When Donald Trump warned North Korea this week that if it made any more threats toward the U.S. it would face “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the President was drawing a “redline” which he dared Pyongyang to cross.
An hour or two later, Kim Jong-un crossed that line when he threatened to bomb the U.S. territory of Guam. “So much for that concept,” writes former Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, who served as head of the NSA and Director of the CIA under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, in an Opinion article appearing today on The Hill.
“We are the ones stirring the pot right now in northeast Asia,” warns Hayden. “The North Korean (nuclear) program has been on its predictable arc. What’s new is our response: rhetorically tougher language, even beyond what the President said Tuesday; naval deployments in the waters off the peninsula; nuclear capable B-1’s flying from Guam in full view of North Korean radars and seriously threatening, punishing secondary sanctions against Chinese banks and industries.”
“It’s never a good thing for the president of the United States,” warned Hayden, “to sound like ‘Baghdad Bob.”
Hayden, now a regular commentator on CNN, believes it is central to any solution to have the Chinese involved in providing leverage to get North Korea to change course.
Hayden believes Trump’s approach, however, may ultimately hurt that effort.
“Baghdad Bob” refers to the former Foreign Minister of Iraq, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, who gained notoriety in the lead-up to George Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 for his refusal to accept the reality of the American assault, at one point declaring that there were “no American tanks in Baghdad” even though they were several hundred meters away.
Retired Air Force Gen Michael Hayden takes what Trump says "seriously," but doesn't see what WH says as "definitive" https://t.co/s6txO7QGIx
— New Day (@NewDay) August 8, 2017
Hayden said the Chinese have shown a willingness to move on the North Korean issue, at least “a bit,” which was proven when they voted along with 15 other countries for tough additional sanctions against Pyongyang in the U.N. over this past weekend.
“The Chinese reward for supporting sanctions appears to have been what, in their view, is alarmist and destabilizing rhetoric from our President, just 72 hours later.”
“With some merit,” added Hayden, “the Chinese fear that such language makes a dangerous incident in their backyard more, rather than less, likely.”
Hayden said that Beijing isn’t a fan of a nuclear North Korea but it doesn’t want to risk applying increased pressure that could destabilize the peninsula and result in chaos, the flow of thousands of refugees and actually unify the North Koreans.
“In the simplest terms,” opined Haydy, “North Korea may be a bad toothache, but China would rather live with the pain than risk a root canal. The Trump administration’s approach is simply to make the tooth hurt more, to convince the Chinese that the status quo is really something they cannot live with.”
With years of experience and a trained eye on the situation, Hayden also sees something the inexperienced president does not – that China may not have as much leverage over North Korea as the Americans think.
He pointed out Kim Jong-un has yet to visit China, and “dared to kill his older half brother, who had been living under Chinese protection, and his uncle, who had long been viewed as China’s link to the North Korean leadership.”
What happens if the Chinese give it their best shot and North Korea snubs them and their nuclear program continues, wonders Hayden?
“We have built a pretty tight rhetorical box for ourselves,” said Hayden with sober clarity, “and to date, after more than six months of American huffing and puffing, the only thing that has changed is that North Korea has more missiles and more weapons.”
Trump is certainly good at “huffing and puffing,” which seems to be second in his diplomatic repotoire only to playing golf with world leaders
However, the relationship with China and the threat posed by North Korea isn’t a game and Trump has not shown an ability to win the game in the real world.way of saying that right now Trump sounds more like Dangerous Don than he does a world leader with the knowledge, experience, patience and team approach that is needed to corral a dangerous and unpredictable enemy
“Baghdad Bob” is Hayden’s way of saying that right now Trump sounds more like Dangerous Don than he does a world leader with the knowledge, experience, patience and team approach that is needed to corral a dangerous and unpredictable enemy.
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