Trump’s UN speech was a statement of conservative principles? That doesn’t make sense

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
President Donald Trump addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

After listening to the current incumbent president of the United States deliver his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week, I dashed off a hasty, hot-blooded reaction in which I said that Mr. Trump had “embarrassed himself and the United States with an arrogant rant at the United Nations that all but asserted the sole power of the U.S. president to decide which nations are naughty and which are nice, which will be bombed or otherwise attacked and which governments need to be overthrown.”

Now that I’ve calmed down, I don’t feel inclined to take any of it back. But I do feel inclined to describe calmly what I meant, and will take as my text not only Mr. Trump’s speech but also a Washington Post column by Marc Thiessen in praise of the speech and headlined: “Why the left hated Trump’s U.N. speech.” The Post summarized Thiessen’s argument, thus:

“Trump’s U.N. speech promoted classic conservative ideas; no wonder the left hated it.”

I’m going to argue that Thiessen’s column engaged in willful, intentional, self-imposed blindness. I’ve linked to the full thing above and again here, so please feel free to decide for yourself whether I’m doing the same (engaging in willful self-blindness).

(And here’s the full text of Trump’s U.N. remarks, via Politico.)

Thiessen says that liberals hated the speech because “Trump laid out a clear conservative vision for vigorous American global leadership based on the principle of state sovereignty.” He said the criticisms of the speech amounted to “the standard liberal critique of conservative internationalism.”

State sovereignty

Trump likewise talked about “state sovereignty,” a lot at the U.N.

“State sovereignty” was one of the three “beautiful pillars” on which Trump said his view of a better world depended, or so the teleprompter apparently said in one of those relatively rare occasions when Trump stuck to what his speechwriters had prepared. But I have no clear idea what  “state sovereignty” means to either Trump or Thiessen, unless it means the opposite of state sovereignty.

I fear it means the sovereignty of the United States over all other states.

Let’s go right to the heart of the matter. Eight nations now have nuclear weapons, not counting North Korea, which is in the process of getting them. Trump doesn’t want North Korea to build a deliverable nuclear weapon. (Neither do I.)

Efforts to discourage North Korea from proceeding down this path have been – to use a mild term for it – unavailing. North Korea was formerly a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but it withdrew from that pact in 2003, which (sorry to have to tell you this) it had a legal right to do and apparently followed the legal requirements for so doing.

Except in Bizarro World, the principle of “state sovereignty” seems to mean that any state has the sovereign right to do what it wants within its own borders, especially if it doesn’t violate international law.

Again, I very much wish and hope that North Korea can be persuaded to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. But the idea that they have no right to go down this path because the United States doesn’t like it, is pretty much the opposite of “state sovereignty,” unless the secret meaning of the term is United States sovereignty over all other states (or least over the ones run by bad hombres, as Trump might define the term, as long as he got to decide which hombres were bad).

‘Conservative internationalism’

Thiessen’s other big concept was “conservative internationalism.” What the heck?

Could you put those two words together in a way that would make them mean that the United States has the right to do things that it apparently has no legal right to do?

I guess you can. I found this four-year-old National Review piece, headlined “Conservative Internationalism” that purports to define the term in ways that strike me as neither “conservative” nor “internationalism.” It turns out to mean that the United States, if it’s really smart and careful, can apply pressure to bad guys around the world to get them to do what Washington wants them to do, without immediately going to military force (although the threat of force is key to making it work, and you have to be able and willing to use force if “conservative internationalism” doesn’t bring the bad guys to heel.)

It takes a lot of fancy high-stepping to get “state sovereignty” and “conservative internationalism” to mean what Trump and Thiessen might want them to mean. “State sovereignty” is particularly Orwellian, because it means roughly the opposite of what it ought to mean. Turns out, apparently, one state (ours) has all the sovereignty.

In the case of Kim Jong-Un and North Korea, at least you have a weird, perhaps deranged, actual dictator — with no legitimate claim to power from the point of view of democratic theory — holding absolute power and acting in ways that look pretty deranged to an outside observer.

