Good Friday Morning! I hope you and your family had a happy Independence Day celebration! There’s only been one story to dominate the news this week: Trump’s neverending feud with CNN. I’ll cover some of that story in today’s issue. But the problem with the feud story is that overshadows the far more serious news: North Korea developed and fired an ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) capable of reaching the United States.
We’ve officially reached the point with North Korea where it is impossible to kick the can further down the road, or as George Friedman called it: the Witching Hour. We face a dilemma: Can the United States exist with a nuclear-armed North Korea that is capable of destroying the United States?
The answer to that question will drive all policy in Washington.
More on that in a moment.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
David Frum, the well-regarded semi-conservative Senior Editor for The Atlantic, wrote a column over the Fourth of July weekend called: “The Sunset of American Exceptionalism.” In it, he argues America is no longer an exceptional place. I took issue with it on Twitter and would counter Frum’s piece with one of my own at the Conservative Institute: “Why Putin Fears America.” I present the case for why America is exceptional and what makes it the best country on earth.
In a nutshell, I vehemently disagree with assertions that America is not a great nation. The only way you can assert otherwise is if you dabble in moral relativism and assume all countries are alike, as Trump and Frum claim. If you hold America to a standard of objective truth – you’ll find failings, but you’ll also find a firm foundation of good that makes us exceptional.
Here are my latest articles for the Conservative Institute.
New laws passed in Canada have effectively shut down all dissent from religious groups on what you can and cannot say, including the use of pronouns. The illusion of hate-speech harming everyone is being used to cleanse all speech and make it government approved. It’s a stunning roll-back of free speech protections happening just across the border.
I have several other articles that are on standby with the editing staff. Look for more pieces to show up in future newsletters – or keep an eye on the Conservative Institute website!
North Korea builds an ICBM – One step away from the ability to fire a nuclear warhead at the US
North Korea has developed and successfully fired an ICBM into the ocean. This event is a threshold moment for North Korea and the United States. All US policy towards the North Koreans will be new from this time forward.
North Korea was already a nuclear state, but up until now, they haven’t had a missile capable of denotating a nuke on America soil – an ICBM changes that reality. An ICBM missile is capable of flying long continent-spanning distances to deliver its payload which makes it a uniquely dangerous prospect for the United States.
Experts estimate that the North Koreans are no more than two years away from developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM. The US now has less than two years to solve how to handle a country that is a direct threat to it.
The major issue facing American national security: Can America exist in a world with a nuclear-armed North Korea that is capable of nuking America cities? The answer to that one question drives all policy in Washington D.C.
If you answer: “No, we cannot live with a nuclear North Korea.”
The next question is: how do you stop or contain the North Korean nuclear ambitions?
Figuring out how to launch a quick strike on North Korea is notoriously difficult. Our intelligence services don’t have a sharp eye in the country. And even if you hit the North Koreans, the fear is that they would retaliate by launching traditional military weapons at South Korea, Japan, or other US allies in the region.
The best quick strike scenario for the US is that we hit the North Korean’s nuclear weapons in a fashion resembling what Israel did to Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2009. In both cases, Israel destroyed the nuclear arms capabilities of both countries, and neither country retaliated because doing so would have meant the end of their regimes.
The worst case is that our strike fails to root out the nuclear arms and leaves South Korea defenseless. Millions would die in a North Korean counter-attack.
The problem is that no one believes a rational-dictatorship operates North Korea, like in Iraq or Syria. The wide-spread consensus is that the North Koreans are crazy and would see any US strike as the end of their regime and would open fire on all their enemies. That level of crazy is supposed to keep countries like America at bay.
The “crazy” North Korean position has resulted in 25 years of the US begging China to control their region and North Korea. A policy which has repeatedly failed. Each consecutive US administration has operated by kicking the can down the road. The biggest kicks of the can occurred with Clinton’s nuclear deal with the North Koreans and Obama’s “strategic patience.”
If you answer: “Yes, we can live with a nuclear North Korea.”
