Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

FIRE AND FURY

Last Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear device to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile. President Trump responded publicly that further threats by North Korea would be met by “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” I turned on CNN. For several seconds, national security reporter Jim Sciutto’s face revealed a fear I’ve never seen displayed by another journalist.

Will North Korea launch a nuke towards Honolulu, Seattle, San Francisco or Los Angeles? Will Kim Jong-un send missiles to Guam? An attempted strike by North Korea would be met by a harsh American response leaving Kim dead or with no functioning nation to rule. Yet it would be foolish to say that Kim might not launch a suicidal attack if he saw a concrete threat to his regime. American foreign policy must weigh the odds of all possibilities and measure its words. The difference between slim and none can be deadly.

Sophisticated diplomacy can reduce—although not eliminate—the chance of a strike by North Korea. This involves firmly but calmly communicating America’s commitment to use all the power we can summon in response to such a strike. For entirely practical matters, that warning should be made in private.

Why not a public statement like that voiced by Trump? As military and law enforcement strategists know, cornering an enemy often makes him more dangerous. We receive continuing reports of police requiring more training to de-escalate difficult situations. A peaceful outcome isn’t always possible, but it’s more probable when criminals or the emotionally disturbed—or a Kim Jong-un—see a way out without losing face.

I’m reminded of a story I read decades ago about a high-school teacher in Chicago. He encountered a student confronting others with a gun. He made no threat. Rather, he calmly said, “Here, let me hold that for you.” The student yielded his weapon. The teacher averted potential carnage.

Nuclear proliferation, particularly involving countries engaged in hostile rhetoric, such as Iran, must be taken seriously. Still, the United States and its allies—those we have left—must recognize a reality not of our choosing and one we may be powerless to reverse. Today’s interconnected world makes the transfer of technology relatively simple and swift. Added to that, nations in Asia and the Middle East—as elsewhere—boast people who are as bright and inventive as us. Disturbed as we may be, regimes with whom we maintain profound disagreements probably will develop nuclear weapons.

I’m hardly the first person to suggest we adapt our foreign policy to recognizing proliferation’s sad inevitability. To prevent calamity, we must make clear that our commitments to friends remain firm, and that we maintain the option to use nuclear weapons in response to nuclear attacks or massive conventional aggression. We must also make clear that talking out our differences, even if we don’t reach resolution, makes far more sense. And we must do this within the framework of diplomacy.

Responding to threats, no matter how vile, with public counter-threats raises the global temperature and risks buttons being pushed in the heat of the moment. Dealing with this issue requires level-headedness and considerable discipline. Mr. Trump’s comment this morning that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” again evidences failure to display these qualities.

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TRUMP’S RESIGNATION SPEECH

Jan. 20, 2018. President Donald J. Trump resigned today on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. His resignation came three weeks before special investigator Robert Mueller will release his report on alleged collusion between Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Leaked highlights of the report have produced negative reactions from Congressional leaders and the media. A transcript of Mr. Trump’s remarks follows.

“My fellow Americans. Real Americans who know what’s made America great again. Me! I’m sad. No one can be sadder than Donald Trump. Because the witch hunt… So witchy. But I’m glad. Because I’m rich. They hate that. And you know who they are.

“You keep hearing all that fake news from the so-called media. Terrible. So terrible! But the real news is, I’m here to celebrate.

“Donald Trump is celebrating the greatest presidency in the history of the real United States. Except those phony states on the coasts. I mean, the coasts north of swampy Washington D.C. Not the South. Not the Gulf out there somewhere. And California. California could drop into the ocean—the Pacific, right?—nobody would care.

“Please, don’t applaud. Not yet. Okay. Go ahead. I deserve it. In just one year, Donald Trump has made America great again. So great! That’s why I’m going to let a younger man carry on and keep America great. Not as strong a slogan as make America great, but there’s only one Donald Trump. Except for Donald Trump, Jr. But he’s a junior, right?

“I hear crying out there. So many people crying. You miss me already. So sad. I mean, one of the greatest presidents in history, right? Washington. Lincoln. Reagan maybe. Kind of Hollywood. And Trump! No. Hold the applause. Okay, don’t. I mean, you name a great thing, I’ve talked about it. Like telling Congress to cut taxes to stimulate ten percent growth. Four? I said four? Details. And keeping Muslims out of our country. That screw-up’s on the so-called courts. Pardon my French but they’re just like Congress. No balls!

“And China. I had Xi Jinping for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. I let him see how we handle our business. Now he knows. And those new islands China’s building in the South China Sea? Great development opportunities for American companies. Jobs, jobs, jobs. You’ll see the Trump name everywhere.

“North Korea? They only launched a dozen missiles during the past year. Not even. Something like eight. Maybe fourteen. Details. Doesn’t matter. Know why? The kid with the funny haircut, he’s scared. Of me. Syria? Very peaceful now. Very little fighting. Great opportunities for American companies to rebuild some of those ruins. A Trump golf course in Damascus? Beautiful! That’s how you kick ISIS’ ass. And Iran’s.

“Sure. Applaud. I earned it. That’s why starting today, I’m going to spend more time with my family. Who knew being president would take more than three days a week? Four in a crisis? And if President Pence needs me, he can call my villa outside Moscow. Or text. But not tweet. Donald Trump doesn’t follow tweets. Facebook, maybe.

“No worries. My portrait in the Oval Office? It’ll inspire him. The steely eyes. The iron jaw. All those emeralds and rubies set in a gold crown. Za zdarovye!”