The United States, which sees itself as the captain of Team Democracy in the world (except when it finds it necessary to overthrow elected governments who are behaving improperly and replace them with unelected governments) is always more comfortable overthrowing dictators. And plenty of dictators were included in Trump’s denunciamentos at the United Nations. But he was hardly consistent, which Thiessen managed to overlook. Thiessen’s paragraph celebrating freedom and democracy was highly selective and ahistorical. He wrote:

Trump also put himself squarely on the side of morality in foreign policy and explicitly stood with those seeking freedom around the world. He promised to support the “enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom.” He declared that “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever;” he upbraided the Iranian regime for masking “a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy” while promising to stand with “the good people of Iran [who] want change.” He took on Iran’s ally, “the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad” in Syria, whose “use of chemical weapons against his own citizens, even innocent children, shock the conscience of every decent person.”

And his best moment came when he turned to what he called the “socialist dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro,” declaring that “the problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” [I gather that was intended to be a big put-down of socialism. —EB] Trump promised to help the Venezuelan people “regain their freedom, recover their country and restore their democracy.”

I’m no fan of Maduro. But he came to power through elections. And the “Democracy Index” of the Economist Intelligence Unit gives Maduro’s government a middle score between Democracy and authoritarianism.

But neither Trump nor Thiessen showed any interest in democracy in Saudi Arabia, which would make any list of the least democratic nations on earth, where bloggers can be publicly flogged for disrespectful blogging.

The United States has often overthrown democracies and in several instances replaced them with friendlier dictatorships or monarchies.

So, to end where I perhaps should have started: In my previous first reaction to Trump’s speech to the United Nations, I mocked Trump for the tried and true use of the word “regimes” to describe those governments that the United States would like to see disappear. It’s code for “too illegitimate to be called a “government.” Although those who get the “regime” treatment are often undemocratic, what unifies the “regime” category is not their legitimacy so much as their unfriendliness to U.S. interests and hegemony.

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Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/22/2017 - 11:51 am.

    It is really interesting that there is a group of people who think Trump has really thought about these issues and has developed a “Trump foreign policy’.

    All that these positions are are the views of the various cranks that have caught Trump’s ear from years of watching Fox news and have access to his speech writers. Inconsistencies don’t matter. It will all change with the next hour segment of info-tainment. That’s how he can say everyone will have great coverage at the same time he promotes a bill that does the exact opposite.

    To Trump, this personalization of dispute with Kim is the greatest thing ever for his ratings. Look for the slinging of names to continue and escalate. Trump wants the abject surrender of Kim, but it ain’t going to happen because it feeds exactly into the North Korean “us against the world” outlook. It may even drive Kim to toss a bomb into the ocean as the next step–but really, what is OUR next step? Our next step may be the destruction of millions. We are an existential threat to North Korea (and it’s nearest neighbors), but they are not an existential threat to the US.

    John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

    Is Trump even capable of that ?

    • Submitted by Patrick Tice on 09/22/2017 - 06:23 pm.

      The last thing Trump does

      …Is to think anything through, to spend any time in serious analysis and research, to solicit expert advice or even to know what expert advice is, or to hold his thoughts (and tongue) for a time to gain perspective. His short attention span and need for constant attention and affirmation work against the interests of the United States and seriously endanger world peace. His volatile unpredictability may ultimately trigger a disaster – perhaps another war or an economic collapse, dooming millions to death and millions more to poverty.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/22/2017 - 11:52 am.

    I believe the line is

    …“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

    If I’ve remembered the quote accurately (not a sure thing, now that I’m in my dotage…), we should not expect theoretical or practical or ethical consistency from either the Trump administration or many of today’s “conservative” pundits and, using the term loosely, “thinkers.” Instead, what we should expect from “conservative” media and the Current Occupant is (we hope) high-sounding contradiction and, at its heart, the illusion of central position that characterizes children around the planet, and in every culture.

