Thursday, August 17, 2017

Solipcism, Strategery or Stupidity? : Steve Bannon on the North Korea Threat

Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on the North Korea Military Threat

After several weeks of increasing tension over the prospect of resumed hostilities between the United States and North Korea, Kim Jong Un's regime backed down when their erstwhile ally China indicated it would participate in the severe new UN sanctions which included coal.  Chinese pressure on Pyongyang was a triumph for President Donald Trump's puglistic posturing.  Nevertheless, Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, gave an unfiltered interview which undercut this foreign policy achievement.

Bannon's wide ranging interview with the liberal American Prospect magazine admitted that America did not have good military options if hostilities broke out with the DPRK, because of North Korea's array of conventional missiles pointed at Seoul, which is only 35 miles away from the Demilitarized Zone. This may be true but it is an admission against interest from a high ranking Trump Administration official.  

This policy position at odds with public statements coming from the Trump Administration. Such a statement could well be misconstrued by Kim Jong Un as a signal that the US might not back the "fire and fury" rhetoric and stoke further provocations from Pyongyang.  If Bannon's brief reflects the Trump White House perspective, it validates DPRK dominance with conventional missiles and encourages further ICBM and nuclear pursuits.

Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur
One of the factors which sparked the Korean War (1950-53) was that South Korea was easy pickings.  The United States withdrew most of its post World War II peacekeeping forces from the Korean peninsula in June 1949, leaving only a small advisory group.  Compounding this perception of weakness South of the 38th parallel occurred in March 1949 when US Pacific Commander General Douglas Mac Arthur's articulated the American defense perimeter in the Far East.  Mac Arthur's sphere of US interests in the Far East  did not include China nor Korea. This weltanschauung was echoed by Truman Secretary of State Dean Acheson during a National Press Club speech in January 1950.  These subtle signals on US intentions towards Korea gave the green light for the Soviet backed North Korean Communist regime of Kim Il-Sung to launch an invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950.

Current North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (the grandson of Kim Il-Sung) seemingly backed away from nuclear brinksmanship when the Trump Administration talked tough, had overwhelming conventional and strategic forced arrayed against the DPRK and it mustered together a convincing coalition, including China, against Pyongyang's provocations. Bannon's blurting out that the US did not have good military options because of the targeting of Seoul could well be seen as a green light for more aggressive actions by the DPRK.

One wonders why Steve Bannon would make this woeful quotation. Was it a solipicism, strategery or stupidity.  From a conventional military perspective, Bannon's analysis is correct. Hostilities with North Korea could result in catastrophic casualties in Seoul  That is why war would be a last resort.  No one needs a philosopher king's right hand to perceive that.

Why did Bannon give such a wide ranging interview with a liberal magazine like American Prospect?  There are rumblings that he thought things were "off-the-record".  Really? In a media environment which spends 92% of nightly news air time reporting anti-Trump news, will an insider interview be cast more sympathetically?  How did that work for "The Mooch", a.k.a. short time Trump Communication Chief Anthony Scaramucci. Before joining the Trump Train, Bannon took over Breitbart News and proudly made it into a polemic platform.  He should know better about today's media environment.

Maybe it was strategery (sic)?  Bannon has been quoted as saying that he did not expect to last more than eight months in the Trump White House. This interview might have been an attempt to make it a self fulfilling prophecy.  It is dubious that an anti-establishment populist like Bannon would intentionally sabotage himself just to be right, he may have seen writing on the wall, and this interview could allow him to leave on his own terms and advance his ideological cause.

What might be overlooked from Bannon's American Prospect interview was an attempt to undercut  the National Security Council Chair Gary Cohen's approach to work with the People's Republic of  China.  The North Korean's backed down after China stepped in and voiced a willingness to apply severe sanctions against the DPRK.  The Chinese might not be willing to remove a thorn from America's political side if there is a trade war.  

In 2013, Bannon revealed that he was a Leninist who wanted to destroy the political landscape which took down the political establishment and the press to reset it towards American economic nationalism  It seems Bannon's preferred method is a trade war rather than a shooting war with a proto-nuclear nation like North Korea.

h/t: American Prospect

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Crossing Ghostbusters and Dirty Harry on the 38th Parallel

Admiral James Stavridis analogizes North Korean Threat with Ghostbusters and Dirty Harry

During an interview with Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC, former Southern Command and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe former Admiral James Stavridis used a couple of pop cultural references to illustrate the conundrum vis-a-vis North Korea.

Admiral Stavridis likened the existential threats of the miniaturization of nuclear warheads and ICBMs which can reach the continental United States to the danger of crossing the streams in Ghostbusters (1983). 

To illustrate the advancing threat, Stavridis analogized the North Korea situation to the punch line from Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry (1971):  "Do you feel lucky punk?

Ex Sec. Def. William Perry on Nuclear Deterrence

Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry on Nuclear Deterrence

On Tough Talk Towards North Korea

Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Strong Rhetoric towards North Korea

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trump Warns North Korea that Further Bellicose Bluster Will Be Met with Fury and Fire

President Donald Trump warns North Korea that more threats will be met with fire and fury

North Korea prides itself on being the shrimp which rules the whale through Juche (political independence) and bellicose bluster backed by a large standing army along with an aggressive nuclear program.

