of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. “And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

    Emphasis, mine.
    Somebody stop this guy (Trump) while he can still be stopped…

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  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Donnie talks loudly and carries a very tiny stick.

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  3. teve tory says:

    reposted from last thread:

    @MarkedMan: There are literally dozens of hardened artillery positions on the NK side of the border, some of which could hit Seoul, a city of 10 million people. Also there are a couple-dozen-thousand US troops around there, and nuclear fallout would land on friendly countries whatever direction it went. A big war with north korea would be a catastrophe.

    That said, presidents usually try to sell a war before they order it. Maybe trump would just shout “Bomb them now!”, violating that norm just like he violates every other. But if he did have to work at it, he would probably fail. Like Charles Blow said a day or two ago, “The only thing that holds the line against absolute calamity is the fact that Trump lacks focus and hates work.”

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    1) We saw this show when it was the far more credible George W. Bush playing the lead with Colin Powell singing back-up.

    2) Why should we trust the intel community when Trump keeps telling us not to?

    3) Why would anyone trust Trump’s picked boy Mike Pompeo at CIA or whatever place-holder is running DHS in Kelly’s absence?

    4) Japan and South Korea have been in range for a long time, why is this special? Just because it’s us?

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  5. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    they will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power

    Apparently Trump watched Game of Thrones this week…

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  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I apologize for so many posts…but this is priceless…
    https://news.vice.com/story/trump-folder-positive-news-white-house

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  7. @michael reynolds:

    To be accurate, this assessment is coming primarily from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is made up of trained intelligence officers and career military people rather than political appointees.

    And I’d argue that development of the ability to deliver nuclear weapons thousands of miles away will fundamentally alter the situation on the peninsula in ways that would not be favorable to us, or our allies. Heck, even the Chinese don’t want to see it happen because of the potential of what a nuclear-armed North Korea means.

    Additionally, there’s also the prospect that the DPRK could choose to share this technology with other unsavory nations, thus further undermining a nuclear nonproliferation policy that, until now, has been largely successful.

    I’m not saying we need to panic and go to war, far from it actually. I am saying that this has the potential to lead us down a path that could have disastrous consequences for many people.

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  8. teve tory says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Jesus Christ.

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  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The DIA is one intel agency. Part of the reason we have multiple intel agencies is to have second opinions. I want to hear from Japanese and South Korean intel before I believe this story.

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  10. teve tory says:

    “Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said.

    That’s the biggest thing you have to fear from wolves: strangulation.

    Truly a memorable quote from the North Korean spokesman, TomPak Friedman-Cheung.

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  11. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Ah, ya beat me to it. Yes, it is priceless. But…we should, I suppose, laugh while we can

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  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Glen Campbell died

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  13. Moosebreath says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “I want to hear from Japanese and South Korean intel before I believe this story.”

    The Grauniad is reporting Japan’s Defense Ministry is saying the same:

    “In its defence white paper, Japan’s government said Pyongyang’s weapons programme had “advanced considerably,” adding that it was possible that the regime had acquired the ability to miniaturise nuclear warheads.”

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  14. Moosebreath says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    “Somebody stop this guy (Trump) while he can still be stopped…”

    While North Korea may have passed a nuclear threshold, Trump continues to fail at the threshold of being a leader who can avoid scaring his own people.

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  15. dazedandconfused says:

    The article says both the DNI and the head of the DIA refused to comment. Until they do it’s a rumor, at least for me. “Analysts have concluded” could be two analysts.

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  16. Mister Bluster says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:..Glen Campbell died

    What were the circumstances growing up in Arkansas…bunch of kids right?
    Yeah I’m one of twelve…I never knew what it felt like to sleep alone til I got married…
    Later with Bob Costas

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  17. al-Alameda says:

    At a time like this I wish that a non-teenaged boy was the American President making a decision to bring the ‘fire and fury.’

    Also, a minor point I concede, has anyone notified Trump that Seoul, with a metro area population of more than 25 million people, is only about 40 miles from the North Korean border? Or does Trump think that Seoul just might be collateral damage?

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  18. Jen says:

    @al-Alameda: He has no idea. He’s just making noises like he’s seen the tough guys in movies do. He has no policy, no plan, and no real understanding of what he’s doing. It’s all a reality show to him.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    The US, since WWII has very carefully developed a strategic presence in the Pacific. From what I understand, this is at least substantially due to recognizing the importance of having allies or neutrals controlling a supply chain. During WWII we didn’t have the presence in that part of the world that reflected our dependence on the area. And our dependence on Asia has only gone grown by orders of magnitude since then.

    During the Bush era, China’s explosive growth coupled with their more aggressive stance led countries to start thinking they might do better to cater to the rich wolf next door rather than to the rich eagle a half a world away. (This would have happened no matter who had control of the US government, although Bush/Cheney didn’t do much to help the situation.) Obama/Clinton spent a great deal of time and effort on pushing back on this and achieved notable successes that didn’t get much attention in the US press but certainly were well recognized and well respected in Asia.

