This is “fire and fury” Mattis-style, with two key differences from Trump’s statement yesterday. One: Mattis is warning Kim to change his “actions.” Trump warned him to stop with his “threats,” an unrealistic red line that was immediately crossed. Two: Mattis explicitly offers Kim a way out of the standoff. Give up on nukes, rejoin the international order, and all of this can go away.
Not gonna work but it’s the statesmanlike way to go!
The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack. Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability. The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.
President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces. While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth. The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.
I don’t see the point of warning North Korea that war with the United States would end the Kim regime and a nuclear exchange would end the North Korean gene pool. There’s a reason they haven’t moved on South Korea in the past 64 years and it’s not because they’re content in their territory. Whatever state media is telling North Korea’s citizens about the inevitability of victory against the United States, the leadership surely knows better. The question is whether they’re willing now, or might conceivably be willing during the next famine, to commit national suicide for the glory of launching an all-out nuclear attack on the U.S. We’re not going to know that until we know, if you know what I mean.
Maybe the “destruction of its people” bit was added not for Kim’s benefit but for Trump’s. This statement is a clean-up job by Mattis in which he has to balance outreach to North Korea — give up nukes and we’ll talk — with toughness for the president, to show that he’s backing up his “fire and fury” threat. After all, you can’t take the commander-in-chief too literally when he’s playing nuclear poker with a Stalinist lunatic:
"Fire and fury" from yesterday was not carefully vetted language from Trump, per several ppl with knowledge. "Don't read too much into it."
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) August 9, 2017
Per the Times, White House aides were caught off-guard by “fire and fury”:
But in the North Korea debate, like a similar one over Afghanistan, Mr. Bannon has been arguing against what his side considers the excessively militant approach of the “war party” of General McMaster. While Mr. Bannon has his own channel to the president, he has been shut out of most formal discussions of North Korea by the national security team.
Neither camp advocated language like “fire and fury,” according to the people involved. Among those taken by surprise, they said, was John F. Kelly, the retired four-star Marine general who has just taken over as White House chief of staff and has been with the president at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for his working vacation.
It’s interesting how the rhetoric from the “war party” in the White House has been more measured than Trump’s was yesterday while the rhetoric from the Bannonites, exemplified by Sebastian Gorka below, has been more threatening. Each side is hedging against its political liabilities: The North Korea doves don’t want to risk looking weak while the North Korea hawks don’t want to seem hot for a cataclysmic war. Enjoy Gorka, described by one White House source to the Daily Beast as expressing the administration’s “id,” and Rex Tillerson, who’s more of a superego here. Tillerson and Mattis are treating yesterday as business as usual in North Korean relations in hopes of de-escalating. Gorka’s calling it a new Cuban missile crisis.
Tillerson in Guam: "The president was sending a strong message to North Korea, in language that Kim Jong Un would understand" pic.twitter.com/LYCZxgwjVJ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 9, 2017
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 9, 2017
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