Don’t Trust Trump’s North Korea Bluff, Bluster, and Brinksmanship

A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device. Wikimedia, U.S. Department of Defense, Public domain

by Thomas L. Knapp…….

US president Donald Trump put much of the world atwitter and ajitter Tuesday with his comment to the press: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Trump’s certainly proving himself  Kim Jong Un’s equal at foreign affairs smack talk.

Is he serious? I believe so. I expect some sort of major military confrontation — possibly even outright war — between the US and North Korea before August ends. Naturally I hope I’m wrong, but matters do seem to be coming to a head.

With that  in mind, it’s worth examining some of the US government’s claims about North Korea and how they stack up against reality.

First, let’s look at what Trump means when he refers to the current set of “threats” from North Korea: On August 7, the Washington Post reports, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho “told diplomats that his country will never negotiate away what he called a rational ‘strategic option’ against the threat of attack from the United States. … Ri said Pyongyang will use nuclear weapons only against the United States or any other country that might join it in military action against North Korea.”

In other words, North Korea is “threatening” to defend itself if attacked, and reserving the right to use nuclear weapons in its defense. Doesn’t sound like much of a “threat,” does it?

Next, the current round of mutual saber-rattling coincides with a convenient and likely Trump-approved leak. The Post cites unnamed officials and an alleged Defense Intelligence Agency assessment to the effect that North Korea “has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles” (the claim last month was that the North now has missiles which can reach the US mainland).

This set of claims doesn’t pass the smell test.

First of all, so far the North has only proven (with detonations) that it can make large, heavy, old-style fission atomic weapons, not bona fide nuclear weapons (hydrogen bombs). Miniaturization? That sounds a lot like “Saddam is stockpiling Weapons of Mass Destruction” (he wasn’t) or “Iran is six months from having nukes” (the latter claim having been renewed every six months from 1996 to 2015).

Secondly, while the North recently tested a rocket that it claims is an intercontinental ballistic missile, there’s reason to be skeptical of that claim and secondarily of the notion that they could reliably produce such rockets in quantity and expect them to work.

Finally, there’s the matter of mating those unlikely nukes to those unlikely rockets and getting them to detonate at the impact end of a fall from space. That’s rocket science of an order the North hasn’t previously displayed a flair for.

Claire Boothe Luce called Franklin Delano Roosevelt “the only American president who ever lied us into a war because he did not have the political courage to lead us into it.” If so, Trump seems bent on following in his illustrious predecessor’s footsteps.


Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

26 thoughts on “Don’t Trust Trump’s North Korea Bluff, Bluster, and Brinksmanship

  1. Lyndon Johnson did not “lie us into” the Vietnam War?

    George W. Bush did not “lie us into” the war with Iraq?

    His father did not “lie us into” the first war with Iraq?

    One day in the Unitarian Church in Key West, in 2005, in a “seekers group” that met once a week, a man who lived in Key West said he was in the CIA and was in Vietnam back when the French were trying to retake Vietnam, which they had lost to the Japanese during WW II. Publicly, America was backing France in its effort to retake Vietnam, but his outfit’s covert mission was to do all they could to help Ho Chi Minh beat France, because America wanted to replace France in Vietnam, which had a big rubber tree industry. Ho was not a communist, he wanted to do business with America, but it asked for too much. Not caring for China, Ho went to Russia for help.

    As I read history, the first President Bush’s Ambassador to Iraq, to somewhere over there, told Saddam Hussein that America had no problem with him taking part of Kuwait. Hussein had been an American ally against Iran. Hussein was an American asset. Imagine Hussein’s sentiments to realize he had been bait-and-switched. Imagine Islam’s sentiments about that, and to hear that President Bush say on national US television that he could not let the American way of life be threatened, he had to save Kuwait’s oil from Iraq.

    What weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

    What did G.W. Bush hope to achieve in Afghanistan that the much closer Soviet Union had not accomplished there? The British had gotten beat there before that.

    America already lost Iraq and Afghanistan wars and keeps trying to come back from the dead.

    Let’s leave Syria out of this, for now.

    Roosevelt knew the Japanese were headed to Pearl Harbor and let it happen to incite Americans to switch from staying out of WW II to getting into it.

    I seriously doubt American can sanely trust anything any American president says to justify America going to war. General Eisenhower summed it up when he was leaving the White House: Beware of the military-industrial complex.