    But the Chinese play a long game, and for better than a generation they have argued that Democracy is unstable, that it could cause instability and disaster because letting the masses select the leader of a nuclear power could lead to a madman or a clown as President. And right now they are being proved doubly right since our president is both a madman AND a clown. Leaders all over the world are looking at this scenario and changing their calculations on who it is better to please, a country with a stable leadership that has had unparalled economic success for 30 years and whose officials at every level have become fantastically rich, or a country led by Donald Trump.

    Although it wasn’t much news here, the first major impression the Asian world had of Donald Trump’s America was his tossing aside the TPP. Basically we led the negotiations for years to develop 28 countries working in unity to further our own interests at the expense of China, and step 2 would have been to use that united front to force China to play by international rules more favorable for us. In one day Trump not only threw all that away but did so in way that left the other 27 countries united and in a much stronger position to negotiate terms favorable to them at our expense.

    “Stupid” doesn’t begin to describe it…

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  20. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Moosebreath:
    Well, yeah…because this is crazy.
    If the Cuban missile crisis was a 9.5 of ten…then this is at least 8.5. I say that because instead of one crazy person and one sober person…we have two crazy people. (Actually Kim Jong-il is a little more trustworthy.)
    This reminds of every other stupid high school or bar fight I have ever seen. The smack talk escalates until someone makes a move. Only now the move consists of “something the world has never seen” before.

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  21. Tyrell says:

    Hopefully China can step up to the plate and at least get a base hit.
    Do we have any bargaining power with Jong ? Some sort of aid, technology, tv shows, restaurants, sports, or cars ?
    There has to be something we can use as leverage.

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  22. al-Alameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    There has to be something we can use as leverage.

    Perhaps a few condos in the Trump Tower and a membership at one of the many Russian-financed Trump golf course resorts?

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  23. grumpy realist says:

    I’m surprised the Chinese haven’t pushed harder against North Korea. Indulging their little madman for years has resulted in something that isn’t very containable.

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  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    About the size of his p…, I mean hands?

    Can’t think of a Prez who I wouldn’t prefer handling NK than Trump.

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  25. teve tory says:

    @grumpy realist: China doesn’t want a destabilized NK. That could mean 25 million starving koreans crossing the border northward.

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  26. teve tory says:

    IDK a lot about NK, that’s for sure, but nothing i’ve seen makes me think Kim Jong Un is crazy. He wants nukes for perfectly rational reasons–the US won’t fuck with nuclear powers much. Non-nuclear countries we kick over on the regular. I’d want nukes too.

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  27. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    Trump’s acting in full accordance with historic precedent. Here’s President Bill Clinton from July 12, 1993:

    On his weekend visit to South Korea, President Clinton warned that if North Korea developed and used an atomic weapon, “we would quickly and overwhelmingly retaliate.”

    “It would mean the end of their country as they know it,” he said.

    President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry had eight years to deal with this mess. Instead, they kicked it down the road, and now the bill’s come due.

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  28. MarkedMan says:

    It is surprising to me that the Chinese let this come to pass. Perhaps it comes down to their ability to take the long view. Often it is a great advantage, but maybe it is also a flaw. They kicked the can so far down the road they now have an unstable regime that has missiles that can reach Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong/Shenzhen in a fraction of the time they can reach Washington DC.

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  29. DrDaveT says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And I’d argue that development of the ability to deliver nuclear weapons thousands of miles away will fundamentally alter the situation on the peninsula in ways that would not be favorable to us, or our allies.

    Being able to put a bomb into a warhead is necessary, but it’s not really the hard part. The hard part is hitting your target with the missile. Well, that and having the warhead go off properly.

    And nothing has changed on the peninsula, except that now the US is scared too. South Korea might actually consider this to be a positive development; it means their ally has real skin in the game for a change.

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  30. DrDaveT says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry had eight years to deal with this mess. Instead, they kicked it down the road

    Yawn.

    Get back to us when you have a non-fatuous suggestion for what they (and the Shrub, whom you seem to keep forgetting) should have done instead.

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  31. Franklin says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: Somehow you failed to name any Republicans, even though NK’s first nuclear test was in 2006.

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  32. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @DrDaveT: @Franklin: Yes, I cited Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and I skipped George W. Bush. Bush, at least, lumped North Korea into the “Axis of Evil.” Clinton and Obama might have talked tough, but just how much money and other things did they give to the North Korean dictators in exchange for empty promises?

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  33. Franklin says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: According to https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS21834.pdf, it’s difficult to discern any meaningful difference between what Clinton and Bush sent them. I didn’t immediately find info during the Obama administration.

    I’m also unable to discern any meaningful difference between “talking tough” as you said Clinton and Obama did, and calling them mean names, as Bush did.

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  34. Franklin says:

    I have no idea whether the news source VOA is reliable, but according to this, the U.S. provided no humanitarian aid to NK between 2011 and the last day of the Obama administration, when we sent them a million bucks (i.e. not much). Even the aid in 2011 was only $900,000, and wasn’t directly from the government, merely from a U.S.-based humanitarian organization.

    All of this is saying: I don’t know what Obama supposedly gave NK that seems so important to you. BTW, please only legitimate news organizations if you wish to make any claims.

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  35. george says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    I’m almost certain there was another President in during the eight years between Clinton and Obama … were you asleep during that time period?