    In other words, I’m on board with Eric’s interpretation of both the Trump speech tot he U.N. and the piece in National Review. “Conservative Internationalism,” at least as it’s been expressed in those two instances, essentially amounts to just what Eric suggested: “Me first.” While that’s a philosophical position very much in line with what passes for the worldview of the Current Occupant, it makes for difficult relationships with both rivals and allies, and international agreements, current and future, will be hard to enforce or, in the case of the latter, create, if the only sovereignty to be considered is our own. Every state would like to operate on that basis, of course, and for the same reason(s) that children want ice cream AND cake if given the choice.

    The Current Occupant doesn’t read, of course, so perhaps someone at FOX News could summarize for him the primary arguments of J. William Fulbright’s “The Arrogance of Power.” The main point relevant to the Current Occupant is the folly of convincing yourself that your view of the world is the only viable and “true” view of the planet, its peoples, and its societies. This might be supplemented by a similar summary of a similar work of the same title about the Nixon presidency that has equally…um…negative things to say about presidents convinced that they’re always right, and, in paranoid style, equally convinced that “the media” are always out to get them.

    The shorter description of both the U.N. speech and the National Review article is simply “self-serving.” Selfishness, in measured doses, is probably necessary for our survival as individuals and societies, but the key phrase there is “…in measured doses.” When it becomes the primary operating principle, what you find is that many of the kids on the playground won’t play with you, and you’ll have few, if any, trustworthy friends. “Conservative Internationalism” like many another handy phrase from the right, is either an intellectual fraud, or an accurate statement that simply says, “It’s all about us.” Neither is admirable or, on the international stage, very workable.

  3. Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 09/22/2017 - 01:33 pm.

    Trump is not a conservative. Trump is not a Republican. Trump is not a Libertarian (tho the Koch Bros are and they and the Mercers (who own Brietbart, a white supremacist site) spent nearly $1 BILLION dollars to put him and Bannon and Pence in the White House.)

    Trump campaigned as a Republican; a ‘populist’. He told the country what many wanted to hear.
    He promised them what they expected and hoped for. He LIED to get elected. It’s what he does.
    There can be no argument or uncertainty about that anymore.

    Blaming the Left for EVERYTHING has been pounded into the REP constituency’s heads for years. It’s a learned behavior and has become a knee-jerk reaction that is meaningless. A total mindless cop-out. Like it lets the REPs off the hook or something (?)

    And would someone please define what “conservative’ means today??
    Because it appears to be quite different from what it was even just a few years ago.
    Or it means different things to different people…..

    Sovereignty refers to the full right and power of a ‘governing body’ (not necessarily a formal government entity) to govern without interference from outside sources or bodies (i.e., the “supreme authority”).

    See Westphalian sovereignty. Every country goes it alone. Trump and American white supremacists believe in sovereignty (read more on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) website).

    One could ask then why Trump doesn’t also feel that N Korea shouldn’t also be allowed their own sovereignty…?

    Conservative Internationalism. Say what??? Is this another ‘brand’ and newly minted term to suggest movement growth? Again, what is missing is a clear definition and vision statement and named leadership, etc.

    How the USA has long seen itself and conducted itself is completely divorced from the way Trump et al sees things: they don’t believe in democracy. He/they believe firmly in authoritarianism.

    The USA has always acted to overthrow dictators. Trump has always wanted to be one!
    They are whom he has always admired the absolute most and wanted to emulate.

  4. Submitted by Pat Terry on 09/22/2017 - 02:27 pm.

    Conservative thought means a lot of different things. Rand Paul’s approach is very different from John Bolton’s. Trump just spewed a lot of nonsenical macho posturing. Sadly, to a certain of segment of conservatives, that’s what they want.

    This paragraph made me think a bit:

    “Let’s go right to the heart of the matter. Eight nations now have nuclear weapons, not counting North Korea, which is in the process of getting them. Trump doesn’t want North Korea to build a deliverable nuclear weapon. (Neither do I.)”

