North Korea: Trump pursuing the Politics of Fear

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 20 Aug 2017, 19:31:42
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North Korea: Trump pursuing the Politics of Fear

Muhammad Mahmood
Donald Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen''. A few days later he further upgraded his threat to North Korea by declaring his first fiery threat was not fiery enough.  North Korea also replied in kind threatening to attack Guam with nuclear weapons. That threat from North Korea gave the US corporate media the handle they needed to hype up the threat from North Korea pushing the country to the catastrophic war. 

The US in its brief history has been waging wars non-stop, either fighting frontier wars or wars with other countries. Since the end of the Second World War, it has been on permanent war but also proved to be a permanent failure - never winning one single war since then.  It knows very well there is no military solution to its self-created conflict with North Korea, yet it has been hyping up the war frenzy with this country. President Trump's rants about North Korea are the clearest example of the US's failed policy of permanent war.

But in the recent times the temperature has come down and Trump's ire has now been directed to Venezuela with threat to militarily invade. This is because the overwhelming success of the constituent assembly plebiscite in the country has apparently provoked the ire of Washington. 

There are many reasons that have been cited why Trump has become so hyped up with new war threats when the US is already waging a number of wars around the world. The spread of fear is the main driver that keeps the US war machine moving and if it does not move, the US weapons industry cannot survive. Threat inflation is an essential instrument to keep the industry keep going and getting stronger. Many economists have dubbed the USA as the "permanent war economy''. They also identified three key interest groups - the weapons industry, union and military establishment which are the driving force behind maintaining the state of permanent war. 

Realistically, what Trump has been doing in relation to war-mongering is not much different from his predecessors. North Korea has heard that all before many, many times.

North Korea has been under risk of nuclear attack from the USA almost continuously since 1950. During the Korean War (1950-53), the use of nuclear bomb was considered at least seven times. North Korea was so heavily carpet bombed that there was nothing large enough target left to warrant the use of nuclear bombs; conventional weapons had completed the job.  The US bombing of North Korea was long, slow and totally merciless, wiping out 20 per cent of the population and destroying 80 per cent of buildings and structures over a period of three years. The Korean War was horrific beyond imagination. For the North Koreans, it remains in their eternal memory. And, having taken lessons from US regime-change wars in Iraq and Libya, Kim Jung-Un is not going to give up his nuclear weapons.

In reality, if there is no attack on North Korea there is no chance of an actual threat to the USA. But the US war establishment considers that because North Korea, like Cuba, poses an example of resistance and defiance of US hegemonic design, it must be taught a lesson. Therefore, "threat inflation'' is being used as a strategic option to advance its strategic interest. An exercise of "lethal compliance" action by the USA will result in millions of deaths and horrendous destructions in the Korean Peninsula, Japan and some of US military bases or territories in in the Pacific region.  

But Trump has chosen an enemy he would find it very difficult to deal with and any military action will be catastrophic. Washington must have to come to terms with the idea that North Korea now has limited but effective deterrent capability and it cannot be bullied into submission.  So why all the bluff and blusters? Pundits advance a variety of reasons, such as Trump, being a narcissist, loves to look presidential when he is under tremendous attack from the mainstream (corporate) media. 

Surprisingly, Steve Bannon,  a champion of alt-right and ideological soul-mate of Trump, struck at the heart of the issue in an interview with the American Prospect, a liberal and anti-Trump journal, on August 16. [Steve Bannon lost his job as White House Chief Strategist on Friday, August 18. He immediately returned to Breitbart. He told the Bloomberg, "If there's any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I'm leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents -- on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America," The New York Times has observed, "Mr. Bannon can still wield influence from outside the West Wing. He believes he can use his perch at Breitbart - which has given a platform to the so-called alt-right, a loose collection of activists, some of whom espouse openly racist and anti-Semitic views - to publicly pressure the president".]  

In the interview with the American Prospect, Steve Bannon said the USA is in an "economic war'' with China and confrontation with nuclear-armed North Korea is  just "a side show'' and to him "economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that''. Bannon was quite dismissive of the Trump's vow to use "fire and fury'' on North Korea if it continued to threaten the USA. He further said "there is no military solution (to North Korea's nuclear threats) here, they got us''.

China is acutely aware that the USA has been pursuing a policy of military and economic containment since 1949 but it became more vigorous since the early 1990s and onward. But the most overt display of the US hostility towards China became more obvious since 2011 when Hillary Clinton  announced the "pivot to Asia''.  This has resulted in developing both the war doctrine and its implementation mechanisms being mapped out to confront China.

China has a long-standing historical, cultural links with Korea as a whole and also shares a land border with North Korea.  China also has a Mutual Defence Treaty with North Korea, signed in 1961 and still binding. 

The US is now trying to pressurise China to use its leverages with North Korea to denuclearise North Korea. In effect, the USA is asking China to do its bidding in North Korea instead of addressing North Korea's genuine security concerns. Such a foreign policy is a non-starter and is doomed to fail.  China is currently leveraging all its diplomatic strength to forestall the possibility of a war on its border. 

The writer is an independent economic and political analyst.

muhammad.mahmood47@gmail.com

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