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CRYSTAL BALL 2014

What’s ahead in 2014? I polished my Swarovski crystal ball, and here’s what I saw…

— President Obama hands over healthcare.gov to Amazon. The revised website also offers medical supplies, vitamins and supplements, books and periodicals, hairpieces for men and women, and a button for making donations for site maintenance.

— Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann propose a real-American conservative think tank to oppose and eliminate Obamacare once and for all. Following six months of study, they release the organization’s name. It is to be known by the acronym ARACTTTOAEOOAFA—A Real-American Conservative Think Tank to Oppose and Eliminate Obamacare Once and For All.

— Dennis Rodman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un proclaim their engagement. This coincides with news that Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, met an untimely death while trying on a new evening gown purloined from Seoul’s top designer. Rodman and Kim, modeling matching wedding dresses, reveal that their ceremony will be held in a state-of-the-art basketball arena hand-built by 18,000 laborers volunteering to forego wages because of their devotion to the Great Leader.

— The National Basketball Association signs an agreement with North Korean manufacturers of jerseys and other merchandise thanks to 18,000 workers volunteering to forego wages because of their devotion to the Great Leader.

— Texas becomes the lone holdout against same-sex marriage after Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi throw in the (figurative) towel. Lame-duck governor Rick Perry promotes legislation that forbids men, including relatives, from making any form of physical contact with each other except while playing football. Still, the law bans fanny patting after big plays, post-game hugs and championship dog piles. The latter is punishable by a prison  term of not less than six months or more than fifty-seven years.

— In response to traffic congestion created by special buses taking legions of San Francisco tech workers to companies out of town, the Board of Supervisors proposes a subway running from Second and Mission Streets to Silicon Valley. The $250 billion project will be funded by a special tax on caffeinated espresso drinks and a twenty-five-cent per flush charge on residential toilets.

— In Teheran, 18,000 Iranians set a Guinness record by chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” nonstop for eleven days, seventeen hours, forty-two minutes and twenty-seven seconds. They protest the availability of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” on satellite TV. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei makes a speech lasting seventeen hours, forty-two minutes and twenty-seven seconds blaming the U.S. and “the Zionist entity” for the deaths of 4,332 of the patriotic demonstrators and the hospitalization of the remainder.

— Dennis Rodman splits “amicably” with Kim Jong Un and becomes the United States’ first ambassador to Iran since the 1979 revolution. He simultaneously stars in “Real Housewives of Teheran.”

— Rick Perry becomes U.S. ambassador to North Korea. At a Christmas news conference, he takes credit for influencing Kim Jong Un to establish North Korea’s first minimum wage. Based on Texas’ proven economic model, it provides workers 18 cents an hour in 2015 skyrocketing to 22 cents in 2024.

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TRUE BELIEF IN TEHRAN

In 1951, Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer presented a chilling subject. Political and religious mass movements form when leaders promise ultimate truth. Those leaders remain in power by defining truth, no matter how much they have to lie. See: Iran, Islamic Republic of.

In the September/October issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Akbar Ganji profiles Iran’s Supreme Leader in “Who Is Ali Khamenei?” Ganji, an Iranian journalist and dissident, was imprisoned from 2000 to 2006. His writing is banned in Iran.

Yet this is no hatchet job. Ganji emphasizes Khamenei’s significant awareness of Western culture and praise for the West’s technology and capitalist risk taking. Moreover, Khamenei doesn’t hold the West responsible for all the Islamic world’s problems. He is not “crazy, irrational or a reckless zealot.” Still, Ganji acknowledges that Khamenei’s “deep-rooted views and intransigence” create a barrier to any rapprochement with the West.

From an Iranian point of view, Iran has an axe to grind. In 1953, the U.S. helped topple Iran’s elected government. We supported the Shah—a friend of ours but not to many of his own people. History to us. Not to Khamenei. Tehran lashes out, supporting terrorism around the world and repressing its people at home, all in the name of Islam as the answer to all problems.

Khamenei indeed promotes true belief. Start with his title—Supreme Leader. He assumed that position after the death of Ayatollah Khomeni in 1989. Supreme Leader has an ominous ring to it. It should. One man may decide who can and cannot run for office. One man may overrule any law passed by his government. One man has gigantic photos of himself posted throughout Iran. Images come to mind: Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, North Korea’s Kims, George Orwell’s Big Brother. Each was a cult figure and a law unto himself.

So does Khamenei maintain a rational worldview or not? It’s a legitimate question since the Supreme Leader keeps looking under his bed for the bogeyman—and finding it. According to Ganji, Khamenei traces a string of evil deeds attacking Muslims worldwide, including the burning of a Quran by a lunatic pastor in Florida in 2010 (arrested yesterday before attempting to burn 3,000 Qurans), to—drum roll—the Jews! In a public speech, Khamenei spoke of “the system of hegemony and Zionist planning centers, which enjoy the greatest influence over the American government and its security and military agencies, as well as the British and some European governments.”

I’m not just aghast. I’m disappointed. Neither my parents, my friends nor my rabbis ever enlightened me that we Jews, all 14 million of us, control the world, which includes 1.6 billion Muslims. Mea culpa. I neglected to read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as well as the writings of Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan. Yet this must be true. The Supreme Leader says it is.

There’s a lesson here: In a world of complexity mirroring the complexity of human nature, many find comfort in true belief. A sense of bliss follows separating oneself from any relationship with reality. Because reality, as they say, bites.

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