Good Friday Morning! America is abuzz this week over potential war (maybe nuclear) with North Korea this week. Popular sites like Lifehacker were going so far as to publish survival guides on nuclear fallout. North Korea is where I’ll start today; what is right in this situation, and what is overblown (most of it is overblown).
I’ll also cover the FBI raid into Paul Manafort house (the ex-Trump campaign chairman) and some thoughts on the story where Google fired an employee over what he said in a memo. My top links from the week follow; but first my latest from the Conservative Institute.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
First up this week is an article on NATO’s budget and why it’s important for all countries to pay their dues. It’s a straightforward column that shows how this is a bipartisan issue that the past two Presidents have tried to fix.
Have you ever heard of “de-risking?” I’m willing to bet not. How would you like to know that it’s a financial regulation that is causing banks to freeze accounts and money transfers for two-thirds of charities sending money abroad? It’s a serious problem that’s led to doctors in Syria to run out of supplies to treat innocent civilians. I go into why it’s time for Congress to push for deregulation in this area to help free up charity resources.
What to make of the North Korean situation?
The week has been full of back and forth verbal shots from Trump and North Korea. Trump caused large waves in the US media for his “Fire and Fury” comments. North Korea, in turn, has said they plan to bomb the waters near Guam, a US territory.
There’s a lot of noise, a lot of saber rattling, and few hints of what is going to happen – contrary to popular belief in the media. Most of the commentators drumming up fear or notions of war are being purposely overdramatic. While can confidently assert their opinions of what needs to happen – they bear none of the burdens of handling a rogue nuclear state.
The North Korean ‘Witching Hour.’
Back in April, I wrote that the United States was approaching the witching hour on North Korea. We have to deal with the North Korean situation not because Donald Trump is making loud statements, but because North Korea’s nuclear strike capabilities now represent a direct threat to the United States and her allies. Donald Trump just happens to be President at the time when the can can’t be kicked down the road any longer (contrary to popular belief among Obama era officials).
I haven’t deviated from my original analysis of the problem in April:
I believe, for better or worse, US policy is settling on a unified Korea as the solution for North Korea. The US has a direct interest in removing China’s rogue attack dog. And uniting Korea would end the humanitarian disaster that is the North Korean government. I could easily see the Trump administration adopting this as the unofficial strategy towards North Korea.
Ideally, Trump wants to use trade negotiations with China as a means to force change. If you can offer a trade deal sweet enough, it could encourage the Chinese to enforce sanctions or agree to a regime change in North Korea. Diplomacy and trade are the best scenarios. They avoid war and the use of nuclear weapons. Diplomacy, trade and other carrots are the most likely avenues for Trump to pursue first. I suspect these carrots are what he is using in our dialogues with the Chinese.
The worst case scenario is the US is forced into military action to prevent North Korea from using a nuclear weapon. If the US believes a nuclear attack is imminent, then it must do everything in its power to stop an attack. An atomic bomb dropped on any major city within striking distance would lead to devastating consequences. Millions would perish. The fallout would affect the entire earth.
And while I may have a theory on how Trump could use diplomacy, trade, and sanctions to stop the North Koreans, Trump does not have the luxury of making decisions based on opinions.
It’s worth remembering that last point as you watch the news: commentators get paid to take sides and bring out outlandish one-liners for publicity’s sake. Donald Trump does not have the luxury of acting like these cable pundits claim.
The two primary options for Trump: Some form of military action vs. Living with a nuclear North Korea
In July, I laid out military intervention and living with a nuclear North Korea as the two principal options. Obama era officials are jumping on cable shows to say everyone should just live with a nuclear Korea.
It’s understandable why someone would take the “just live with it” mantra. For one, it’s easier. And two, it’s far less harrowing than the military options, which I discussed in July:
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 two options everyone talks about are Preventative vs. Preemptive war. A Preventative war is one where the US decides that North Korea needs to be taken out and hits them first. A Preemptive war is one where North Korea poses a direct threat to the United States, it’s in the process of launching a nuclear missile, and the US strikes them to stop that attack.
