Big dicks from North Korea to Iran

While North Korean ‘pre-emptive strike’ rhetoric has ramped up the US has added Iran to it’s nuclear targets.

Reuters: North Korea warns of ‘super-mighty preemptive strike’ as U.S. plans next move

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words.

“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

This follows multi-pronged verbal attacks from the US.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has said repeatedly an “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.

Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the United States was “reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang.”

And Tillerson has also aimed similar threats at Iran.

NBC News: Tillerson: Iran Left ‘Unchecked’ Could Follow North Korea’s Path

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the United States will conduct a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, including the 2016 nuclear deal, which he said had merely delayed Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear state.

“This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face in North Korea,” Tillerson said. “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear Iran’s provocative actions threaten the U.S., the region and the world.”

Tillerson notified Congress on Tuesday that despite finding that Iran was meeting the terms of the deal, the Trump administration was reviewing whether to break from the agreement, saying in part that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran is closely involved in supporting the Assad government in the Syrian civil war. The US launched a military strike against a Syrian airfield recently.

The US also tried out their biggest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan last week. This didn’t go down well with ex-president Hamid Karzai.

Time: The Former President of Afghanistan Called the Recent U.S. Bombing ‘an Immense Atrocity’

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that the U.S. is using Afghanistan as a weapons testing ground, calling the recent use of the largest-ever non-nuclear bomb “an immense atrocity against the Afghan people.”

Last week, U.S. forces dropped the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb in eastern Nangarhar province, reportedly killing 95 militants. Karzai, in an interview with The Associated Press, objected to the decision, saying that his country “was used very disrespectfully by the U.S. to test its weapons of mass destruction.”

The office of President Ashraf Ghani said following the bomb’s usage that there was “close coordination” between the U.S. military and the Afghan government over the operation, and they were careful to prevent any civilian casualties.

But Karzai harshly criticized the Afghan government for allowing the use of the bomb.

“How could a government of a country allow the use of a weapon of mass destruction on its own territory? Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, how could they allow that? It just unimaginable,” he said.

Since the missile strike and the massive bomb drop the US has launched a war of words on multiple fronts, from Iran to North Korea.

This is a very risky strategy by the Trump regime. The threats and shows of military force may pay off. They could also end very badly if someone’s provocation (from any side) goes too far.

There’s also risks of perception of provocation and unintended consequences, especially if Korea or Iran or Syria or ISIS or Al Qaeda get reported on Fox News insulting the size of Donald Trump’s ego.

The well being of parts of the world, and possibly the whole world, is dependant on the temperaments and self control of a small bunch of bozos, some of whom (on the US side) have no experience with international diplomacy or military strategy.

Big dicks with big weapons are a worry.

Pence posturing continues

Despite many experts and many more ordinary people have serious concerns about provocative posturing over North Korea Vice Mike Pence continues to ramp up the rhetoric along with military visuals.

RCP: VP Pence to North Korea: “The Sword Stands Ready”

From the wind-swept deck of a massive aircraft carrier, Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the U.S. military, promising it would make an “overwhelming and effective” response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.

Pence, dressed in a green military jacket, said aboard the hulking USS Ronald Reagan that President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to “work diligently” with allies like Japan, China and other global powers to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. But he told the sailors, “as all of you know, readiness is the key.

“The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” Pence told 2,500 sailors dressed in blue fatigues and Naval baseball caps on a sunny, windy morning aboard the carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay.

“Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response,” Pence said.

From two continents, Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that North Korea’s latest failed missile launch was a reckless act of provocation and assured allies in Asia that the U.S. was ready to work to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Mattis denounced North Korea’s attempted missile launch as he began a Middle East tour, telling reporters traveling with him to Saudi Arabia, “the leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile,” he said. The term “reckless” is one the North Koreans have used to describe ongoing large-scale U.S. and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion.

Posturing peace from an aircraft carrier saying “the sword stands ready” is not very reassuring.

Trump and Pence, who stopped at the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea on Monday, have signaled this week a forceful U.S. stance on North Korea’s recent actions. But it remains unclear what might come next.

Behind the heated rhetoric, Trump’s strategy in the region looks somewhat similar to predecessor Barack Obama’s – albeit with the added unpredictability of a new president who has shown he’s willing to use force.

Can North Korea be trusted? Probably not, but they haven’t done much actual attacking since the Korean war sort of ended seventy years ago.

Can the US be trusted?

The Gulf of Tonkin incident…

…drew the United States more directly into the Vietnam War. It involved two separate confrontations involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The original American report blamed North Vietnam for both incidents, but eventually became very controversial with widespread claims that either one or both incidents were false, and possibly deliberately so.