    Having said that, I’m not sure Trump’s statement, pointless as it is, changes anything. Mutual Assured Destruction has been the policy of the United States (and Russia and China) for a long time now, reiterating it might be redundant but I doubt anyone believes launching a nuclear missile at America would not bring a nuclear response, no matter what a sitting President said.

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  36. RGardner says:

    First off, the North Korean leadership is not playing from the same deck we are playing from. But they have been making silly threats (almost Monty Python) for decades but now they finally (might) be able to back them up. The Mouse that roared? But can still kill 10s of millions in South Korea, and are now threatening Guam (specifically).

    Even if their nukes don’t work, a conventional ballistic warhead will make a mushroom cloud, ditto the kinetic energy of a dud nuke RB/RV (warhead) coming in at Mach 37.

    Back in 93, President Clinton said regarding nuclear weapon use by North Korea, “we would quickly and overwhelmingly retaliate.” “It would mean the end of their country as they know it.” Twenty-four years later Trump is saying the same. But we have backed them into a corner for decades.

    The only way out of this I can see is from the lyrics of Evita, “All exiles are distinguished, more important, they’re not dead.” We need to give the little fat man a way out, last uses of this I can recollect were Idi Amin (Uganda, exile in Saudi Arabia – and Baby Doc of Haiti). Today we have this International Justice concept (Court in The Hague) that backs the despots into a corner and they’ll fight to the bloody end because they have NO option. Ugh, I’m channeling Kissenger Real Politik but I’d rather see exile than Seoul and Guam (plus maybe Tokyo and/or another major Japanese city) destroyed for lofty principles.

    I fear that our quest for “justice” may cause the NORKs to go out in a blaze of defiance. I’d also expect them to also attack a Chinese city in their murder-suicide.

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  37. Jen says:

    @Franklin: Voice of America (VOA) has a very interesting history. Yes, it is considered reliable.

    I wonder if anyone in this administration has given five seconds of thought as to what destabilizing North Korea would mean for our immigration policy. In recent years, when we advance US interests in a manner that puts civilians at risk, we accept refugees. It is the decent thing to do, so of course, Trump won’t.

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  38. Mikey says:

    A good friend of mine is an intel analyst. He and his family are living in Seoul right now. You know when I’ll start to worry? When he sends his family back to the States. And so far there’s no indication they’re on the way anytime soon.

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  39. Tyrell says:

    What would Kennedy do ?

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  40. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:
    You completely ignore Bush and Cheney blowing up a flawed but workable ” Agreed Framework”.
    But who would expect anything but nonsense from you anyway, J-E-N-O-S.

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  41. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Gorka said it on the Trump propaganda channel this morning:

    You’re either with Trump, or you’re not a patriot.

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  42. teve tory says:

    If you were a betting man, and the wager was “Which country will next attack another country militarily?

    A) United States
    B) North Korea”

    Would you put your money on north korea?

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  43. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    From today’s Trump=mendacity file:

    My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….

    …Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!

    Trumps first order was a BS thing regarding Obamacare repeal and replace…and we saw the reults of that.
    Obama ordered the nuke arsenal overhauled…and it will take decades to complete.

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  44. James Pearce says:

    @RGardner:

    Back in 93, President Clinton said

    You’re the second dude in this thread to point to the Clinton quote from 93. I suppose part of this is to blunt criticism from Clinton supporters who would argue that they support a different policy, and another part is to put Trump’s “fire and fury” comments in the context of long held foreign policy positions common to both parties.

    And hey, that’s fine.

    I’m comfortable thinking of Trump as a steward of American interests and defender of a decades old policy. It’s just that, if he’s that, then he’s not the disruptor with fresh ideas that he says he is.

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  45. george says:

    @James Pearce:

    I guess the question is, what about what Trump said is different than the standard of mutually assured destruction that has been American policy since 1945?

    If North Korea did nuke an American city, do you think that any American President past, present or future, wouldn’t retaliate with nukes?

    It’s silly for him to reiterate what everyone already knows (nuke us and we nuke you), but I’m not sure why its a big deal. He’s a moron, and by far the worst President America has ever had (and he’s just getting started), but in this he’s just saying what every leader has said for decades. Would anyone believe him or any other President if he’d said the equivalent of “if you nuke us we won’t nuke in return?”

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  46. Neil Hudelson says:

    @george:

    Because he didnt’ state “If you nuke us, we nuke you.” What he said was “North Korea <em>best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

    If North Korea makes a threat we will respond with (presumably) Nuclear Force, regardless of whether or not this threat is carried through.

    That’s f*cking insane.

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  47. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @RGardner:
    @James Pearce:

    You’re the second dude in this thread to point to the Clinton quote from 93.

    There is a distinct difference. Clinton was talking about retaliation for the use of a nuclear weapon by NK.
    Donnie is talking about pre-emptive action based on threats…threats that are little different from what NK has been making for years.
    Dumb Don is smack-talking us into war…where are the adults in the Republican party?

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  48. Jen says:

    The NYT is reporting that the “fire & fury” speech was ad-lib. Wonderful.

    And yes, there is a distinct difference between what Clinton said and what Trump said, as @Neil Hudelson: and @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: have both noted.