Juche is somewhat illusory as Pyongyang is dependent on trade with China and uses its weapons programs (both nuclear and missile programs) as a means to threaten and profit. Despite there just being an armistice which ended the Korean War in 1953, there has been a trend since the 1994 Clinton-Kim "Agreed Framework" of non-nuclear proliferation to diplomatically buy peace with Pyongyang,  all the while while the Kim regimes continued nuclear testing, ballistic missile tests and close contacts with Iran, Syria and potentially non-state terror groups.

After President Trump's United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley achieved an unanimous 15-0 Security Council vote (including the Russian Federation and the Peoples' Republic of China) for sweeping e economic sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea warned that there would be a thousand fold revenge upon the United States. Moreover, there have been reports in the West that North Korea has advanced in miniaturizing nuclear warheads that could hit the continental United States.

In this explosive environment, President Donald Trump warned: "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." 

Some might consider this returning bluster for bluster.  But the United States has three aircraft carriers in the region.  Moreover, Spirit B-2 aircraft (which can carry nuclear bombs) have overflown the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, considering how many former Marines are in key positions in the Trump Administration (Sec Def Gen. James Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chair Joe Dunford, NSC Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster and  Chief of Staff John Kelly) and the deference which President Trump gives to the military, there is little doubt that he will act if they determine that North Korea is an existential threat to the United States.  

Ambassador John Bolton on North Korean Diplomacy

Ambassador John Bolton on North Korea Diplomacy

Senator Joe Manchin on Politics

Senator Joe Manchin on Politics

Monday, July 31, 2017

Lord Varys on Power

Game of Thrones Master of Whispers Lord Varys on Power

Pardon the Interruption

31 July 2017

After five and a half years of daily posting on various platforms, blogging began to feel like burden rather than a labor of love. I was feeling drained both physically and inspirationally. Hence, I took a break. One could rationalize that little typically happens in the District of Calamity during the summer. 

Well, these are not ordinary times and there is plenty of important things to share pearls of wisdom. Figuratively, my batteries are recharged from the respite.  And fortunately, I am once again hearing the sweet songs from the Muse of Inspiration.

When I started blogging, I operated under the premise that those engaged in ideas would look to worthy websites as home pages to start their daily reading, much as people started their days with the morning newspaper and possibly engage with other readers in a chautauqua.  Little did I realize that social media platforms would serve as the herald of the headlines as well as a medium for sharing and snarking.   

Alas, many busy people rarely get beyond the headlines, so persistently penning prolonged in-depth pieces  Thus, my instinct for developing pearls of wisdom using narrative graphics with tersely cogent quotations in a timely manner can influence and augment the body politic. It is gratifying to know that one is making even a small contribution to civil civic and societal discourse.

Even though quotidian quotations may not be sine qua non for attracting eyeballs, I have discerned that these daily dishes are personally engaging and stoke the fire between extended articles. While I am dubious if regular readers were “jonesing” for their daily fix from the District of Calamity, I beg your pardon for the interruption. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

On Comey Leaks

President Donald Trump on Comey Leaks

Robert De Niro on Graduating

Robert De Niro on Graduating

Actor Robert De Niro was the 2017 featured commencement speaker at his alma mater Brown University.  He gave a incongruous address was memorable as it seemed so contrary to the hallowed halls of education on the East Coast. 

De Niro's pearl of wisdom comparing Trump's America as a "crazy dumb assed comedy" is the cherry on the cake for  what one gets now a days for a pricey Ivy League education.

De Niro was scathing about "crazy dumb assed comedies" but that seems to be the genre which he lands most of his roles lately.  At least his attire at the commencement ceremony was not as egregious as the schtick in "Dirty Grandpa" (2016).

Groucho Marx on Understanding

Groucho Marx on Understanding

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Honoring Valor, Fidelity and Sacrifice at National D-Day Memorial

Ike Dwight Eisenhower on D-Day

The National D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia.  This site in in the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural southwest Virginia was chosen because it was the community the suffered the most per capita D-Day losses in the nation.

 There were 150,000 Allied troops that landed on the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy, including 34 troops from Bedford.  Of the 9,000 killed and wounded during the D-Day invasion, 19 of the Boys of Bedford paid the ultimate price to preserve freedom and four more died later during the Normandy campaign.

The National D-Day Memorial was dedicated on June 6th, 2001 by President George W. Bush. America's 43rd Commander-in-Chief implored:

 "Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken.  And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world." 

The National D-Day Memorial honors by name all 4,413 Allied soldiers who died on D-Day during Operation Overlord (the actual invasion) and Operation Neptune (transporting the troops across the English channel). But the 88 acre National D-Day Memorial does much more serve as a site for necrology. The Memorial seeks to tell the story of D-Day , from its planning, execution and aftermath. 

The first Plaza is a stylized English garden  symbolizes the planning and preparations for the greatest amphibious invasion in history.  The Reynolds Garden is dedicated to the visionary industrialist who forsaw America's need for aluminum. In the late 1930s, Richard Reynolds put his fortune and reputation on the line to provide enough aluminum for the United States to build and sustain the air force that gave the Allies overwhelming air superiority for the retaking of Europe on D-Day. 