    Trump, however, brings what looks to me like a different brand of lying to the war games room. Lying seems to be his basic nature. That’s what it looked like to me in during last year’s president race, and ever since. ( I felt the same about Hillary Clinton.)

    Trump also has “little hands syndrome”, evidenced by his addiction to playing mine’s bigger than yours, even with women, as if his very life depends on it.

    Weave that into the tapestry of facing a midget despot in a midget country that lost its own war to rule the entire Korean peninsular and had to be bailed out by China and has been pissed off at its own little hands ever since.

    Weave that into the tapestry of the most powerful country in this history of this planet having lost a string of wars in third-world countries.

    Weave that into the tapestry of most Americans, at heart, I wager, itching for America to finally win a war.

    Would not surprise me if Trump’s mind works this way: I beat the shit out of North Korea, reduce it to rubble, Americans will love me more than God; they won’t care about anything else it’s being said I did wrong; they might even demand I be made KING!

    Would not surprise me if many Americans want to do just that already.

    1. For now:

      1) France begged the USA to take over for them in Vietnam.

      2) Although Bush made one of the biggest blunders in history by invading Iraq, Saddam had repeatedly broken the cease fire agreement.

      3) EXACTLY what has President Trump lied about? And, keep in mind that he often speaks in generalities – not specific, exact numbers. He sees problem areas that need correcting – which in fact do need to be corrected, but even so some analyze his comments with a magnifying glass just to say GOTCHA!

      1. Well, he keeps citing North Korean “threats.”

        The North Korean regime’s “threat” is that if it is attacked it will defend itself, and that it intends to keep its nuclear deterrent available for just such a case.

        How does that differ in any way from the US position versus any and all possible adversaries, and how is it a “threat?”

        1. First off, incredibly the UN voted 16-0 (including Russia and China) in siding with the USA on this N. Korea issue. The EU also agreed to impose sanctions on N. Korea, so it’s not like we’re alone on this.

          N. Korea is not supposed to be testing missiles like they have and boasting of doing harm to the USA. They are directly threatening us and our cities with nuclear destruction, as well as putting our allies in harm’s way – for no reason except to keep the USA alive as a perceived enemy of N. Korea.

          1. Yes, the North Koreans are directly threatening the US with nuclear destruction. Just like the US has been directly threatening everyone else with nuclear destruction since 1945, after twice actually DOING it.

      2. The way the alleged ex-CIA guy told it in the Unitarian church that day, his outfit was actively and covertly helping Ho Chi Minh beat France in Vietnam, while outwardly, America was saying it was behind the French retaking Vietnam. But I already wrote that the first time.

        Trump is a loose cannon. He did not become that after he was elected. It was obvious during last year’s run up to the election. Who the hell knows what’s gonna happen with North Korea. Trump doesn’t know. Does North Korea even know?

        1. No, no one knows what will happen, but in 1999 then private citizen Donald Trump said something should be done to curtail N. Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

          Yes, President Trump is a loose cannon, and during the GOP debates I couldn’t stand the way he handled himself. His methods put him on the map, though, thanks in part to the debate formats and Cruz and Rubio – because those 3 dominated the debates so much that no one else could hardly get a word in – especially my guy, Two-term Ohio Governor John Kasich – the sensible choice, imo, who unfortunately did not resonate with voters as being too mild or polite, I guess. Regardless, Gov. Kasich was leading Hillary Clinton in “polls” by as much as 8-9 points while Trump was behind. But, I changed my mind about President Trump and believe he is the only man in America who has the guts to clean up past messes left behind.

          Coming back to Iraq and the Bushes, the reason Saddam gave for the Kuwait invasion was that he claimed Kuwait was actually a “stolen” part of Iraq, so he wanted it back.

          Bush’s Iraq invasion because of WMD’s was backed up in print by Mansoor Ijaz who claimed that insider information from dark and shadowy sources, was that there was WMD’s – but for some reason this information disappeared after only a day or so on the internet. I’m not saying I believe this, just sayin’.

          On Page 2 of ‘The Miami Herald’ some time after Bush’s Iraq invasion was over, a short article appeared that stated that Saddam wanted to leave Iraq for sanctuary before the hostilities began, but Arab League countries would not let him. Never heard another word about this anywhere. So, what does that mean? Possibly it was not necessarily that the USA used Israeli intel to be convinced of WMD’s, as some have suggested, but instead the Arabs wanted Saddam out. BTW, I saved the newspaper clipping of the Arab League article in case there is any doubt about my words.