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  49. James Pearce says:

    @george:

    what about what Trump said is different than the standard of mutually assured destruction that has been American policy since 1945?

    Aside from Trump’s typical, and embarrassing bluster, not much. When it comes right down to it, he’s just like a “normal” politician, just with a bigger mouth and less credibility.

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    There is a distinct difference.

    At what point are we going to acknowledge that the difference is that this man says one thing and what’s actually happening is another?

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  50. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    If Kelly’s priority is to muzzle Trump, he might as well concede defeat now.

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  51. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: You can’t possibly be this dull-witted. I refuse to believe it. Wa!

    Click

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  52. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    At what point are we going to acknowledge that the difference is that this man says one thing and what’s actually happening is another?

    We can acknowledge it all we want, but I don’t know if that will make a difference. When the President of the United States speaks, especially WRT use of military force, we (collective humanity) have to take his words at face value until his actions either confirm or give lie to his words. I acknowledge and assume that his actions will likely not match up with his words, but that is little comfort because one of these days that assumption will prove false.

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  53. KM says:

    @george:
    Because other countries might take Trump’s words exactly as he said them? For all you “he’s joking” excusers, did it ever occur to you said “joke” won’t translate to another language? Did it ever occur to you what sounds like rhetoric to us sounds like a threat or even a promise to them?

    Words freaking matter. Don’just dismiss Trump’s verbal diarrhea as hyperbole because you can’t be sure our allies and enemies will. These are the sort of stupid political missteps that gets innocents killed. Trump’s the kind of asshat who regularly mouths out in a bar and is constantly shocked when someone beats the sh^t out him. Only we’re the ones in the way of the (nuclear) punch this time.

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  54. Mister Bluster says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:..where are the adults in the Republican party?

    They are playing doctor with their colleagues.
    “Again, I’m not gonna speak for John McCain — he has a brain tumor right now — that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” (Sen. Ron Johnson) continued. (as he spoke for Senator McCain)

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  55. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    We need to give the little fat man a way out,

    First, duplication of Trumpian diction for the purpose of snark may distract from the gravitas of the discussion, but I acknowledge that YMMV.

    Second, I suspect that your idea would be more important if he were looking for the exit.

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  56. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    When the President of the United States speaks, especially WRT use of military force, we (collective humanity) have to take his words at face value until…

    Normally, I’d agree, but the President of the United States is a guy named Donald J. Trump and you take his words at face value at your peril.

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  57. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    @Neil Hudelson:

    At what point are we going to acknowledge that the difference is that this man says one thing and what’s actually happening is another?

    I think probably right after NK pops off a nuke because of something irresponsible dumb Donnie said.
    :/snark
    Point is there are two actors involved. You would prefer one sober actor to face off against a mad-man. All of the sudden we have two mad-men. A devastating war will be started based solely on something said.

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  58. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Neil Hudelson: While I agree on the insanity aspect of Trump’s latest Twitteruption, I have to count it fortunate that it has the same reliability as a measure of what Trump will and won’t do as all of Trump’s other bloviations. The fact that virtually none of Trump’s word mean anything at all redounds to our overall safety, if not security.

    Still in all, we need to keep track of what he is doing. Encouraging him to play golf a lot may be the best course of action for the long term. I wonder if Xi Jinping plays golf…

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  59. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:
  60. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I think probably right after NK pops off a nuke because of something irresponsible dumb Donnie said.

    If NK was afraid of anything Dumb Donnie has said, or will say, then they wouldn’t be rattling their sabers.

    They’re about as bovvered as Catherine Tate.

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  61. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    You’re putting a lot of faith, and the lives of hundreds of thousands, in the hands of two infants.

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  62. george says:

    @KM:

    I assume he’s not joking; if NK nuked an American city he’d respond with enough nukes to wipe out most of the country. However, so would probably every other American President.

    What he said could be interpreted as saying he’s going to wipe out NK if their leader makes another threat; I didn’t read it that way, but I can see how it could be taken as such. However that is as far fetched as his saying Mexico would pay for the wall, and for the same reason: he doesn’t have the ability to make it happen.

    Kim Jong-Un: “We’re going to do something horrible to you.”
    Trump: “That’s it, I’m sending off the ICBM’s.”
    US Missile Command: “Fat chance.”

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  63. Mikey says:

    @george:

    Kim Jong-Un: “We’re going to do something horrible to you.”
    Trump: “That’s it, I’m sending off the ICBM’s.”
    US Missile Command: “Fat chance.”

    I wish you were right, but unfortunately, a President’s authority in that area is instant and unquestioned. Your proposed outcome would require large-scale mutiny by the missile personnel, and I’m not optimistic that would happen.

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  64. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    You’re putting a lot of faith, and the lives of hundreds of thousands, in the hands of two infants.

    I am? To the contrary, I have no faith in either of them. This is two wannabe tough guys standing on opposite sides of the streets, shouting “Wassup?” at each other.

    They both want to be seen as scrappers, neither wants to back down, but they also don’t really want to fight, not really.

    How do I know? Trump’s “fire and fury like the world has never seen” hyperbole and NK’s threats on Guam.

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  65. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    Never been close to a bar fight when neither person wanted to fight but it escalated beyond that point?
    We are dealing with two colossally stupid people. Anything is possible.

