We’ve already become familiar with Donald Trump’s political strategy for his military endeavors: take superficial action, try to create the appearance of a major U.S. military battle when there is none, accomplish nothing, declare victory, and hope enough Americans fall for it to prevent his approval rating from falling even further. But his latest gambit in North Korea didn’t even appear to make sense by his own standards.
Trump sent U.S. warships to the coast of the Korean Peninsula during the anniversary week in which Kim Jong-Un always flexes his military muscles to show off. Trump knew, or at least his advisers certainly told him, that Kim was about to fire off a missile test in at least symbolic fashion. And so Trump’s goal was… what? Was he gambling that the mere presence of his warships would cause the headstrong Kim to cancel his ceremonial missile test? Not only was that unlikely, it also would have been the smallest of victories. But what about the predictable scenario in which Kim went ahead with one of his signature failed missile tests anyway?
And yet, Secretary of Defense James Mattis mutedly announced last night that Donald Trump had nothing to say about the North Korean missile launch (link). Really? This was Trump’s latest big plan to look strong and in control? Even his subsequent Twitter eruption this morning merely stated “We will see what happens” (link) with regard to North Korea, before quickly moving on to brag about his electoral college victory (link) and falsely accuse the protesters against him of having been paid (link). This is what he does when he’s trying to change the subject.
So maybe Trump’s military adventure in North Korea is already over and maybe it isn’t. After all, the U.S. warships haven’t come home yet. But it sure seems like he was merely taking the high-risk low-reward gamble that he could get Kim to scrap his customary anniversary missile test, and now that it hasn’t worked, he wants us to forget the whole thing ever happened. At least in Syria he got to fire some missiles at irrelevant targets before meekly calling it a day. There’s no way for Trump to spin his North Korea gambit as anything but ineffective weakness on his part. Contribute to Palmer Report
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report