    How many countries are going to have nuclear weapons in 10 years? 20? 50? The number of nuclear countries is going to keep going up, and not every country with nukes is going to have stable leadership. Maybe its time for a better approach than, well, this, but also the idea that no one else can have nukes.

  5. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 09/22/2017 - 04:17 pm.

    The author can legitimately make the comparison between our postures towards Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The only honest answer is that one is serving our best interests right now, and the other is not.

    But it is utter lunacy to put Norko on par with *any* other nation currently on the planet. Norko is not a soverign nation, it’s a gulag, a concentration camp run by meglamaniacs and comfortable military commanders.

    You cannot seriously expect dialogue with simeone that fires missiles over other countries the minute they have the ability to do so. When a belligerent country suggests it has the ability to nuc an American territory, and is considering doing so, only a fool gives that any response but the assurance that complete anniliation will follow the act.

    Trump is a clumsy speaker, and given to hylerbole. But his hyperbole got Norko to back off the Guam threat; got China to cut off Norko’s ability to conduct financial transactions (that was huge!), and got Russia and China to agree to further sanctions.

    Obama’s kneepad diplomacy of appeasement was rewarded with nuclear and ballistic missle tests, and threats.

    You may be incapable of admitting it, I understand, but in fact Trump’s foreign diplomacy is getting positive results.

    • Submitted by Mike Davidson on 09/22/2017 - 11:48 pm.

      If by positive results you mean an unrestrained child taunting a mad man with his Twitter account then perhaps you are correct. North Korea has been making threats for years. Sit back, rattle the cage, make everyone nervous, see who you can coerce into threatening you so that you have what you view as a legitimate excuse to act more aggressive. Kim Jong Un isn’t doing anything that Kim Jong Il didn’t try.

      You may call Obama’s approach kneepad diplomacy (I’m curious what conservative rag outlet you picked that up from?), but the first response of the POTUS is not to threaten a country with total annihilation if they don’t play nice. Has it ever crossed your mind that Kim Jong Un’s escalated missile testing might actually be a response to Trump’s schoolyard bully posturing?

      Perhaps you should brush up on past American involvement in military conflicts in that region of the world. They didn’t go well for us then and they certainly wouldn’t now. Obama suppressed his ego when dealing with North Korea; Trump has to learn to do the same.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/23/2017 - 10:36 am.

      …fires missiles over other countries….

      You might want to check the geography of the area. Any direction that North Korea can test-fire a missile is over another country (most of the arc of ocean open to them goes over Japan). And Guam is just east of their tests shot off toward the Philippines. (Guam is the tiny speck at the bottom center of the map)

      As for averting a Guam/Pacific test, Trump in Alabama last night…


      ….Trump ominously warned that North Korea could explode a “massive weapon” over the Pacific Ocean, resulting in “tremendous, tremendous calamity where the plume goes.” Then he told everyone not to worry about that.

      “Maybe something gets worked out and maybe it doesn’t, but I can tell you one thing: You are protected. Okay? You are protected,” Trump said. “Nobody’s going to mess with our people.”….

      (end quote)

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/23/2017 - 08:38 pm.


      Norko’s missile tests that went over Japan began *after* Trump ramped up the hyperbole. (And it should be pointed out that Trump threatened “fire and fury” if Norko made any more threats weeks ago, only to watch Norko make repeated threats that have been responded to with no fire and only Twitter fury.) So I guess I’m not seeing how we’ve really achieved any tangible success here.

  6. Submitted by Joe Musich on 09/22/2017 - 07:59 pm.

    One could say just as casually …

    that Un’s policies have resulted in Trump backing off. I do not think that is the standard we need to be using to measure success. To suggest that Trump’s foreign policies are working is to ignore the entire remander of the world with maybe the exception of Duarte. I used the National Review article mentioned here in a media studies class when it was first out. Pleased to say even my senior high schools students saw through the weaknesses in the articles arguments. The issue is not conservative or liberal when we discuss foreign policy but how we view the rights of other nations. Which once again brings up the old statement about everyone being entitled to an opinion but not the facts.