          1. Do ya remember Bush later laughing about WMD in Iraq?


            i agree with you, kinda, about Trump. He’s taking America where it needed to go to get its bell run faster than anyone else could have done it.

            Looked to me that Trumpet and Hillary wuz the two worst possible candidates America could field in that whose the ugliest contest.

            If I wuz running China, given I’m living right next door to N. Korea, I would make N. Korea an offer it can’t refuse.

            But then, maybe if I wuz running China, I would be using N. Korea to do for me what I can’t let the public see I’m doing. After all, China did save N. Korea’s bacon in the Korean war.

            Who’s gonna save America’s bacon?

            Might be the only sane way for Americans to watch this super nova reality TV show play out is to view it as just that: a super nova reality TV show.

            America is the super nova. Korea is a midget side show distraction.

  2. “Yes, the North Koreans are directly threatening the US with nuclear destruction. Just like the US has been directly threatening everyone else with nuclear destruction since 1945, after twice actually DOING it.” – Thomas L. Knapp

    You know why the USA used nukes.The USA used nukes twice at the end of WW2 in an attempt to end the war and save an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 American and its allies’ lives in an invasion of Japan to end the war. You also know that in a futile and desperation effort Japan’s kamikazes had been sinking American Navy ships – and while doing so should have been aware that any chance of winning the war was over.

    This does not parallel the current situation with N. Korea in any way, and there is no controversy over whether Japan would have used nukes if they had them as without question they would have – as would Germany and Russia if they had them at that time.

    1. Japan had been trying to negotiate a surrender for two months at the time the atom bombs were dropped. The US dropped them in an attempt to cow the Russians.

        1. Yes, the US wanted unconditional surrender — and murdered 100-200k civilians in two of the largest terrorist attacks in history to get it.

          1. Back in 2004,as I recall, I read an article in a US national magazine, LIFE reincarnated, perhaps, in which a photo copy from an entry in President Harry Truman’s personal handwritten diary was centerpiece. Truman wrote that he did not drop the A-bombs to end the war; the Japanese were trying to surrender. He dropped the A-bombs to intimidate the Russians.

            I did some digging online and learned that the Russians were coming down from the north, intending to grab as much of Japan as they could. They did grab a little of the upper Japanese Islands, and still have them, I think.

  3. Semper Fi,

    Japanese code broken, FDR knew of the impending attack on Pear Harbor; he let it happen so USA could declare war on the Axis Powers and the American People would go along within his decision… Maybe… The Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy is considered to be a fringe theory and is rejected by most historians (Wikipedia).[11][12][13]

    Brother Thomas, you either surrender or you don’t. Particularly, after you’ve launched a “sneak attack” on the thousands of American servicemen, women, children and innocent civilians murdered during the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor.

    Now, after our country and other nations are forced to repel the Japanese aggression throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia, via many thousands of their Armed Forces being brutally killed and savagely murdered…And let’s not forget the War Crimes and Atrocities committed by the Japanese during the Bataan Death March and occupation of Manila… Now we the American People, are to wait for the Japanese to allegedly negotiate and present a conditional surrender… Really, Thomas…

    Prior to the Pear Harbor killings, Japanese envoy’s and ambassador were at the White House feigning innocence and peaceful intentions.

    The Japanese God, The Emperor, and their Military Industrial Complex manned by a fanatical upper echelon, were reluctant to surrender without an American Invasion of the Islands.

    President Truman had enough of the Slaughter. He was told that the “Bomb” needed to be tested before it was deployed. Japan refused to “surrender unconditionally”… A land assault was being planned to invade Japan, President Truman said: “Test it on Them”.

    Blessings & Respect

    1. “you either surrender or you don’t”

      History is full of conditional surrenders, from the surrender of Great Britain to the US in the Treaty of Paris (1783) to the surrender of the US to North Vietnam in the Paris Peace Accords (1973).

      “Prior to the Pear Harbor killings, Japanese envoy’s and ambassador were at the White House feigning innocence and peaceful intentions.”

      Nope. The Japanese ambassador was SUPPOSED to be at the White House right before the attack began in order to deliver Japan’s declaration of war, but didn’t get the message in time.