If you take this view, you’re ultimately arguing that although the Koreans pose a threat to the United States, they don’t pose an existential threat. As such, they don’t deserve the response that an existential threat, like the Nazi’s or USSR, deserves.
The argument for living with a nuclear North Korea is one of pursuing containment; as Max Boot lays out in Commentary Magazine:
Remember that North Korea is a dysfunctional state, one of the poorest on the planet. It has defied predictions of its early demise so far, but a state so bereft of any success beyond its nuclear program cannot last indefinitely. Sooner or later—whether it is a matter of months or, more likely, decades—it will collapse.
The U.S. should not panic in the meantime even if North Korea acquires the capability to nuke Washington. We have faced the threat of a nuclear strike from the Soviet Union since the 1940s and from China since the 1960s. We successfully deterred both regimes, even when they were led by blood-thirsty lunatics such as Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin. There is nothing to indicate that Kim Jong-un is suicidal or even expansionist; he is simply building nuclear weapons to ensure the survival of his regime.
Effectively, the bet here is to wait out the North Koreans and starve them to death through sanctions and special operations that destroy their black market. It’s the plan the US used successfully on the Soviets.
The key is, do you trust the North Koreans are rational enough to be starved out? If yes, this is a preferable option that avoids the likely use of nuclear weapons in a war.
The can kicking has ended – the US has to choose a new strategy
North Korea’s ICBM accelerates US defense planning: we have to answer our stance on these questions now, not later. North Korea is undoubtedly working on a missile that would be capable of reaching Washington D.C.
We need to make sure we learn our lessons well with North Korea because, in nine years, we’ll likely be dealing with the same situation in Iran. If the North Korean regime proves unwilling to cooperate with either a quick or slow destruction, you can bet the Iranians will take their cues from the North Koreans.
The Clinton nuclear deal with North Korea led to a nuclear rogue state – bent on creating weapons that destroy the US. Iran has similar ambitions and will likely be in the place as the Iran Deal timeline winds up.
The Trump administration doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring the North Korean threat. Trump will have to choose a policy that will constrict future America Presidents for decades to come.
The weight of that decision should be far more paramount for Trump than Twitter.
The Trump vs. CNN feud that deepens the divide in America
You’ve no doubt seen some of the feuds between Trump and CNN – it’s been plastered all over the news. The feud is a battering ram by the left and right to bash the other.
This issue isn’t hard when you accept that there aren’t mutually exclusive truths. In other words, there are areas where both sides are wrong and make this feud a huge mess:
- Trump was wrong to launch attacks on Morning Joe and continue a public feud with CNN. These types of attacks may be perfect for Trump personally, but it’s beneath the office of the President. He shouldn’t have tweeted the personal attacks or the gif meme at the center of the feud. The Office of the Presidency demands more.
- CNN is wrong for threatening the maker of the gif. It’s inexcusable and unethical for them to essentially blackmail/threaten a private citizen who made a negative gif meme against CNN. They didn’t attack this guy because he’s a racist and anti-semitic (and there’s no doubt he’s both of those things). They’ve covered dozens of racist social media and website users who Trump has tweeted or retweeted in some way – they never threatened those people, they’re only threatening this guy. That’s wrong.
- It’s wrong for pro-Trump groups to threaten CNN reporters personally for what has transpired. There’s no excuse for harming others over this level of conduct.
- It’s wrong for liberals to “protest” in retaliation to all the above by threatening to kill Republicans or start a “Jihad against Trump.”
All of these things are wrong and shouldn’t happen. These points aren’t mutually exclusive – meaning they don’t disprove the other side. They don’t make one side morally superior to the other.
We’ve entered incredibly dangerous territory as a nation. We are normalizing conduct that is not healthy for a functioning republic. We’re only weeks out from a political assassination attempt, and the political rhetoric is not dying down in the slightest – it’s ramping up with no end in sight.
