President Trump threatens North Korea with “fire and fury.” Is he taking the country to war? And what would that look like?
North Koreans gather for a rally at Kim Il Sung Square as a show of support for their rejection of the United Nations' latest round of sanctions on Wednesday Aug. 9, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Jon Chol Jin/AP)
We’re not used to a president of the United States talking like the leader of North Korea. This week, one did. Asked about advancing North Korean nuclear capacity and threats, the American president promised “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang makes the wrong move. That sounded like a hot threat of nuclear war. What would take us there? Who’s actually minding the store at the Pentagon? At the White House? This hour On Point: the threat of war, North Korea, and the Trump administration. -- Tom Ashbrook
Jon Wolfsthal, nuclear policy expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Former special assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director at the National Security Council in the Obama administration. (@JBWolfsthal)
Mark Hertling, retired lieutenant general of the U.S. Army, who conducted several exercises in South Korea, rehearsing rapid deployment in an armed conflict with North Korea. (@MarkHertling)
Keir Lieber, professor of security studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Brian Myers, analyst of North Korean ideology and propaganda. Professor at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea.
From Tom's Reading List
New York Times: Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’ Threat Raises Alarm in Asia — "President Trump’s threat to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea sent a shudder through Asia on Wednesday, raising alarm among allies and adversaries and, to some observers, making the possibility of military conflict over the North’s nuclear program seem more real. With North Korea responding that it would, if attacked, strike American military forces in Guam, analysts warned that the escalating statements increased the likelihood of war — perhaps one based on miscalculation, should one side’s fiery rhetoric be misread by the other."
BuzzFeed News: The Defense Secretary Says North Korea's Actions Could Lead To The... — "Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Wednesday followed President Trump's promise of 'fire and fury' against North Korea with strong language of his own, saying the isolated regime needs to 'cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.' Mattis is the latest administration official to talk tough against Kim Jong Un after it was reported Tuesday that intelligence officials had concluded the North had developed a miniature nuclear warhead that can be placed atop a long-range missile."
The Atlantic: The President vs. His Own Secretary of State — "It’s not the first time Tillerson has tried to serve as Trump’s interpreter. The secretary of state has massaged the president’s message on nearly every single foreign-policy challenge faced by Trump’s young administration. When Trump described NATO, the bedrock of Western security after World War II, as obsolete, and suggested that U.S. military support for its partners in alliance was conditional upon their military spending, Tillerson tried to assuage the concerns this raised among NATO partners—and reportedly received an ovation from them." http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/08/10/whats-next-for-the-u-s-and-n...
This program aired on August 10, 2017. Audio will be available soon.
John Dean, shown testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2006, served as White House counsel to former President Richard Nixon. Dean says he sees echoes of the Watergate scandal in the Trump administration and its handling of the Russia investigation.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
John Dean is very familiar with the Trump administration's declared war on leaks. Dean, who was President Richard Nixon's White House counsel, says Nixon's battle against leaks proved costly and led to the Watergate scandal.
While Dean has made comparisons between the current White House and the Nixon administration, he told NPR's David Greene that the leaks about President Trump appear to be more personal in nature. Leaks under Nixon pertained to potential strategic decisions in Vietnam, he said, but leaks about Trump have been "regarding his attitudes towards the national security community, which has not been a particularly healthy relationship."
"I think that there is some disagreement with the Trump presidency and Trump's qualifications to be president," added Dean, who has been critical of Trump.
How the Trump administration faces an uphill climb in fighting leaks, without firm law in place to target leakers
The [George W. Bush White House] assembled about a half a dozen statutes that kind of built the equivalent of what the United Kingdom has, [which] is an Official Secrets Act. We have never done that. We've considered it and assumed it would not bear up under scrutiny at the Supreme Court because of the First Amendment.
Why comparing current Russia investigations to Watergate is still valid, even if it's not quite "Watergate 2.0" (the White House has denied any wrongdoing)
There are comparisons because first of all, Watergate was about influencing an election, the '72 election. ... The echoes I hear are there is clearly a cover-up in the White House. If you did not want to have all this suspicion about what they're doing, you'd have everybody who was involved come into a room and say, "OK, I want sworn affidavits. I want to clean this up. I don't want to have this hanging over my administration, and I want it done yesterday."
Former White House Counsel To Nixon Doesn't Think Trump Has Had A Massacre Yet
Well, that's exactly the opposite of what they're doing. So this is very similar to — this is the pattern in Watergate. The firing of [FBI Director James] Comey to ask to him to stop the investigation of [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn was not unlike Nixon sending the CIA or the FBI to get them to cut off the investigation. There are echoes, and during Watergate, we wrote what you shouldn't do. We wrote the book on it. And Trump doesn't even seem to know what happened.
