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War? Some questions

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Do you think we’re going to war soon?

If you do, with whom? North Korea? Iran?

What would be the result?

No country goes to war without the expectation of winning.

What would “winning” look like in either case?

“Winning” in North Korea is easier to define. It would mean totally eliminating their capacity to manufacture and deliver nuclear weapons. It would also mean toppling the Kim regime.

“Winning” in Iran is more difficult to parse. Trump’s ostensible concern is their nuclear capacity, so taking that out would constitute winning. But Trump also has expressed concern over Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East, if not around the world; so “winning” would mean eliminating that, which in turn means eliminating, not only the government, but the Revolutionary Guard. This is easier said than done.

But war isn’t a one-way street. These scenarios don’t take into consideration anything North Korea or Iran could do to us. North Korea apparently has the capability of delivering a nuclear-tipped ICBM to America, probably on the West Coast (which incidentally is where I live). North Korea also has 20,000 artillery tubes aimed at Seoul, where 22 million people, including tens of thousands of Americans, live.

As for Iran, they don’t have nukes, but they are a wealthy country with a lot of oil, and a powerful military that could go underground and wage guerilla war for years—and lest we forget, Iran’s ally is Russia. Therefore, war with Iran could be enormously problematic, and even if we “won,” as we “won” in Iraq, America would face an ongoing insurrection that would keep us pinned down on the group for a very long time. Donald J. Trump would have a lot more phone calls to make to Gold Star parents.

Why would Trump take the enormous risk of going to war with either North Korea or Iran? Because make no mistake, neither of them is going to start a war with us. Trump will be looking for, and might possibly create, a fake provocation, like the Gulf of Tonkin. If he is hell-bend on war, he would prefer for the enemy to start it, so he can call it a defensive war. But obviously, whether war is offensive or defensive, it would be catastrophic, so once again we have to ask why Trump would create a catastrophic war, when diplomacy is clearly a better approach. And no one can honestly say that diplomacy can’t work, for either North Korea or Iran.

Beyond his histrionic tendencies, which are apparent, there’s another reason why Trump is doing this: RussiaGate. If there’s one thing we know that Trump is terrified of, it’s the ticking time bomb of Robert Mueller’s investigation. He himself denies this, every chance he gets, but from all the reports, we know how worried he is. Since he knows he did something wrong, he’s fears that the investigators will find out, with disastrous consequences for him and his family. So terrified is Trump that, from a playwright’s motivational point of view, we can interpret everything Trump says and does as a reaction to the impending threat. He wishes to divert this threat, in two ways: first, from his own consciousness, because it weighs him down, clouds his thinking, probably keeps him up at night, and prevents him from enjoying his job as fully as he expected to and wants. Secondly, he needs to divert American public attention away from the threat. That’s impossible, of course, but what he can do is inoculate his base, so that when a terrible, indictable report comes from Mueller, that base will reject it.

So we begin to see into Trump’s true motive: the Mueller threat is real, in Trump’s mind even more real than the Iran or North Korea threat. He will do whatever he has to do counter it: By any means necessary, as they say. One way is to preside over a gigantic war, the bigger the better, especially if it happens before the midterms: the more casualties, on all sides, the more it redounds to Trump’s benefit. In the event of a major war, the media will become obsessed with the situation on the ground: the artillery, the bombs, the troops, the civilian deaths, the destruction of cities, the activity at the U.N., reaction among our allies. Everything else newsworthy will be left in the dust. Democrats will go mad with criticism, most of it justified; it will not matter. Major war, especially if it goes nuclear, will dwarf everything: wildfires, hurricanes, Mueller reports, Hollywood scandals, healthcare, taxes. Donald Trump will then find himself in a position he’s always wanted to be in: famous, important, powerful, at the center of history, with all eyes turned toward him, and—as Commander-in-Chief—impregnable. He will be beyond criticism, as the forces of patriotism gather around him. Any criticism of the president, even if warranted, will be denounced by Republicans as pro-enemy; and in all likelihood a majority of Americans will agree. Trump will have won. Even if millions of people, including Americans, die, he will have won. Historians far into the future will debate whether or not Trump wagged the dog; it won’t matter. He’ll be long gone, but for the time being, he will be all-powerful, the Leader. He will be the star of the greatest reality show ever. And, given Republican cravenness, there will be no stopping him.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    At the risk of crossing swords with you rhetorically as you discuss nuclear saber-rattling, I believe the lawyerly phrase “facts not in evidence” applies to these statements:

    “North Korea apparently has the capability of delivering a nuclear-tipped ICBM to America, probably on the West Coast . . .”

    To military analysts, it is less-than-“apparent” that North Korea has mastered the miniaturization necessary for arming an ICBM with a nuclear warhead. Or that if mastered, that warhead could survive the shock and heat of re-entry from space.

