As Trump Rattles His Sword, Again…

As tensions rise in East Asia, they highlight the dangers of Trump’s unpredictability.

As Trump continues his saber-rattling the world becomes just a bit more unsure. Something that should surprise no one. Trump has expressed his belief the United States should in fact be more unpredictable.

Not long after the United States Navy dispatched a carrier strike group in the direction of the Korean peninsula following a North Korean missile test last week, Pyongyang vowed to counter “the reckless act of aggression” and hinted at “catastrophic consequences.” The remarks came amid rising tension in the region as satellite images seem to indicate that North Korea is preparing for a possible sixth nuclear test, and as U.S. President Donald Trump warns that North Korean President Kim Jong Un is “doing the wrong thing” and that “we have the best military people on earth.”

There’s nothing particularly unusual about this sort of creative, bellicose rhetoric from the North Korean regime, which routinely threatens to do things like turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” or fire “nuclear-armed missiles at the White House and the Pentagon—the sources of all evil.” North Korea needs to be taken seriously as a hostile regime in artillery range of a close U.S. ally, and potentially in missile range of another. But its leadership lobs threats so promiscuously and outlandishly that one can build in a discount factor—there’s a long track record of unrealized North Korean threats to judge by. In that context, the probability that any given one will be realized is quite small.

The regime has never much liked the annual joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, and has made its feelings known; the exercises have tended to carry on every year without direct consequences to the personnel involved. Nor has the regime ever welcomed American aircraft carriers in its nearby waters or been shy about saying so; those, too, have come and gone unmolested.

What’s different now is Donald Trump. Whereas many of his predecessors steered sedulously clear of escalatory rhetoric, preferring to treat various North Korean leaders as recalcitrant children at worst or distasteful but nevertheless semi-rational negotiating partners at best, Trump has threatened North Korea via Twitter, declaring that the regime is “looking for trouble.” As my colleague Uri Friedman pointed out Thursday, three successive presidents prior to Trump, since the Clinton administration considered military action against the North’s then-nascent nuclear program, have opted for trying negotiations rather than risk a strike. It’s apparent that none succeeded in halting the nuclear program’s progress. But it’s equally apparent that the kind of massive conflagration on the Korean peninsula that world leaders are now warning against has been avoided since 1953.

We hope 1953 – present realities continue to hold during the unpredictable Trumpian years.

More beneath the fold.

Pompeo Targets WikiLeaks, Threatens Free Speech And Freedom Of The Press…

All who value freedom of speech specifically, and liberty in general, ought be very, very concerned. The implications contained in Pompeo’s remarks are unnerving and frankly tyrannical in nature.

Trump’s CIA Director stood up in public and explicitly threatened to target free speech rights and press freedoms, and it was almost impossible to find even a single U.S. mainstream journalist expressing objections or alarm, because the targets Pompeo chose in this instance are ones they dislike – much the way that many are willing to overlook or even sanction free speech repression if the targeted ideas or speakers are sufficiently unpopular.

Decreeing (with no evidence) that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”  a belief that has become gospel in establishment Democratic Party circles – Pompeo proclaimed that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” He also argued that while WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice,” but: “they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”

He then issued this remarkable threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.” At no point did Pompeo specify what steps the CIA intended to take to ensure that the “space” to publish secrets “ends now.”

 

Read the full Intercept article BELOW THE FOLD.