What kind of conversations seem to be happening at the White House about the Russia investigations
There has been a change in tone in the last few days. They're not quite as aggressive in trying to discredit the investigation. Maybe they've figured out that rather than trying to fight everything, to try to get the investigation over. ... I tried the same thing [with Watergate] to get it over, and it led to the cover-up of the cover-up, which went on for another year-plus.
Is The Trump White House More Exposed To Leaks Than Previous Administrations?
Nicole Hernandez adapted this interview for the Web.
Gorka's refugee parents escaped from Communist Hungary in 1956. Now, he's making the case for President Trump's ban on refugees and immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations.
"It may be shocking to some people out there to have a president who actually wishes to stand by his promises, and who, for a year, has been talking about making these kind of changes, and when he does that you're surprised," Gorka says. "Politicians keeping their promises may be unusual to you, but in this White House that's how we like to operate."
Bannon helped turn the conservative Breitbart into a platform for far-right ideas and white supremacists. At the outlet, he worked closely with Gorka, a former national security editor and a Fox News contributor.
Gorka says journalists have deliberately misrepresented Trump's intentions, and that on occasion it provides comic relief at the White House.
"I come in every day and with my colleagues we have a good old laugh because we open the newspapers, the ones that are supposed to be the leading authorities in America, and they write about issues where we were in the room the day before, and their reportage has absolutely no resemblance to what is actually happening inside the White House," he says.
Gorka says the White House is not in disarray and denies its officials are sending mixed signals on policies including Washington's stance on Ukraine and Russia. But contradictions are apparent.
Last week, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley condemned and called for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.
"Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine," Haley said.
But in mid-January, then President-elect Trump told The Times of London he'd offer to end sanctions imposed on Russia over the annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.
"They have sanctions on Russia — let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia," Trump was quoted as saying by The Times. "For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that's part of it. But Russia's hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit."
In an August interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President-elect Trump seemed unaware that Russian President Vladimir Putin had annexed Crimea.
"He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want," Trump said.
"I'm not interested in the chattering classes, in the social justice warriors," Gorka says. "If you're really going to ask really churlish and childish questions like that, then there really is no point to the interview."
Political pundits declare that Donald Trump has no political ideology. This is false. Trump's ideology can be traced back to Madison Grant's The Passing Of The Great Race, Or the Racial Basis Of European History first published in 1916. Of course Trump may be unaware of his link to Grant, one of Adolf Hitler's favorite American authors, to his "Make America Great Again" project.
Grant’s Introduction states his purposes: “the following pages are devoted to an attempt to elucidate the meaning of history in terms of race; that is, by the physical and psychical characters of the inhabitants of Europe instead of by their political grouping or by their spoken language…”
“The Passing of the Great Race,” in its original form, was destined by the author to rouse his fellow-Americans to the overwhelming importance of race and to the folly of the “Melting Pot” theory, even at the expense of bitter controversy. This purpose has been accomplished thoroughly, and, and one of the most far-reaching effects of the doctrines enunciated in this volume and in the discussions that followed its publication was the decision of the Congress of the United States to adopt discriminatory and restrictive measures against the immigration of undesirable races and peoples.
The resurgence of inferior races and classes throughout not merely Europe but the world, is evident in every dispatch form Egypt, Ireland, Poland, Rumania, India and Mexico. It is called nationalism patriotism, freedom and other high-sounding names, but it is everywhere the phenomenon of the long suppressed, conquered servile classes rising against the master race.
The danger is from within and not from without. Neither the black, nor the brown, nor the yellow, nor the red will conquer the white in battle. But if the valuable elements in the Nordic race mix with inferior strains or die out through race suicide, then the citadel of civilization will fall for mere lack of defenders.
One of the curious effects of democracy is the unquestionable fact that there is less freedom of the press than under autocratic forms of government. It is well-nigh impossible to publish in the American newspapers any reflection upon certain religions or races which are hysterically sensitive even when mentioned by name. The underlying idea seems to be that if publican can be suppressed the facts themselves will ultimately disappear.
The rapidly growing appreciation of the importance of race during the last few years, the study of the influence of race on nationality as shown by the after WWI disputes over boundaries, the increasing complexity of our own problems between the whites and blacks, between the Americans and Japs [sic], and between the native [Nordics/Aryan] Americans and the hyphenated aliens in our midst upon whom we have carelessly urged citizenship, and, above all, the recognition that leaders of labor and their more zealous followers are almost all foreigners, have served to arouse Americans to a realization of the menace of the impending Migration of Peoples through unrestrained freedom of entry here. The days of the Civil War and the provincial sentimentalism which governed or misgoverned our public opinion are past, and this generation must completely repudiate the proud boast of our fathers that they acknowledged no distinction in “race, creed, or color,” or else the native American must turn the page of history and write: “FINIS AMERICA!”