The plaza is in the shape of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force combat patch. Following British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's sense of history and drama, the invasion code name was Overlord, evoking crusader knights and chivalric quests, the SHAEF insignia features a crusader shield with a flaming sword of expulsion. 

The Reynolds Garden is peaked by a  domed Tuscan folly with a full figured bronze of General Dwight Eisenhower standing below a canopied mosaic of the D-Day battle map. This classical revival feature recalls the architecture of Southwick House, where Ike decided to launch the invasion despite less than ideal weather. 

The the parameter of the plaza also includes busts of the six Allied Generals who were involved with D-Day invasion: Air Chief Marshal Tedder, Air Chief Marshal, Leigh-Mallory, Admiral Ramsey, Field Marshall Montgomery, Lt. General Omar Bradley,  and Lt. General Walter Smith.

Circle of Generals involved in Allied D-Day Invasion, Reynolds Garden, National D-Day Memorial [photo: BD Matt]

The next level is Gray Plaza is an assault tableau which depicts the landing and fighting stage of the invasion.  Across the Beach (includes an invasion pool with beach obstacles in the water, a Higgins invasion craft and sculptures of soldiers struggling to get onshore. The names of the American fallen appear on the western walls of the central plaza while the rest of the Allied losses are on the eastern wall. 

Soldier under fire detail of Across the Beach (2008) by Jim Brothers at National D-Day Memorial [photo credit: BD Matt]

Across the Beach tableau (2008) by Jim Brothers, National D-Day Memorial [photo credit: BD Matt]

Across the Beach tableau (2008) by Jim Brothers, National D-Day Memorial, Bedford Virginia [photo credit: BD Matt]

POV from Higgins boat, Across the Beach (2008) tableau by Jim Brothers, National D-Day Memorial 

Scaling the Wall , National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia
[photo credit: BD Matt]

Detail, Scaling the Wall (2001) by Jim Brothers, National D-Day Memorial, Bedford Virginia [photo credit: BD Matt]
There are also airplanes which represent the importance that air power had in the Allied invasion.

Representation of Aircraft used on June 6th 1944, National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia

Propellers from D-Day era aircraft, National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia [photo credit: BD Matt]

The upper level is the Estes Plaza which is dominated by Overlord Arch which is flanked by the twelve flags of the Allied Expeditionary Force.  The Arch stands 44 feet and six inches tall. 

Honor Guard practicing before D-Day ceremonies, National D-Day Memorial

Valor, Fidelity Sacrifice Bronze by Jim Brothers (2001) and Overlord Victory Arch at D-Day Memorial,
Bedford, Virginia [photo credit: BD Matt]

Valor, Fidelity Sacrifice Bronze by Jim Brothers (2001), National D-Day Memorial,
Bedford, Virginia [photo credit: BD Matt]

The planners of the National D-Day Memorial had not forgotten the horrors of war along with the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied troops.  The final section of the National D-Day Memorial includes a haunting bronze of Edmond de Laheudri's Le Monument aux Morts (1921), which stood monument to those fallen in combat in the Great War (a.k.a. World War I) besides St. Aignan in Trevieres, France. Shortly after the Allied D-Day invasion, there was an intense battle around the statue during which removed the face and some of the fingers of the dough-boy Nike. 

Recast bronze of Le Monument aux Morts (1921) by Edmond de  Laheudri,
National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia [Photo credit: BD Matt]

Transformed by battle, Le Monument aux Morts stands in Trevieres and at the National D-Day memorial as a haunting testament to the destructiveness of war, the fleeting fruits of victory and the fragility of peace. 

Brronze of Le Monument aux Morts (1921) by Edmond de  Laheudri, 
National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia [Photo credit: BD Matt]

Inverted M1 Garland Rifle bronze by Matt Kirby (2001) at National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia

The National D-Day Memorial's attempt to tell a broader story about the Second World War caused some controversy.  As the Reynolds Garden is circled by the military leaders of D-Day, the planners wanted to include a garden which depicted political leaders after D-Day who ensured the peace after World War II. The circle included President Franklin Roosevelt (who died shortly before V-E Day), British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who was ousted from office shortly after victory over Germany), President Harry Truman, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, French leader Charles De Gaulle and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. 

The latter bust went over like a lead zepplin with veterans' groups  as Stalin had no involvement with the Allies in the Western front and arguably triggered the Cold War with forceful imposition of communism in most places where the Red Army occupied.  While the National D-Day Memorial board still believed that war makes strange bedfellows and wanted to depict that within the site, they bowed to public pressure and relocated the Stalin bust.  Perhaps when the interpretation center is completed with a monument to post World War II Secretary of State George Marshall, there will be a fuller picture of the interpreted history.  For now, Stalin is not in "The Winner's Circle".  However, based upon the horrors depicted in the transformed Le Monument aux Morts, it is questionable if anyone is truly a winner in the aftermath of war.

h/t: National D-Day Memorial

[This piece originally was published at DCBarroco.US]