      1. Mr, Knapp, as we often hear, the truth is stranger than fiction, which (fiction) tends to be so much easier to swallow. My friend John Donnelly was s US Marine combat vet, serious bad shit combat, in Vietnam. A war still alleged in some American circles to have been fought for noble reasons. I personally don’t think that war was worth even one dead or wounded or PTSD American or Vietnamese soldier. Nor any American war since then. That doesn’t address the N. Korean situation, but it does give me pause to wonder what really is going on behind those scenes, which I don’t expect the people who actually know to put into the bright sunlight.

    2. as you know Mr. Donnelly, history is written by the victors. as such, i’m sure you are not aware of the extensive firebombing endured by the japanese in the waning months of the war. this bombing specifically targeted civilians and basically burned Japan to the ground. Far more people were killed and maimed by these bombings than occurred with “the bomb.” the point being, dropping that thing served no military purpose. Japan was defeated, they were terrified of the Russians, they were done. we had a toy, wanted to see what it could do, so it was dropped. just another war crime wrapped in our flag of victory.

  4. to treat this as anything more than the U.S. war machine ramping up for yet another terrorist incursion into another sovereign nation is a fools errand. my only quibble with Mr. Knapp is associating Trump as being in any kind of leadership or decision making role in this affair. the buffoon that is Trump is nothing more than a useful idiot, trotted out to take the brunt of whatever misadventures his masters agendas call for. that no one sees the parallels between this, and the run up to Iraq and Libya, and the for now forgotten Iran and Syria, is beyond me.

        1. Again: “but in 1999 then private citizen Donald Trump said something should be done to curtail N. Korea’s nuclear ambitions.”

          My above quote should be self explanatory in response to your August 13 post at !:35 PM.

          1. in 1999 private citizen Trump also said he was for universal health care. my point being, that whatever trump may have said then, now, or tomorrow, doesn’t matter. he does not decide. he does not have any power. take away the bombast, the buffoonery, the lies, and everything else, and what you have is a puppet at the end of a string being pulled and maneuvered in whatever direction the real deciders dictate. he does not set the agenda; he merely fronts it. what you see on tv and read in the mainstream press is all political theater and should not be taken seriously; it is all distraction. while they are scaring you about north korean nukes, trans people in the military, and now white nationalists, on the front pages and on your screens, they are quietly dismantling the american economy and installing a police state.

  5. Keysbum,

    I’ve missed your valued commentary and views. Through our many exchanges I’ve grown and become a better person. You’ve been a catalyst in my development. I’m indebted and grateful for your taking the time to offer me some insight and wisdom.
    However, I’m going to take you to task on an issue I find disturbing.

    Please bear with me…–“In late 1937, over a period of six weeks, Imperial Japanese Army forces brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of people–including both soldiers and civilians–in the Chinese city of Nanking (or Nanjing). The horrific events are known as the Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanking, as between 20,000 and 80,000 women were sexually assaulted. Nanking, then the capital of Nationalist China, was left in ruins, and it would take decades for the city and its citizens to recover from the savage attacks”.

    Wikipedia “Imperial Japanese Army murdered Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants who numbered an estimated 40,000 to over 300,000,[7][8] and perpetrated widespread rape and looting.[9][10]

    Personal accounts of Chinese survivors: “Imperial Japanese Army Soldiers took great pleasure in tossing thousands of Chinese infants into the air, disemboweling and skewing them as these children came down on the tips of their extended bayonets”… Documented By Primary Sources…

    Keysbum, why do you hate America so much? And rationalize away the horrific and barbaric atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese?

    During our earlier exchanges and after viewing one of your recommended videos; I came across an instructor on stage suggesting that the only relief to be had from the “world’s puppeteers”, was through attaining, or at least moving forward on the Path of Self-Realization… Did you ever watch the video you advised me to review?

    Having the privilege and opportunity to spend a week in LA at the Self-Realization Convocation, refreshes my memory and awareness of the consciousness you should have attained, or at least be striving for, as it relates to your alibi making for Japanese Cruelty, Barbarity and Inhumanity. At that time in their history, they seem to have perfected the gruesome “art of pain and suffering”, having become so very good at inflicted tortuous pain on infants, children, girls, boys and unarmed innocent civilians.

    Did you ever consider that the Japanese got precisely what they deserved? The mass karmic debt for that nation, stirred and bonded together through their blind Worship of the Emperor and his Machines of War; brought on the universal and inescapable consequences that they were dealt. Science, Cosmic Principles and Law; do not need permission or justification to proceed with “cause & effect”.