    “Since he knows he did something wrong, he’s fears that the investigators will find out, with disastrous consequences for him and his family.”

    There is no evidence that presidential candidate Trump orchestrated or collaborated in any of the alleged activities associated with “RussiaGate.” Given the “leaky” nature of FBI and Congressional investigations these days, we would have heard damaging allegations from a modern-day Deep Throat by now.

    We as a nation adopt and defend the jurisprudence principle of presumption of innocence.

    Let the investigations run their course as a testament to our functioning democracy.

  2. Bob Henry: (1) The head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency told the House Armed Service Committee, quote, “It is incumbent on us to assume that North Korea today can range the United States with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead.” If you read the link, he means the mainland, not Hawaii or Alaska.
    http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKBN18Y2XC

    (2) The Mueller investigation is not leaky, unless it wishes to be. In fact, we have very little understanding of what he’s found, and none at all of what he will find. As has been widely reported, there are many suggestions that there was in fact collusion or collaboration. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence, and professional opinion seems to be that at least several of trump’s associates (Flynn, Manafort, perhaps Junior) will be indicted. We don’t know what they “have” on trump. Besides, collusion is only part of trump’s challenge. Another is obstruction of justice or impeding an investigation. Even if he personally didn’t collude, it sure looks like he tried to stop the investigation by firing Comey. I’m not on a jury so the formal rules of evidence don’t apply to me: as a rational human being, I can make reasonable assumptions and form judgments, and so can you. I happen to believe that this president–beyond all the other reasons for being ejected from office–tried to prevent a legal investigation into his affairs and continues to do so. I would not be surprised if he fires Comey sooner rather than later–an act of defiance I would hope you would find impeachable. Obviously I am willing to “let the investigations run their course.” How could I do otherwise?

  3. Bob Henry says:

    “North Korea’s Missile Can Take Off But Might Not Survive Re-Entry, Seoul Says”
    Wall Street Journal – July 11, 2017

    Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-koreas-missile-can-take-off-but-might-not-survive-reentry-south-says-1499758938

    — and —

    “Video Casts Doubt on North Korea’s Ability to Field an ICBM Re-entry Vehicle”
    38 North – July 31, 2017

    Link: http://www.38north.org/2017/07/melleman073117/

  4. Bob Henry says:

    Steve, please re-read this sentence:

    “As has been widely reported, there are many suggestions that there was in fact collusion or collaboration. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence, and professional opinion seems to be that at least several of trump’s associates (Flynn, Manafort, perhaps Junior) will be indicted. We don’t know what they “have” on Trump.”

    Would this stand the scrutiny of a journalism class taught to aspiring professionals?

    Words like “widely reported” and “suggestions” and “circumstantial evidence” fail to vault over the high hurdle of making an allegation.

    “. . . the formal rules of evidence don’t apply to me . . .”

    I demur. They apply to all of us.

    I champion the mantra “evidence-based management.” I similarly champion “evidence-based jurisprudence.”

    We have no facts (evidence) — yet — about “RussiaGate.”

    We need to resist “confirmation bias” and withhold judgment until we have the facts.

    Let me proffer the headline and link to a Scientific American article, co-authorized by a Ph.D. candidate affiliated with Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely and The Center for Advanced Hindsight. (Dan having the almost weekly column in The Wall Street Journal on Saturdays):

    “Why People ‘Fly from Facts'”

    Link: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-fly-from-facts/

    ~~ Bob

  5. Bob Henry: This is a pointless conversation. I say that respectfully: We simply don’t know if NK can deliver a nuke to continental US today. We cannot know: we won’t know until the event occurs, if it ever does. In the meantime, we can all dig up studies and experts that say one thing or the other. But nobody really knows, except Kim Jong Un.

  6. And I take your reply respectfully.

    Twin points reiterated:

    The Pentagon and the CIA have withheld making any declaration that North Korea can actually deliver a nuclear bomb-tipped missile to the territory of the United States. There is no evidence they have mastered the engineering of a warhead that can survive re-entry from space.

    And as a matter of fairness and jurisprudence, it is rush to judgment to declare — in the absence of any evidence — that Trump and/or his election supporters colluded or collaborated with the Russians to throw the election his way.

    I am reminded of this famous courthouse steps comment by former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan following his acquittal of state charges of fraud and grand larceny after an eight-month trial:

    “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

    A guy so many thought was “obviously” guilty.

    Backgrounder . . .

    New York Times headline (May 26, 1987):

    “DONOVAN CLEARED OF FRAUD CHARGES BY JURY IN BRONX”

    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/05/26/nyregion/donovan-cleared-of-fraud-charges-by-jury-in-bronx.html?pagewanted=all&pagewanted=print

    History is replete with examples of “guilty” people who were later exonerated.

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