We’re entering the territory, as a country, where people are becoming as divided as they were in the 1960’s and 1860’s. Those divisions aren’t going anywhere either. If things continue to ratchet down, that energy will have to find a release valve, especially since no is backing down, as Ben Shapiro notes:
[T]he Right deems Trump to be a virginal political victim, a neophyte undeserving of his critics’ vitriol. Even better, he’s held up as an unparalleled political genius, the voice of the people, the populist revolutionary in the guise of the prince of the city, a sort of Bruce Wayne who dons the cape of justice by night and tweets rage at the media by day, while the music from The Dark Knight thunders dramatically in the background. The halo effect from stopping The Joker — er, sorry, Hillary Clinton — never fades in the eyes of Trump supporters.
Meanwhile, the press overlooks its own participation in the corrupted political–entertainment complex in order to paint itself as thoroughly painstaking and objective in its work. Journalists see themselves — and the Left flatteringly sees them — as warriors for truth, exposing light in every dark nook and cranny of the Trump administration. They imagine themselves in battered hats and trench coats, walking around in the rain looking for evidence of dark deeds, the muckrakers uncovering the seedy side of Trumpanny Hall. The halo effect from opposing Trump never dies for the fourth estate.
Neither image is right; these people aren’t flawless heroes making the country better. The feud is unraveling the fabric of the nation thread by thread, pitting families and friends against each other.
It’s impossible for all the pent up rage to remain hidden forever. The pressure eventually becomes too much to contain. The question is what happens when that “release” happens, and what we can do to avoid it.
I don’t have any right answers on that front. But I can say this: The President of the United States gets held to a higher standard. Part of slowing down our problems stems from the President not holding himself to the ideals of the Office.
We need Trump to become Presidential, not more Trump-like. That may not stop a disastrous release of pent-up rage in this country, but it will help us pick up the pieces afterward.
Ideas have consequences, and sooner or later you have to foot the bill for the toxic ideas openly advertised in civilization.
Must read links from the past week
Best piece I read this week:
The Prophetic C.S. Lewis – Joseph Sobran, The Imaginative Conservative
Note: This is a short but great piece on how C.S. Lewis saw WWII and the post-WWII world develop. His perception largely foretold the world we have today.
Lewis was sometimes laughably ignorant of current events. His friends were once amused to discover that he was under the impression that Tito, the Communist dictator of Yugoslavia, was the king of Greece. But the very distance he kept from politics enabled him to see large outlines invisible to those preoccupied with the daily news.
During World War II, Lewis realized that both the Allies and the Axis were abandoning the traditional morality of the Christian West and indeed of all sane civilizations. The great principle of this morality is that certain acts are intrinsically right or wrong. In a gigantic war among gigantic states, Lewis saw that modern science was being used amorally on all sides to dehumanize and annihilate enemies. When peace came, the victorious states would feel released from moral restraints.
What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? – Frederick Douglass, The Nation
Natural Law Revealed – J. Budziszewski, First Things
Struggling with Cyber: A Critical Look at Waging War Online – Daniel Moore, War on the Rocks
Educated in Terror: Deprogramming the Children ISIS Taught to Kill – Sulome Anderson, NBC News
Stop Saying Republican Voters Are ‘Voting against Their Interests’ – David French, National Review Online
People will soon stop having sex to make babies – Ruth Brown, New York Post
Sex robots on way for elderly and lonely…but pleasure-bots have a dark side, warn experts – Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph
Is Sportswriting Dead? – Clay Travis, Outkick the Coverage
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON — Just one month after being forced from his post in the Trump White House, former National Security Adviser and self-professed lycanthrope Michael Flynn was fired again yesterday, this time from his job working at a local KFC.
While KFC refused to comment on the details of Flynn’s dismissal, calling it an internal matter, store employees say it was prompted after managers caught him trying to steal the secret ingredients to the company’s fried chicken, allegedly to sell to Russian intelligence officials.
Security camera footage seen by reporters show Flynn stuffing pieces of both original and extra-crispy chicken down his pants, along with several documents which he claimed would reveal “the real truth” behind Col. Sanders’ military career.
Thanks for reading!