In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, the former United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted that the August 2 USS Maddox attack happened with no Defense Department response, but the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_incident

The Bay of Pigs Invasion…

…was a failed military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on 17 April 1961. A counter-revolutionary military (made up of Cuban exiles who traveled to the United States after Castro’s takeover), trained and funded by the United States government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) and intended to overthrow the increasingly communist government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala and Nicaragua, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, under the direct command of Prime Minister Fidel Castro.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Pigs_Invasion

President Kennedy took the US back from the brink of a nuclear war with Russia.

NY Times: Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea, as U.S. Suggested

Just over a week ago, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal to North Korea and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior. “We’re sending an armada,” Mr. Trump said to Fox News last Tuesday afternoon.

The problem was that the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the three other warships in its strike force were that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.

White House officials said Tuesday that they had been relying on guidance from the Defense Department. Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from an ill-timed announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to a partially erroneous explanation by the defense secretary, Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that a flotilla was racing toward the waters off North Korea.

By the time the White House was asked about the Carl Vinson, its imminent arrival had been emblazoned on front pages across East Asia, fanning fears that Mr. Trump was considering a pre-emptive military strike.

Can the White House and the Defence Department be trusted to get things right?

 

 

Developments in North Korea

 

There is a lot of world attention and concern about escalating tensions over North Korea, with contradictory messages of joint resolutions contrasting with continued rhetoric and threats from the US.

The US and China reported to be trying to work together on appropriate responses and actions, but at the same time Vice President Mike Pence continues the inflammatory rhetoric, and anonymous White House leaks continue to threaten military action.

  • The United States, its allies and China are working together on a range of responses to North Korea’s latest attempted ballistic missile test, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday, citing what he called an international consensus to act.
  • Pence Calls Launch a ‘Provocation’
    Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday described North Korea’s failed missile test as “a provocation” that highlighted the risks plaguing both the region and the United States, as the White House said President Trump had an array of military, diplomatic and other options to respond.
  • White House Said to Not Shy Away From Sudden Strike on North Korea
    In the wake of North Korea’s failed medium-range missile test this weekend, President Donald Trump is willing to consider ordering “kinetic” military action, including a sudden strike, to counteract North Korea’s destabilizing actions in the region, said a person familiar with the White House’s thinking.

 

US discussion

News or views or issues from the USA.USFlag


Donald Trump and his White House administration have been having a bad month. An indication is through Trump’s disapproval ratings – the RCP average is now 52.6 disapproval, 41.8 approval.

Rasmussen reports trends point to public perception trends:

  • 22 -24 January: 57% approval, 43% disapproval, +14
  • 29-31 January: 53% approval, 47% disapproval, +6
  • 5 – 7 February: 53% approval, 47% disapproval, +6
  • 12 – 14 February: 53% approval, 47% disapproval, +6
  • 19 – 21 February: 51% approval, 49% disapproval, +2
  • 26 – 28 February: 50% approval, 50% disapproval, =
  • 5 – 7 March: 49% approval, 51% disapproval, -2
  • 12 – 14 March: 45% approval, 54% disapproval, -9
  • 19 – 21 March: 46% approval, 54% disapproval, -8
  • 26 – 28 March: 44% approval, 56% disapproval, -12

That’s a big swing in 10 weeks.

Vice resident Mike Pence is one of the few in Team Trump getting positive reports.

NY Times: Amid White House Tumult, Pence Offers Trump a Steady Hand

Mr. Pence, a Hill-wise former Indiana congressman who is typically a palliative presence in an administration of piranhas, had been keeping tabs on conservatives, counseling the president not to take anything for granted, and he urged Mr. Trump to take a hard line against his ideological allies who were pushing for a far more radical rewrite of the Affordable Care Act.

During the course of the last two trying weeks, as less-experienced advisers floundered — and others skipped town — Mr. Pence emerged as an effective, if not ultimately successful, wingman for a president short on competent help.

The health care debacle was nothing if not a CT scan of a troubled and inexperienced West Wing — from the president’s sketchy grasp on policy, to the heavy-handed tactics of his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who issued a final ultimatum to a balky Freedom Caucus.

Mr. Pence was simply filling a vacuum. The president’s son-in-law and free-floating aide, Jared Kushner, who has described himself as a first among equals in the West Wing, was on a family trip to Colorado.

First among equals? Equal to Trump in modesty perhaps. Running a country is a bit different to running the social media side of a campaign.

This week, as the administration tried to pivot to tax reform, Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, has been away for a few days with his family, on hand for conference calls but out of Washington.

That has left Mr. Pence to carry out many of the functions that the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, would normally fulfill if he possessed more policy experience and legislative connections: sounding out lawmakers for inside information, providing the president with tactical counsel, quietly offering policy tweaks during negotiations.

He is quite a contrast to Trump and co. That is perhaps why he was chosen as VP.

At times, Mr. Pence can seem jarringly out of place, a clean-cut 1950s Republican cheerfully navigating the chaotic “Mad Max” landscape created by the disruptive duo of Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon, trying to stay engaged while remaining discernibly aloof from the less-savory aspects of serving in the Trump White House.