    You make excuses and take up for the Japanese and denounce your own Nation at every chance and opportunity you get…

    As you must or should know, particularly after recommending the aforementioned video, every human being who has not lifted their consciousness to a Self-Realized and Self-Actualized state of being; is capable of committing the most heinous acts of violence upon another…

    “War Is The Crime”…”War Is The Crime”…After it has been initiated, all else are extensions and vacillations of its “Insanity”…

    Violence as manifested in War; stems from the hate, anger, judgment and indoctrinated inhumanity broadcast in commentary, news articles and across the airwaves. It’s birthed and bred within the hearts and minds of “Ignorant Human Beings”. Living in the dark we continue to replicate our bewilderment, prejudices and biases in homes, schools, universities, culture and society at large. Even though there is a solution to all this nonsense, free and available to everyone, habit runs deep and critical mass for humanity has yet to be achieved.

    I am the USA. I am the NRA. I am Black Lives Matter. I am an Immigrant. I am a Soldier. I am a Police Officer. I am a Peace Maker. I am Dangerous. I am Compassionate. I Serve & Love all my Brothers & Sisters. I’ve Struck & Punched all my Brothers & Sisters. I’ve been beaten. I’ve been broken. I’ve ridden high on the top. I am a Yogi.

    Right here, right now; I’m a universal and limitless “Liberated Man”. I Am whom I choose to be.

    Join Me…
    Blessings & Respect

    1. Mr. Donnelly:

      Invoking an argument that essentially echo’s the doctrine of two wrongs make a right, is both a logical fallacy and a juvenile cognitive calculus not worthy of an introspective individual such as yourself. You may not be able to control the actions of others, but you are always able to control yourself.

      As for hating America; again, that is a comment, and a sentiment, saved for those to thrust out whose articulations are otherwise at the margin, or non-existent.

      I am a proud Los Angeleno, Southern Californian, and citizen of the United States. I have lived around the world, and I choose to live here, because it is my home and I love it. But I do not equate the a fore mentioned places with the government of these United States and their owners. I love the country, not the sociopaths running it. I hope you see the difference.

      Marching lockstep with the government, with any authority, is the behavior of a sycophant; it is the least noble endeavor, the least patriotic, and the most malleable character flaw one can possess.

      “I am who I choose to be.”

  6. Sloan,

    Always good to hear from you. Stay strong… A “change is gonna come”…

    As you alluded to, “the sunlight of the spirit” is not what these folks are all about. Locked in their ignorance, delusion and deception anything is possible. It’s difficult to understand how the N. Korea & USA could have devolved into a position where they are talking about lobbing atomic bombs at one another.

    One of your friends talks about Trump being a catalyst for cleaning the slate…Perhaps, the “slate cleaning” will involve starting over; with a fresh crop of souls, beings or spirits. N. Korea & USA just might be the triggering mechanism. Initiating the Creator’s Cyclic Dance, calling upon Shiva to make ready for the New…

    Blessings & Respect

  7. Keysbum,

    Thank you for the reply. Always appreciated. I’m in San Diego right now, as I make my way back to Key Largo.

    I believe you had drifted in your argument, denying that the USA had any legitimacy in bombing Japan. Perhaps, using the same tactic you accused me of employing, in your 2 wrongs don’t make a right proposition. I felt you were a little heavy handed in condemning our Homeland.

    Controlling ourselves against the “land of the rising sun”, which had perpetrated many atrocities and untold violence against many infants, children, women and unarmed innocent civilians throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia; entailed a well-planned and measured response to Japan’s aggression and criminal conduct.

    Concerning the dislike or hatred of our country; too many references have been in the past regarding some sentiments you held related to this matter. Attempting to micro-manage one’s contempt of the agencies, individuals and governing systems tending to the affairs of their nation, can spill over and paint a broad stroke of one’s abhorrence.

    As yourself, I’ve traveled and lived in many places around the world. I’ve come to realize that the “grass isn’t always greener on the other side”. I’m with you on loving my home and not being too fond of the politicians running it. I do see and understand the difference.

    Keysbum, I stand with you in your clarification. We’ve always been Brothers. Thanks again for your valued contributions.

    “We are who we choose to be”…

    Blessings & Respect, Always

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