April 21st, 2017, 6:44 am
Mattis v. Kim, Bad for us all
The complete article is an intriguing read, and useful for understanding the snip below. The analyst, yes a former Obama Administration member, sees the conflict between the US and North Korea in terms of their theories of victory, which are strikingly similar:
"America’s more assertive theory of victory is not, on its own, a recipe for war. And in contexts outside Asia, seeking deliberate friction might be useful. For example, in situations where adversaries doubt U.S. resolve, where military signals don’t risk being mistaken for war, and where adversaries lack the ability to meaningfully retaliate against U.S. interests, such an assertive stance could be productive. But none of that applies to North Korea. The acute danger of offensively oriented U.S. thinking about coercion is that North Korea thinks in largely the same way, and has a massive, diverse retaliatory capability at its disposal."
The conclusion he reaches is basically this, that Trump'S free hand to Mattis is destabilizing, because it plays into how the North Korean leadership sees itself in relation to the US, and to warfare in particular.
As a side note about the Obama Administration, just to head off the usual tribal reactions and reflexes:
"In fairness, the U.S. military’s faith in the ability to signal resolve through military assets predates the Trump administration. Some version of the deterrence formula above was occasionally espoused by military counterparts when I served in the Pentagon during the Obama administration. The difference is that the Obama administration was notoriously risk-averse, and the White House micromanaged the Department of Defense, allowing it very little discretion on policy matters."
Last edited by Reinaert; April 21st, 2017 at 6:47 am.
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April 21st, 2017, 7:33 am
Interesting read. My reaction is very simple - deprecating a display of strength is self serving to some interests. It serves, in general, left wing interests that want to somewhat defund the military. The antithesis, which is that obvious, great military strength prevents violence (through respect and fear of bad outcomes) is self serving to right wing interests in that it requires ongoing vigorous funding of the military even in times of general peace.
So who is right? The author of the article argues that the dynamic I quickly outlined above does not apply to North Korea for various reasons.
I believe the author to be wrong on several counts.
First, soft power failed miserably over the last 8 years. That may lead to a separate debate, but I hold that statement to be self evident.
Next, hard power wins wars - even cold ones. Soft power - like that shown in the last 8 years and also in the 30's - actually promotes instability. So spend the money and keep the hard power going.
Lastly, the argument that North Korea doesn't pay attention to hard power "sabre rattling" is speculative at the very least and completely unproven. The history of that conflict tells us otherwise - that the NKoreans and the Chicoms used ongoing 'negotiations' to draw out the conflict and try to 'tire out' the US forces (and the US people). So those two nations truly respected our hard power and resorted to other means during the actual conflict to try to win.
Essentially, I'm saying that history disagrees with the author.
P.S. I intensely dislike arguments that are based on the premise of treating a belligerent enemy with kid gloves because of what they "might do". Historically speaking, I don't believe that has EVER turned out well.
April 21st, 2017, 7:37 am
That's a very thoughtful answer. I have to hit the road for a few hours. I don't want to give you short shrift in my reply. More, after.
The difference between Breivik and Bannon? One "crusader" horded some guns and bombs for his private war. The other seized the government with the world's greatest military.
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April 21st, 2017, 5:32 pm
Still reading the article, and in general I wouldn't necessarily disagree with anything you wrote except equating "soft power" with "appeasement".
Originally Posted by Autoguy
I would call appeasement the extremely risk averse use of soft power.
- The unexamined life is not worth living.
- Wisdom is knowing how little we know.
- The arguments stay the same...only the sides making those arguments change.