The New Trump: War President

Exclusive: President Trump’s reversal on the Afghan War – now promising to “win” not withdraw – further makes him a “war president” along with his “fire and fury” belligerence over North Korea, as Jonathan Marshall observes.

By Jonathan Marshall

Say what you will about Charlottesville, the national debate over neo-Nazis at least took our minds off the threat of nuclear war with North Korea. With the start of U.S.-South Korean war games, that specter will quickly return to haunt us.

President Donald Trump describing his policy toward the Afghan War, at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 21, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)

How worried should we be? The answer lies much more in Washington than in Pyongyang. The Kim regime has been almost entirely consistent in its policy: It means to keep building a credible nuclear arsenal, complete with ICBMs, until it has the capacity to deter a U.S. attack. For all its posturing and bombast, North Korea’s policy is fundamentally defensive.

In contrast, the Trump administration has sent a host of confusing messages. Some top officials buy into sane, defensive notions of mutual nuclear deterrence. Others, however, insist that Kim’s regime must be vanquished before it acquires greater nuclear capabilities. The fate of millions of people rests on which policy President Trump adopts.

One of Steve Bannon’s last declarations before being fired by the White House was that no “military option” exists for dealing with North Korea, because of the extraordinary damage a war would cause.

As I’ve discussed before, however, another influential Washington figure, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has lobbied Trump to order an all-out attack if Pyongyang continues testing missiles capable of reaching the United States — even if a war turns South Korea and Japan into wastelands.

Trumpologists are still struggling to interpret the ambiguous language coming out of the administration, despite Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s claim that “we have been quite clear as to what the policy and the posture toward North Korea is.”

For example, after Trump warned earlier…

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