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/22/2017 - 09:16 pm.

    After reading two latest columns by Mr. Black I am still at a loss about what Trump actually said wrong. Can anyone explain?

    He “asserted the sole power of the U.S. president to decide which nations are naughty,” but is there anyone who disagrees with his current designations? I mean who thinks that North Korea or Iran are good countries? And if he says what everyone agrees upon (except other bad countries) why is it a problem?

    He “threatened military action and unilateralism if necessary.” The key word here “if necessary” so what is wrong here? If FDR would say that he would use force against Nazi Germany if necessary, would he be wrong?

    He “basically told his allies to follow his lead or stay out of his way.” Again, that is why they are allies and America is the most powerful among its allies. It would be stupid if Trump said that America would follow its allies… He never said that he would not consult the allies or take their opinions into consideration…

    And then he promoted “state sovereignty” which is indeed a double edge sword… for liberals, too. It’s OK to bomb Libya but not Syria. It’s OK to bomb Yugoslavia but not North Korea or Iraq… Apparently, it’s OK to bomb any country so long as America doesn’t benefit from it.

    Now, to North Korea. It did have the right to withdraw from NPT but it had agreements after that which it violated along with multiple SC resolutions so it is not in compliance with the international law. On the other hand, compare this to our right to be free from search and seizure but if someone builds a small tank in a garage to destroy the neighborhood, police definitely has the right to come and stop this activity.

    So does America have right to come and stop dangerous activity? Let’s see: Police has that right by the law written by elected officials. In the world, presumably, the UN was created to do the same but, as we all know, its track record is very bad which is understandable considering that at least half of its members are those dictators who the UN is supposed to tame. So here comes America. It can do nothing and let the world destroy itself (or let Russia and China take care of it) or it can do something, especially, when its interests are involves, which is almost always. Considering America’s nature (free democratic society based on free market), its actions will almost always benefit those who have the same values. Consider this: if America has obligations to admit refugees, it has the right to come and prevent the situation which creates refugees from happening in the first place.

    Mr. Black likes to talk about America’s overthrowing democratically elected governments which is a reference to Iran and Chile for the most part. But both democratically elected leaders in those countries were on their quick way to becoming socialist regimes. Allende’s mentor was Castro which may give us a clear idea of what Chile would have become had Pinochet not saved it. Unfortunately, people can’t see things as they are. Imagine an alternative universe where the UK and France, instead of signing Munich agreement, would have given Hitler an ultimatum to disarm and then crushed him when he refused. Yes, there would have been deaths and destruction but incomparable to the actual ones. But would people in Europe appreciate that? No because they would not have known what they managed to avoid. It is much easier to imagine what people of Chile managed to avoid because there are plenty of examples but some people just refuse to do it. Unfortunately, the choice in the world is very often between bad and very bad. Pinochet might have been bad but Allende would have been much worse.

    I don’t know where Mr. Black found that Venezuela is between democracy and authoritarianism, but the Freedom House calls it Not Free and gives it the second to the lowest score. The worst thing, of course, is that the only direction it can go is to the worse. So again, what’s wrong with expressing desire to help Venezuelan people?

    And finally, Saudi Arabia. Yes, it is a “regime” but we all know that resources are limited (that is why prosecutorial discretion is allowed, as we all remember) so it only makes sense to deal first with unfriendly regimes and destroy them while giving a pass to those that are friendly. So yes, it makes sense to deal with Iran and North Korea before Saudi Arabia… at least for a logical person like me…

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 09/23/2017 - 07:42 pm.

      What’s wrong?

      The President has the “power” to decide, like Santa, who’s naughty or nice. But who cares? What’s it to me or any of us whether North Korea has a crazed dictator as its leader? It only becomes a concern when the crazed dictator feels so threatened that he starts wanting to start a war.

