Petty, tinhorn dictator Kim Jong-un has been figuratively waving his penis at the United States for some time now, continuing in the footsteps of his father, Kim Jong-il. And now petty, tinhorn would-be dictator Donald Trump has decided to respond in kind, with an off the cuff remark promising to rain down "fire and fury" on the pariah nation if Kim doesn't stop threatening the United States.
Large parts of the world, Asia in particular, are freaking out over a potential conflict between the US and the DPRK. With his remark Trump has turned a situation that has been simmering for years into one that threatens to hit full boil. But as irresponsible as Trump's posturing on North Korea is, it is the actions of a previous president that really set the stage for the currently growing crisis.
Let's revisit the year 2002. President George W. Bush turned a terrorist attack on America conducted by 19 non-Iraqis into an excuse to get rid of his father's nemesis Saddam Hussein. Saddam's chemical weapons were old and mostly unusable, Bush administration claims about mobile biological weapons labs were lies, and there was no Iraqi nuclear program to speak of. But Americans were treated to Colin Powell waving a vial of fake anthrax at the United Nations, Condoleezza Rice talking about smoking guns and mushroom clouds, and a daily diet of misinformation about what the villain of the moment -- Saddam -- was up to.
As we were hearing from the UN weapons inspectors then, and we know with surety now, there were no WMDs in Iraq. But Saddam acted like there were. In 2009 The New York Times reported on his reason for the charade.
Saddam Hussein told an FBI interviewer before he was hanged that he allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction because he was worried about appearing weak to Iran, according to declassified accounts of the interviews released yesterday.
One thing we have learned since the days of the Cold War and the so-called "Mutual Assured Destruction" policy is that uncertainty about a country's willingness to use nukes if attacked is one of the best deterrents to armed conflict. But that didn't save Saddam Hussein because he was bluffing, and Bush knew it. We all know how that turned out.
What happened in Iraq was not lost on the world's other dictators. The raison d'être of a dictator is to stay in power, and if you provoke the ire of the American government the only ways to guarantee that is to be under the protection of a nuclear state, or to have nukes yourself.
Which brings us to the current situation with North Korea, and why it is potentially so dangerous. Kim Jong-un's country is one of the world's biggest pariahs, with only China offering even lukewarm support. The DPRK had been a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty until 2002, when they withdrew, and announced several months later that they had nuclear weapons. It's not exactly a coincidence that occurred at about the same time that Bush started making noises about Iraq.
The North Korea problem is nothing new, and nothing that has happened recently has drastically changed the situation. We know they have missiles, and we have reports that they have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to be put on them. But we don't know if those missiles can deliver that warhead intact to a target thousands of miles away, surviving the tremendous stresses involved with launch and re-entry. Odds are that at the present time they can't, but do we really want to take that chance?
We also know this: Pyongyang signaled over 15 years ago that the North Korean regime was not about to sit idly by and succumb to the same fate as Saddam Hussein. Kim has been posturing ever since he came into power, and until Trump came along the US treated him as he deserved -- as a belligerent nuisance. But now Trump has responded with his own belligerence, and let it be known that he is willing to go down the same road that Bush did with Iraq, except this time we know for a fact the adversary has WMDs. And odds are, if Kim believes the US is about to launch an attack, we will find out that he is quite willing to use them.