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  66. george says:

    @Mikey:

    I clearly have no inside information of how things work at strategic command. However I have a very hard time believing that the system would be set up in such a way that one mad man could on a whim cause the end of civilization. Too many powerful people (generals, rich and powerful business people, senators etc) have too much to live for to allow it to hinge on one person’s sanity.

    I vaguely recall it (admittedly unofficially) being said that if during the last days of Watergate Nixon had tried to start a nuclear war his orders would have been ignored.

    I might be wrong, but I doubt it. The kind of blind obedience it would take to follow such a suicidal order (everyone dies in a nuclear holocaust) wasn’t common even in feudal monarchies. Now-a-days I suspect the loyalty tends to run the other way; leaders are expected to be loyal to those that put them in power rather than vice-versa.

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  67. teve tory says:

    You dumb Libtarts probly don’t know, but Trump has already made the whole problem better bigly:

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account
    @realDonaldTrump

    My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….
    4:56 AM – 9 Aug 2017

    Think about what an amazing president he is–he totally rejuvenated our nuclear program in six months, singlehandedly, without even any new funding. He somehow even increased the quantity and/or explosive yield, I’m not sure which, the tweet didn’t specify.

    I guess you haters just gotta hate.

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  68. teve tory says:

    We are dealing with two colossally stupid people.

    I’ve never seen any indication that Kim Jong Un is stupid.

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  69. Mikey says:

    @george: From a President’s launch order to missiles in the air is about five minutes.

    Not a lot of time for people to question why.

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  70. Mikey says:

    @george: Also, this. It will not reassure you.

    What if the president ordering a nuclear attack isn’t sane? A major lost his job for asking.

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  71. de stijl says:

    @James Pearce:

    And hyperbole won’t or can’t be misinterpreted? And misunderstood hyperbole can’t be the cause of a nuclear exchange?

    You are laying a lot of confidence on “hyperbole.”

    Your implied premise is that a nuclear war could never be caused by provocative statements where the speaker assumes that the message will be understood as hyperbole. Because both parties *know* it’s hyperbole so they won’t over-react.

    I’ve seen street fights and interactions that were moving towards blows, but the actual fight was averted. I’ve seen scraps where the respective crews hold back the “scrappers.”

    I’ve also seen full-on street fights. Fights where it stops when it gets real and scary, and fights where it was a brutal beat-down. It’s a delicate balance.

    All it takes is for one participant to go from speech to action.

    You know what prompts the fight? Words and provocations that exceeds his ability to allow or permit. He must react to prove to himself and his boys that he will not be disrespected like that.

    Hyperbole commonly and routinely causes actual, physical confrontation. I’ve never seen it prevent a fight.

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  72. teve tory says:

    North Korea is more rational than you think

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  73. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Never been close to a bar fight when neither person wanted to fight but it escalated beyond that point?

    I’m not saying they won’t fight. I’m saying they don’t want to.

    More than that, I’m saying that if NK fires a missile, nuclear or not, against Guam –probably the height of their nuclear capabilities at this point– then we’re not going to nuke Pyongyang.

    We’ll drop a bunch of bombs on them, maybe send in some helicopters and cruise missiles. War will have commenced –very troubling– but it will be fought with conventional forces.

    We’re talking about MAD and NK in the same sentence? Why?

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  74. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    When does saying, “You’re a pussy! I’m going to kick your ass!” prevent a fight?

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  75. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    We’re talking about MAD and NK in the same sentence? Why?

    President Donald J. Trump.

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  76. george says:

    @Mikey:

    You’re right, that is downright scary.

    And as Hering said himself, hard to believe – it makes no sense. Not only for Trump (who’s clearly by far the worst President to control that button), but for any President. Why set up a system so you, your family, and everything you care for dies one person has a bad day?

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  77. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    President Donald J. Trump.

    Yeah, that sucks all around.

    But NK still can’t assure our destruction.

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  78. MarkedMan says:

    @george:

    US Missile Command: “Fat chance.”

    From the time that it first became likely that Trump could win the Republican nomination I’ve been saying the same thing: There is nothing more important than preventing/removing this unstable, profoundly stupid man from office. The reason that I think others are more sanguine than me can be summed up in the comment above. But that’s a dangerously naive belief. Former Sec of Defense William Perry recently gave an interview where he made it very, very clear that there is no one, not one single general that stands between the president and nuclear missile launch. The system is designed that way deliberately. And the relatively low ranking people that would execute those orders are carefully screened to ensure that they WILL execute the orders without question and without fail.

    Even more dangerous: if Trump were to order a conventional strike on NK, the generals would have a chance to question the order and demand a declaration of war, which only Congress can enact. But if he orders a nuclear missile strike they wouldn’t even be notified before the missiles were launched.

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  79. MarkedMan says:

    Just some backup to my previous remarks. This from the Washington Post, but you can find a lot of other sources:

    Now they’re his. When Trump takes office in January, he will have sole authority over more than 7,000 warheads. There is no failsafe. The whole point of U.S. nuclear weapons control is to make sure that the president — and only the president — can use them if and whenever he decides to do so. The one sure way to keep President Trump from launching a nuclear attack, under the system we’ve had in place since the early Cold War, would have been to elect someone else.

