Friday, April 14, 2017

Walk Thoughts #30: what if Donald Trump hits NK while I'm on the trail?

It's not a likely occurrence, but everyone from the mainstream media to the alt-media is squawking and flapping about the possibility that Donald Trump might make good on a threat (more like a vague half-threat) to strike North Korea should the dictatorship decide to set off yet another nuke in its quest to become a nuclear-armed power.

So I started wondering: what would happen if Trump did indeed strike North Korea while I was on the trail? First, the obvious: with no one and nothing but my cell phone for company, I wouldn't know about the strike until I consulted my phone specifically with the purpose of seeing the day's news. As a result, it's very likely that I'd be among the last to know what was going on—unless I happened to meet some bikers on the trail who were squawking and flapping like the American media. With no way to turn around and head home quickly (unless I managed to find a place to catch a cab to a bus station, then a bus back to Seoul), I would most likely continue heading south along my quiet path.

Would war break out if Trump pulled the trigger? I think we can safely anticipate one thing: South Korean anti-American sentiment would be on the rise again. As for how the North would react to being bombed: I'd say war is possible, but I'm also in the camp of people who believe North Korea is, and has been for years, a rational actor in its geopolitics. Overdramatic people in the West keep shrieking "the Kims are crazy," yet the dynasty and the country persist as Kim after Kim, like an aikido master facing several opponents, deftly plays countries against each other. How is this possible if everyone up North is as crazy as some say? No: the leadership of North Korea is cruel and barbaric, but it knows what it's doing, and ultimately, the survival of the regime is the most important thing. If Trump flattens, say, the Pyeongyang Arc de Triomphe as a symbolic gesture to show he means business, the North will most likely appear to gear up for war, massing troops at the DMZ and possibly even firing some rockets across that border, but it won't come to full-scale war. Why? Because Kim is a rational actor who knows that, in an all-out war, his country will be decimated.

You'll note that Trump bombed a Syrian airfield with nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles. He then used a MOAB ("mother of all bombs") to destroy (we hope) a tunnel system purportedly used by ISIS in a mountain in Afghanistan. Kim Jeong-eun must see that, like a trail of kibbles to tempt a dog further inside the house, the trail of explosions is heading toward North Korea. America is mad as hell, and it's not gonna take it anymore.

Or so it would seem. I don't claim to understand what game Trump is playing, but I'd put my money on bluster, bravado, and at worst, a minor strike inside North Korea meant to cause tension and turmoil, and nothing more. For now, though, I'd rate the chances of an actual Trump strike as very, very low. (And who knows? If North Korea adopts a more belligerent posture as a result of being struck, this might inspire South Korean voters to stay away from misguided Sunshine Policy liberals when the public votes for a new president in May.)

Unlikely or not, a Trump strike is an interesting question to ponder.

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