      Frankly, I’m not surprised North Korea and Iran want nuclear weapons. I’ve read a bit about US/North Korea relations and to me, it’s understandable why their leaders, even though they are authoritarian, believe that the only deterrence against US aggression is having a nuclear capability of one’s own. For a few years, you might have a US President who wants to “speak softly”, like Obama, and smooth things over. But then the US electorate goes crazy and elects a Trump, sounding like he’s ready to launch a war. Look at the Iran deal. The neo-cons are itching to start another war in the Middle East.

      It’s been a principle of US foreign policy for, say over one hundred years, to make the world “safe for democracy.” That worked out so well after WWI after all. But what right or authority gives him the “power” to do this? Trump has the “power” to instigate a total war which is one reason I’m very nervous about have this unbalanced crackpot in the Oval Office.

      The US respects “state sovereignty” when it suits its purposes. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
      The US government is mainly concerned about protecting its “interests” abroad, meaning the interests of the 1% who want to leverage their control of assets in this country to augment their wealth there. Cuba went Communist because Castro feared US making him their puppet just as “we” had made Batista before him. “We” were only after looking after our “interests” after all, like the sugar companies that kep most of the population in slave like conditions and the casino owners in Havana. Iran and Chile are two good examples of other “regimes” overthrown for similar reasons. Then there’s Greece, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, the Republic of Congo, etc. etc.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/23/2017 - 09:16 pm.

        The president always has the power to decide which country is naughty and which is nice – the constitution give a president the authority to deal with foreign affairs. Obama decided that Libya was naughty – and bombed it and then he decided that Syria was nice enough – and didn’t bomb ir, and we all know how it ended.

        However, I agree with you in understanding why NK and Iran want to have nukes. Obviously, Gaddafi gave them up and is now dead (thanks to Clinton and Obama) so it makes sense for them to try to get WMD (even though for 20 years America tried to negotiate with North Korea and did not use force even when provoked – and they still hold Pueblo)… but it doesn’t mean that America should let it happen. So yes, look at the Iran deal, the one which will let Iran have its nukes in ten years (which is why they are so adamant about keeping that deal). It is quite possible that avoiding a war now will result in a much worse war later – just think of Munich and the WWII.

        Chile and Iran again… Did you even read my post? And I still don’t understand what Trump said wrong?

        • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 09/24/2017 - 04:13 pm.

          Foreign affairs

          yes. Not meddling in the internal or bilateral affairs of other countries when it suits “our” purposes. Announcing who’s naughty and who’s nice is part of our program to continue the “Great Game” in which we make up the rules as we go along. Your comment reminds me of how Saddam Hussein was “our friend” for many years, maybe especially when he conducted a brutal war against “our enemy”, Iran. Then he made the mistake of invading Kuwait, which was arguably a part of Iraq to begin with. What’s that to us? Oh, Kuwait is “our friend” so Saddam is no longer “our friend” but “that monster” “we” must go to war with. Funny how that conveniently lines up with neo-con plans to recarve up the Middle East. George H.W. Bush did the same thing to Manuel Noriega, the dictator of Panama, also “our friend” for many years until he outlived his usefulness. The US deposed and abducted Noriega when “we” invaded Panama to protect vaguely defined “US interests” there.

          What Trump said was wrong for its chauvinism and provocation. He’s using threatening language to a a leader who actually might have some reasons to feel threatened and is likely to redouble his efforts to deal with the perceived threat. All this will do is move the world closer to the brink of something horrifying and dangerous. I don’t care to live through another Cuban missile crisis especially knowing that Dr. Strangelove is in charge.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/24/2017 - 05:18 pm.

            “Not meddling in the internal or bilateral affairs of other countries when it suits “our” purposes.” So again, how would you classify bombing Yugoslavia and Libya? Or that was OK because it did not suit “our” needs? But I agree that international politics is dirty so it makes sense to set up priorities and find allies even if they are not perfect (I hope you agree that the Soviet Union, our main ally in the WWII, was far from being perfect – and then it stopped being our ally).