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  80. Kylopod says:
  81. de stijl says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    I declare “Shenanigans!”

    You’d have to know that you’d get called out immediately for omitting Bush. That’s ballsy.

    Or it’s a knowing omission. I.e., a sham. You’re a spoof.

    Regardless, “Shenanigans!”

    I hereby declare “Shenanigans!”

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  82. de stijl says:

    Trump’s red line was not the use of nuclear weapons, but the “threat” which Kim then immediately crossed.

    North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

    (Haven’t we been told repeatedly that an adversary crossing the red line without an overwhelming military force reaction, is a pussy move? I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere in the recent past.)

    Trump said that we would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if they threatened us. They have. After Trump’s off-the-cuff remark.

    Tillerson is trying to redraw the red line into a more sane scenario, but can the State Department manage that? Trump hasn’t even nominated an ambassador to South Korea yet.

    And how many posts at DoS are still unfilled because real men know that diplomacy is for pussies and who needs soft power anyway?

    Here’s where the “hold my nose” argument employed by “sensible” folks on the right that electing Trump is preferable to Clinton because of Supreme Court nominations.

    You just elected an ignorant, thin-skinned, tantrum prone, blame averse bully boy who is now Commander in Chief who can use nuclear weapons if he feels disrespected. And he feels disrespected nearly every day.

    I hope you are comforted by Neil Gorsuch.

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  83. de stijl says:

    Rex Tillerson is unsuited to the post and his barely basic level of competency is provided to him by his staff. His brief was to gut the place and to severely diminish its role in foreign policy.

    We would likely have a better Secretary of State if were it filled by lottery. I would be a better choice, and frankly, I’m a mess.

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  84. george says:

    @MarkedMan:

    @MarkedMan:

    Unfortunately I’m now convinced; I was much happier before. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

    How did such an insane system get put in place? Not only because of Trump (though he’s probably several times as likely to use it as any previous President), but because there’s not a single person in the world, let alone any politician, who can be trusted with that kind of power.

    What sane person, or even a committee, puts everything they know and love at risk of one person having a particularly bad day? You’d think the example of Nixon/Watergate would have been enough to force a rethink of that policy.

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  85. KM says:

    @de stijl
    I’ve had my wrist broken attempting to break up a knife fight between two juveniles started with a Yo Mama joke and a young man with maternal issues. It took less then 5 minutes to go from mean-spirited jokes to blood on the floor and me getting tossed into a wall for disarming the aggressor. My staff didn’t even have time to react and stood there like sheep gaping at the carnage. By the time I was up and back into it, two more residents were drawn in and injured. The cops came to my assistant’s 911 with guns drawn and well, you can guess how that went down. It end in hospital stays, firings for the staff who didn’t intervene, permanent scars and police records…. all because of one stupid joke that pushed just a little bit too far. To this day, I use in it training scenarios for my staff for why you can’t just dismiss arguments like that as “boys being boys” but need to take pissing contests seriously.

    Words %#&#*#* MATTER. Anyone scoffing that these two are just saber rattling or talking $@&* have clearly never been in a situation where everything went south because one asshat decided to talk with his fists. Both of these idiots are used to being the “Alpha” on the block and will not stand a challenge. All it takes is one second of irrationality to commit to a course of violence we will *all* pay for.

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  86. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: Yeah, I know. Just goes to show, though, how completely insane the Age of Trump has already become.

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  87. KM says:

    @george:

    How did such an insane system get put in place? Not only because of Trump (though he’s probably several times as likely to use it as any previous President), but because there’s not a single person in the world, let alone any politician, who can be trusted with that kind of power.

    What sane person, or even a committee, puts everything they know and love at risk of one person having a particularly bad day? You’d think the example of Nixon/Watergate would have been enough to force a rethink of that policy.

    Because in the Cold War, the assumption was that everyone else could be dead and you needed the President (theoretically the most protected person in the country) to have the ability to strike back/ avenge a fallen America. Chain of command only works if there’s enough people left to issue commands to. There’s some truly cold calculus involved in nuclear politics by dint of their sheer terrifying repressions. If you don’t want to sleep tonight, read up on concepts like the Dead Man’s Hand, the silos with just two people in isolation waiting for the call to end the world, Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov and how a computer error could have killed us all….. or just cut straight to watching Threads and The Day After. Hell, War Games starts because someone refused to turn the key and the government decided to consolidate control to a single point to prevent interference like you’re hoping will stop Trump. This has been a thing for a long, long, LONG time.

    There was also the assumption that whomever was in the Oval Office was worthy of this responsibility because…. well, Americans wouldn’t elect a flaming moron and give them the nukes, right? We’re not that stupid….. right?

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  88. de stijl says:

    Don’t forget, Trump has backed himself onto a corner.

    If “fire and fury” ends up as sanctions and tough talk, he loses face.

    Consider that in terms of his psyche.

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  89. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “But NK still can’t assure our destruction.”

    Sure, we’ll get our hair mussed a little…

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  90. KM says:

    @James Pearce:

    “But NK still can’t assure our destruction.”

