North Korea on the Table
Dissecting Donald Trump’s mental gymnastics on dealing with pesky dictator Kim Jong-un.
September 4, 2017
President Trump repeatedly has said that all options are on the table when it comes to responding to the North Korean threat.
Before, he had said the same about Iran. So did Barack Obama. The Assad government in Syria prompted a similar statement from both. So did ISIS.
A fully set table
That makes for a pretty heavily loaded table. Let’s imagine it. Nuclear weapons are the centerpiece.
They are probably small, tactical ones so as better to fit the limited space. Surrounded them are Tomahawk missiles, stealth bombers, army units and a few Special Forces.
Also on the table are economic sanctions; they are considerably lighter. There is perhaps a symbolic bag of Persian pistachios, a bolt of Damask cloth, a bowl of rice, and a tin of Beluga caviar for good measure.
“Talking,” too, have been on the table. They are fluffy and weigh next to nothing. President Trump saw fit to remove them nonetheless.
He vehemently declared that “talking is not the answer!” It was placed back on the table by Secretary of Defense General James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
They may be hidden behind the floral display. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks did not return our calls asking as to where “talking” had spent the night before being retrieved.
The situation in the situation room
Let’s visualize the scene. We’re in the Situation Room in the depths of the White House. High-tech electronic displays cover the walls.
Dominating the room is an elongated table made of brilliantly polished walnut – a sturdy affair able to handle the load placed on it by all those options (and elbows).
Around the table sit Trump, National Security Advisor General H. R. McMaster to his immediate left, Chief of Staff General John Kelly to his immediate right, Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchen, Jared Kushner, and the Intelligence chiefs: the CIA’s Mike Pompeo, Admiral Michael Rogers Director of the National Security Agency, and General Vincent Stewart from DIA.
Medals flash and ribbons shine. The brass alert to any sign that the Orange One might reach for an ICBM – mistaking it for a cigar – and ready to impale his hand to the table with a steak knife. Rex Tillerson is there, too, seated below the SALT.
A tasty menu
At each place setting a menu inventories all the options available, and a GPS app pinpoints their location relative to each other.
The President personally had taken ‘talking’ off the table the previous night. The next morning it mysteriously had reappeared – in the form of an English-Korean dictionary.
Its discovery sent shivers through the White House – and beyond. After a few tense hours, Mattis stepped forward to declare his responsibility.
He did deny rumors that he had used Dennis Rodman as his agent – secreting him into the building at the time of the photo-op with the champion Golden State Warriors in anticipation of just such a clandestine mission.
Whether “talking” will hold its current inconspicuous place, come out of hiding, or disappear in the wee hours of the morning is unpredictable.
The table definitely will remain sturdily in place to handle all and any options — at least until the fat lady sings.
Trump repeatedly said that all options are on the table when it comes to responding to the North Korean threat.
Trump has in the past said all options are on the table regarding Iran, the Assad government in Syria and ISIS.
With so many options on the table to deal with North Korea, it must be a pretty heavily loaded one.
Michael J. Brenner
Professor Emeritus of International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh [Texas, United States] Michael Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a Fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS/Johns Hopkins. He was the Director of the International Relations & Global Studies Program at the University of Texas. Brenner is […]