            “What Trump said was wrong for its chauvinism and provocation.” So would you be OK if Trump said that his first priority is Russia’s interests and America’s will come second… Or North Korea’s interests… Are you aware of any head of state in the world who would publicly say that their countries’ interests are not their priority? As for North Korea, the US has been avoiding “threatening language” for 50 years and somehow it moved “the world closer to the brink of something horrifying and dangerous.” Isn’t it smart to try something different?

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/25/2017 - 10:57 am.

              I’m not sure where “something different” is a better choice when the something different is making an already difficult situation even more tense.

              Every country in the world recognizes that the US could destroy them, if it wanted. South Korea is North Korea’s hostage, nuclear weapons are just another big gun for the hostage taker. It’s the only reason anyone feels a need to engage about North Korea.

              “Something different” is a causal cloak for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

              • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/25/2017 - 08:57 pm.

                Doing the same has been making the situation worse and worse for 50 years so I don’t see how doing the same again may seem reasonable. At least ”different” has a chance of achieving something positive… Plus remember, there is no more road to kick the can down – NK has nukes and missiles.

                Yes, South Korea is North Korea’s hostage but I believe that after all negotiations fail, police always move in or engage snipers… Do you want the entire world to be North Korea’s hostage? Do you want to risk many millions of people dead?

                • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/26/2017 - 07:23 pm.


                  I don’t get worse and worse: The armistice has held since 1953, that’s ~ 64 years, and what is worse now, was the out and out conflict/war better?

                  • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/27/2017 - 09:41 pm.

                    So you would not consider NK regime acquiring nuclear and chemical weapons and ICBM worsening of the situation? Would Hitler’s getting nukes had made things worse? And didn’t signing Munich agreement make things worse? So yes, a conventional war 10-20 years ago to take out NK would have been better than a possibility of a nuclear explosion over LA or SF…

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/23/2017 - 12:13 pm.

    The emphasis on the “craziness” of Kim misses the point.

    It’s not like he’s wearing shoes on his hands and using a refrigerator as a toilet. He responds to Trumps “Rocket Man” (what Fox info-tainment segment played Elton John as bumper music?) with a Shakespearean “dotard”.

    He is one of the last absolute hereditary monarchs in the world with the arbitrary powers of life and death over all of his subjects. But 300 years ago most of the world was ruled by people like him.

    He knows he is the dinosaur and that he is endangered.

    His strategy is to be as poisonous as possible to prevent his removal. But he needs to also keep his people in his court, or at least keep them as ignorant as possible about the alternatives.

    So should the strategy be to externally try to force his removal and brave the poison, or to work a strategy of removing the support of the population ? Is an Idi Amin style solution possible ?

  9. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 09/24/2017 - 10:40 am.

    Lots of people say the political divide is aweful; we have to come together, they say.

    Tall talk, but where to begin when one side expresses understanding, sympathy and support for North Korea, Iran and Cuba against American “aggression”?


    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/24/2017 - 06:29 pm.

      There’s a difference

      between expressing sympathy for the people of a country and expressing sympathy for tht country’s government. The United States is a good example.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 09/25/2017 - 01:43 pm.

        The best way to express sympathy for people living today under brutal, leftist totalitarian regimes is to do everything in our power to undermine those regimes.

        Expressing an understanding for the acquisition of WMD by their jailer isn’t helping the inmates of Norko. It’s an expression of hate towards America and freedom.

        That being said, I’m not one who believes there should be a ban on speech people find hateful. Coming from the right or the left, hate speech is equally repugnant, and equally protected.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/28/2017 - 11:32 am.

    Two things…

    First, North Korea IS a nuclear power, that’s a done deal and the train left the station… get used to it. They have the warheads, they have the missiles, and their not going to give them up, specially if WE have a president who threatens to rain fire and destruction down upon them. Obviously they don’t really give a rat’s ass whether or not we “like” them being a nuclear power, and frankly, it was always stupid and bizarre and typically “American” for anyone here to think that OUR preferences would or could determine THEIR policy to begin with.