    Who’s this “we”, James? I’m sure the people of Guam, Midway, Hawaii and the West Coast are absolutely thrilled that “we” won’t be destroyed, just them. There’s this wonderful little delusion people engage in that they are somehow “safe” from destruction. That only the big cities will get hit, only a certain area will be nuked. Yeah, there will be destruction but *we’ll* make it. Only those poor urban bastards will die but America won’t be completely wiped out.

    From The Day After:

    Bruce Gallatin: [nervously] What do you really think the chances are of something like that happening way the hell out here in the middle of nowhere?

    Joe Huxley: Nowhere? [chuckles] There’s no “nowhere” anymore. You’re sitting next to the Whiteman Air Force Base right now. That’s about… 150 Minuteman missile silos spread halfway down the State of Missouri. That’s… an awful lot of bullseyes.

    Something to think about James – why do you assume if NK and the US get into a nuke fight, nobody else will join in? That there will be single corner of this world untouched by fallout? Hell, everyone on earth has the legacy of the atom bomb in the eyes and muscles– why do you assume you are safe?

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  91. teve tory says:

    it’s very unlikely that NK could hit Guam. It’s 3500 km away and their rocket tech is not great. And even trying would be almost certainly fatal for the regime. By all informed accounts, Kim Jong Un is a pretty rational guy, so I doubt he’d ever try.

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  92. MarkedMan says:

    A nuclear exchange is only the most extreme outcome of so many very bad ones. The US enjoys a position unique in the world because we have been a reliable and dependable voice for de-escalation of military confrontations, a champion for free shipping lanes, a voice for expanded trade, all things that benefit US jobs to a huge extent. It’s been tremendous benefit to us that business people (in government or out) all over the world view the US agenda as advantageous to them. Because of this, we are at essentially every negotiating table, sometimes publicly, more often behind the scenes.

    But historical benefits are of interest mostly to historians and the movers and shakers wake up every day and ask “But what have you done for us lately?”. If South Korea get’s attacked militarily, conventionally or nuclear, it will be a glaring red flag that the US can’t protect you. In fact, in the age of Trump, the US can’t even be depended on to act rationally. The world will view this as South Koreans, one of the most developed, richest countries in the world, they died because the US elected an idiot.They will hate us and the rest of the world will distrust us. China will rise, Singapore will become even more the voice of reason and we will be shut out of thousands of negotiations. And remember, when we have a seat, even if it is “none of our business”, our interests are protected.

    For anyone interested, I go into this in more depth here.

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  93. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Just goes to show, though, how completely insane the Age of Trump has already become.

    Buckle up. This is year 1. We have at least 3 more to go, and incumbency being what it is, probably more than that.

    @wr:

    Sure, we’ll get our hair mussed a little…

    No more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops. Depending on the breaks.

    @KM:

    I’m sure the people of Guam, Midway, Hawaii and the West Coast are absolutely thrilled that “we” won’t be destroyed, just them.

    While I take your point, and don’t want to minimize the danger, I do think it’s useful to have a level head on this.

    It’s useful not to allow yourself to be terrorized by bluster.

    Is Trump holed up in the Situation Room at the White House, taking calls from Dmitri and listening to General Turgidson’s advice? No, he’s golfing. He’s tweeting about Mitch McConnell and Lee Greenwood.

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  94. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce: Personally I think he’s taking calls from Vladimir and Rodrigo (Duterte)

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  95. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, from the NY Times:

    As Trump Unnerves Asia, China Sees an Opening

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  96. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Unfortunately they are. And they are still ready and willing to burn the whole place to the ground as long as whatever remains of their pathetic cohort are in charge of the ashes.

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  97. KM says:

    @James Pearce:

    While I take your point, and don’t want to minimize the danger, I do think it’s useful to have a level head on this.

    My point was your causal phrasing of “can’t assure our destruction”. To the people who’s threat of destruction just got a little more real, that’s quite the insult. Please don’t dismiss their concerns with concern trolling about being “level-headed”. There’s quite a few conservative and alt-right sites already claiming that since it’s coastal liberals that are in the perceived danger zone that it’s NBD. Coulter said some nonsense about Seattle earlier in the year. For most people in my generation, fear of nuclear war was something we dimly remember if at all. For it to suddenly be something in the news and not a video game/ movie is pretty alarming in and of itself regardless of its chances of becoming reality.

    Frankly, I expect Trump to be tweeting mid-blast while looking up to go WTF. His ass will be out doing pointless things in a crisis because that’s who he is. He’ll most likely be at Mar-a-Lago in the dinning room when it hits the fan. We’ve already seen him take important calls in terms of dicy geopolitical situations there – why not coordinate a retaliation from the ninth hole?

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  98. Mikey says:

    Apparently his dangerous blather from yesterday wasn’t sufficient. Here’s what the NYT reported this afternoon:

    President Trump refused to back down on Thursday from his threat to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea if it endangers the United States, despite bipartisan criticism — and he argued that perhaps he was not tough enough.

    “Frankly the people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough, maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” he told reporters. “They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, many years. It’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”

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  99. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “While I take your point, and don’t want to minimize the danger, I do think it’s useful to have a level head on this.”