Mr. Pence’s relationship with Mr. Trump is more respectful than familial, people close to both men said. They have worked out an odd-couple shtick in public, but the stark cultural differences are obvious. The president briefly tried to curb his use of expletives in front of his religious vice president but has reverted to four-letter form — and Mr. Pence, who is fond of joining colleagues for moments of shared prayer, has been less religiously demonstrative around Mr. Trump, aides say.

I wonder when a video of Trump in private is leaked.

But even as Mr. Pence steps up his activity as a go-between bridging the White House and Capitol Hill, it’s clear he has adopted a far less ambitious approach to the job than his predecessors Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Dick Cheney, who despised being out of the loop and stocked their staffs with first-rate talent that often rivaled, and later replaced, their presidents’ West Wing teams.

His model, people close to him say, is the laid-back helpmate vice presidency of George Bush under Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Pence was a steady advocate, if ultimately not a successful one, during Mr. Trump’s last-minute push, telling hard-liners as part of his pitch that “I would have been a member of the Freedom Caucus if I was still in Congress.”

So he would have been against the health bill?

But he is in Trump’s team, and is a saner steadier presence in an inexperienced shemozzle.

Trump versus media, continued

It hasn’t taken long for tensions to surface between president-elect Donald Trump and the media. Trump has just visited the White House to have a chat with Obama and a look around.

Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

His relationship with the White House Correspondents’ Association hasn’t started well.

White House Correspondents Association: Trump decision to leave DC without informing press could leave Americans “blind” during crisis

whca

Trump may not know how things are expected to work yet. Or this could be the beginning of an uneasy and possibly contentious relationship between Trump and the media.

Trump owes his success to the attention given him by the media, but he indicated during the campaign a large amount of friction as well, when the media didn’t perform how he liked.

Trump’s apparently conciliatory conversion regarding Obama and Clinton does not seem to apply to media.

UPDATE: An NBC News reporter got a response from Trump on registration of Muslims and got a chilling response: Donald Trump Says He’d ‘Absolutely’ Require Muslims to Register

Donald J. Trump, who earlier in the week said he was open to requiring Muslims in the United States to register in a database, said on Thursday night that he “would certainly implement that — absolutely.”

Mr. Trump was asked about the issue by an NBC News reporter and pressed on whether all Muslims in the country would be forced to register. “They have to be,” he said. “They have to be.’’

When asked how a system of registering Muslims would be carried out — whether, for instance, mosques would be where people could register — Mr. Trump said: “Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management. Our country has no management.’’

Asked later, as he signed autographs, how such a database would be different from Jews having to register in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump repeatedly said, “You tell me,” until he stopped responding to the question.

 More than a bit ominous.

Who is Mike Pence?

I don’t know anything about Mike Pence but he could be the next vice president of the US.

It is being reported that Donald Trump is going to name him as his running mate.

New York Times: Donald Trump’s Campaign Signals He Will Pick Mike Pence as Running Mate

Donald J. Trump’s campaign has signaled strongly to Republicans in Washington that he will pick Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, as his running mate, though Republicans caution the party’s mercurial presidential candidate may still backtrack on his apparent choice.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have told national Republican officials that they are preparing to make an announcement with Mr. Pence, according to three people with knowledge of the conversations, who were not authorized to discuss them publicly. His campaign has said that it will unveil a running mate for Mr. Trump in New York on Friday.

Mr. Pence, a former congressman and radio host, emerged over the last week as the strong favorite of Mr. Trump’s political advisers and senior officials in the Republican Party.

But Mr. Trump himself has sent conflicting signals in recent days, as he has subjected his potential running mates to a final round of screening. Headdressed a rally in Indiana alongside Mr. Pence on Tuesday night and met privately with him several times.

A low-key man largely defined in public life by his Christian faith, Mr. Pence, 57, is seen as a cautious choice of running mate — a political partner who is unlikely to embarrass Mr. Trump, and who may help him shore up support among conservative voters still wary of his candidacy.

His staunch conservative views on certain social issues, like gay rights and abortion, may inject a new set of concerns into the general election debate that have been largely overlooked with Mr. Trump at the top of the Republican ticket.

Republicans on Capitol Hill reacted with a mixture of applause and relief to the news of Mr. Trump’s likely selection. Mr. Pence is viewed in Washington as a conventional politician with standard-issue conservative beliefs, including on some subjects where his policy instincts plainly conflict with Mr. Trump’s.

Pence has had differences with trump on some issues, including the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Mr. Pence has endorsed free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Asian trade deal that Mr. Trump has described as a “rape” of the American economy. He voted for the Iraq war, which Trump has condemned, and last winter he denounced Mr. Trump’s call to ban all Muslim immigration into the United States.

It sounds like Pence is a conciliatory choice for Trump to try and get the Republicans a bit less worried about Trump as their candidate.