    Second, “conservatives” in this country long ago converted into a “reactionary” movement that has no really coherent conservative principles. The preoccupation with capturing and exercising power is actually antithetical to historical concept of American conservatism in terms of ideology. The problem is American reactionaries thus far keep running into a political system that hasn’t granted them the power they desire, no matter how many elections they win, so things just keep getting weirder and weirder.

    So yeah, expecting that Trump will make any kind of ideologically coherent statement representing conservative values is like expecting your chihuahua to play a violin. Reactionaries have no other tool besides violence or threats of violence in their tool box and in this case, that provided an incentive rather than a disincentive for the North Korean weapons program. This didn’t just happen, for decades Republicans have operated on the assumption they could or eventually would “impose” restrictions on North Korea rather than negotiate anything. If anything we’ve seen in the last six months how completely incapable and inept Republicans are when it comes to negotiations of almost any kind.

    In the meantime Republicans and Trump supporters really don’t seem to understand the difference between a talk show host or a fox news personality and a president of the United States. So yeah, they “love” Trumps speeches but have no capacity whatsoever to recognize a fiasco exploding before their eyes.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/28/2017 - 09:30 pm.

      “for decades Republicans have operated on the assumption they could or eventually would “impose” restrictions on North Korea rather than negotiate anything.” Maybe or maybe not (all Republican presidents also negotiated) but Democrats have operated on the assumption that they can negotiate something – and it is clear that it’s always been a pipe dream… and that was an incentive for NK to keep demanding things and develop even more weapons since it knew that Democrats didn’t have anything else and for countries like NK it’s nothing (when did negotiations help solve an international conflict anyway?)

      “North Korea IS a nuclear power, that’s a done deal…” No it’s not – North Korea is not Russia or China…

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/29/2017 - 03:35 pm.

        Denial is a really bad basis for politics

        Denying the reality of North Korea’s nuclear status is no more realistic than was denying the reality of climate change. N. Korea HAS the warheads, and they HAVE the delivery vehicles. No one is gong to take them away from the N. Korean’s without triggering a nuclear exchange. Republican’s can go into their typical denial mode if they want, but it won’t change reality. N. Korea may not be Russia, and Panama may not be Sweden, but that doesn’t make nukes disappear in a magical puff of smoke.

        NPR’s Terry Gross had a really nice interview with journalist who recently visited N. Korea:

        The BBC has had several good reports:

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/30/2017 - 02:38 pm.

          I like your parallel between NK and climate change. So with climate change, which may bring real danger in a hundred years, you want to do something immediately but with NK, which, by your assertion, has now the power to destroy LA and SF, you don’t think anything should be done… How come?

          Now, the reason NK has nukes is because Democrats (and many Republicans) relied on negotiations which never really works. According to that NPR interview you referred me to North Koreans think that “the United States is weak and ultimately backs down” so ignoring US interests is a logical thing to do for them in this case and that’s what they did and that worked.

          That interview has another interesting point: Mr. Osnos, correctly, said that “in the strictest sense in kind of international relations terms, being rational means being able to recognize your national interest and promote it.” America did not act in its own interests when it bombed Yugoslavia (no American interests) and especially Libya (it was against American interests because it did show NK and Iran that even if you don’t threaten the US, it will bomb you for no reason) but it did not do anything in Syria to get rid of its enemy and weaken its other enemy.

          And finally, a scary thing. The underground in the USSR was also dubbing as a nuclear shelter but winning a nuclear war was not an official policy there. If it is in NK, we cannot rely on our old deterrent strategy and have to do what Trump is saying he would do… I am just afraid that it is all just words…

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/28/2017 - 09:29 pm.

    Does it really matter how Trump’s UN speech and his whole approach to international affairs is characterized if it brings some results Maybe China was so afraid that Trump bombs NK that they decided to prevent it… But do we care why they did what they never did before, not even close?

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