    A pity we can’t say that the current occupant of the Oval Office has a level head:

    “President Donald Trump reiterated his bellicose warning to North Korea from earlier in the week, telling reporters at his golf club in New Jersey on Thursday that his threat to bring “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States may not have gone far enough.

    “Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said during a lengthy exchange with reporters.”

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  100. James Pearce says:

    @KM:

    For most people in my generation, fear of nuclear war was something we dimly remember if at all. For it to suddenly be something in the news

    Yes, but how can I calmly reassure you that we’re not actually talking about nuclear war?

    NK is desperately trying to develop a nuclear weapon not so they can nuke Hawaii or the liberal coasts –which would result in global condemnation and their eventual destruction as a regime– but so that our vastly superior conventional forces cannot roll over them if we ever decided to attack. They want to deter us.

    @Moosebreath:

    “Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said

    Oh, it most definitely wasn’t “tough enough.” Trump’s a bully so he probably doesn’t understand that tough talk only scares the wimps.

    Real tough guys, the ones who can take a punch as good as they can throw one (ie, not Trump), their response to “tough talk” is a cocked grin and a challenge. “Oh yeah?” they say, cleaning their fingernails with a Bowie knife. “What do you know about it, tough guy?”

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  101. JohnMcC says:

    @James Pearce: Well, you’re right, we are not talking about the proximity of an exchange of nukes with NKorea. They haven’t proven they can land one where they want, for one small thing. For another, this leak should get the ‘cui bono’ test and it has not, to my knowledge. A similar revelation was made back in ’13.

    But it cannot be doubted that the Kim regime has made progress that has apparently compounded like HL92’s pension funds. It was revealed at the same time as the leak about miniaturization of NK’s nukes that the number of warheads that Kim possesses is now estimated at 60. Previously it had been thought that he had only 12. That seems to me to be a quantitative difference as far as war-planners go instead of merely quantitative. They might well shift a portion of their inventory to forward use instead of keeping the entire force back as a final bargaining chip or gotterdamerung device.

    I’d also add that over at Charlie Pierce’s shebeen at Esquire a guest named Bateman (who claims 25yrs military experience mostly as staff officer) shares his trip-wire warning signal for the approach of uncontrolled spiral into war: Gen’l Mattis will retire from the DoD rather than issue the necessary orders.

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  102. teve tory says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: So they’re Petyr Baelish?

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  103. JohnMcC says:

    I’d also point out that you’re also correct that the NKoreans are planning to deter us not launch first-strike missiles as soon as they develop them. Sure. No doubt.

    You seem to take more comfort than I do in believing that they will interpret correctly the blather and bluster coming from our president. If Mr Trump were talking about my country in the same language he’s used regarding NKorea I’d think he had pretty damn hostile intent.

    And you know, they think we and they are still at war. The Korean War is really really current events to those guys.

    And Mr Trump has 3 1/2 years to go in which to tip-toe through this minefield.

    So, yeah. No one is predicting war tomorrow (that I know of). But we’re closer than we’ve been.

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  104. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @teve tory: Not a GoT guy so I can’t speculate in that context. From what I skimmed in Wikipedia–he seems far more level headed. The type of people I’m familiar with on the right are the sort from whom the response related to the economic damage that would have come from…say…the GM, Ford, and Chrysler going banko was “well it’ll at least break the unions and we’ll be able to get rid of all those high wage jobs.”

    There the sort from the joke where the punchline is “don’t laugh…you two are next!” Only it’s not funny in the current times.

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  105. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @JohnMcC: We are still at war. There is only a cease fire, not a treaty.

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  106. Mikey says:

    @teve tory: Littlefinger won’t get the chance to rule anything after Bran tells Arya how Ned came to lose his head.

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  107. george says:

    @KM:

    For most people in my generation, fear of nuclear war was something we dimly remember if at all. For it to suddenly be something in the news and not a video game/ movie is pretty alarming in and of itself regardless of its chances of becoming reality.

    That’s a fairly interesting point. I grew up in the cold war (and was a child during the Cuban missile crisis, though not an old enough one to have understood much beyond my parents being afraid). Mutual assured destruction and the rhetoric that goes with it was, and I suppose still is, just one of the sad realities of modern life that we learned to live with.

    And I’ve assumed MAD has continued despite the end of the cold war; America, Russia and China have each maintained the ability to end civilization, and though the talk has died down, the underlying reality hasn’t changed significantly.

    So for me, and I suspect many of my generation, Trump’s statements brought to mind thirty years of Soviet General Secretaries and American Presidents assuring the world that they had the capability to destroy civilization if anyone attacked them … my first reaction was that it was stating the obvious, the words of a narcissist who just likes to hear himself speak.

    I’ve since learned (in this very thread in fact) that American Presidents have the unchecked ability to launch missiles at whoever they want. That of course makes me feel much less secure, and I don’t think I’d care much who was President – there’s not a single person in the world I trust with that power. I’m wondering why the big deal is Trump’s stupid and unnecessary comments; bad as they are, the much bigger issue is that any President has that unchecked power. And of course, Putin almost certainly has the same power in Russia. And possibly Xi Jinping has the same power.

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  108. Tyrell says:

    “General LeMay, this is President Trump. Please give me a call “

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