A Preventative war starts America down a path it’s been avoiding since the end of the Korean War, where an estimated 1.2 million people died. Every President since Eisenhower has balked at the costs of another war in Korea.
We need a very wise and mature Trump administration – not brashness
David French has an article out on North Korea that I highly, highly recommend: “Into the Abyss: A Scenario for the Next Korean War.” He begins with a hypothetical which I think encapsulates the way most people should think about this situation (too long to quote here). And he ends with this paragraph:
Let’s be very clear: Every single move from this point forward represents a roll of the dice. Doing nothing could mean catastrophe. Doing something could mean catastrophe. No one who is on the outside, looking in, is privy to the intelligence necessary to know which gamble has the best odds. We don’t have the best information about the disposition of North Korean forces — for example, how many of their jets can fly, or how many of their tanks can move. We have no reliable information about the true state of mind or intentions in North Korean high command. We’re all guessing. Some guesses are more informed than others, some opinions are more intelligent than others, but our thoughts and ideas await the judgment of history.
There are real things we can do while deciding these questions: strengthen the defenses of our South Korean and Japanese allies, increasing troop and Navy presence in the region, and move resources into the area. We need to push pressure on the Chinese to enforce sanctions to choke off the money flow to the regime.
However, at this point, it’s a game of clock management. The US can take some measures to delay North Korea getting full nuclear strike capabilities, but avoiding a nuclear North Korea is no longer an option. We will have to come to terms on our solution for a nuclear North Korean state.
We need to learn from this time because we’ll have to walk through the same situation with Iran in 10 years. You can bet Iran is watching how we react – they’ll either follow North Korea and modify their plans based on how we respond. History and our enemies are observing.
The FBI Search Warrant Raid of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s House
The FBI conducted a raid on Paul Manafort’s private residence, following a search warrant, as part of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation:
Investigators for the special counsel leading the Russia inquiry executed a search warrant late last month at the Northern Virginia home of President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul J. Manafort, for tax documents and foreign banking records, according to a person familiar with the matter.
It was not clear why Mr. Mueller did not simply ask Mr. Manafort’s lawyers for the documents. Executing a search warrant is considered among the most aggressive steps used by authorities, who must first demonstrate they have probable cause to believe they will find evidence that a crime occurred. The searches also often become public.
Legal experts said that Mr. Mueller might be trying to send a message to Mr. Manafort about the severity of the investigation, and to pressure him into cooperating.
The warrant, demanding tax and foreign banking records, suggests that investigators are looking at criminal charges related to the federal Bank Secrecy Act, which requires Americans to report their foreign banking accounts.
It was already known that Mr. Manafort was under investigation for his business dealings with his son-in-law; his role in a meeting on June 9, 2016, between Trump campaign officials and Russians; and whether his work for the Ukrainian government violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The first major point I’d make is this: a search warrant like this one is only executed in a criminal investigation. And it’s more than likely that Mueller’s team conducted the raid to squeeze Manafort into cooperating more with the probe.
The Washington Examiner went back and reexamined some Trump tweets from the day of the raid and noticed that Trump lashed out at AG Jeff Sessions on the morning of the FBI raid. I don’t know what more to make of Trump’s rants, but there are some interesting connections there.
All the reports say that Mueller’s team is targeting Manafort’s finances, specifically as to how they relate to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. In a nutshell, they’re looking to see if Manafort was taking dirty money from the Russians for his work in supporting Putin puppet government officials in the Ukraine (recall this AP report, and others during the election, of how Manafort was on payout ledgers in the Ukraine).
It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Mueller and his team found that Manafort was taking bribe money from Kremlin connected groups to support Pro-Putin causes. Manafort was a known bad actor in 2016, which is why I and many other said Trump was wrong for hiring him (in the 8th issue of this newsletter I said Manafort was one of the top reasons Trump’s Russian scandal was a bigger deal than reported).
The million dollar question is this: Does Manafort connect Trump to any collusion? The answer there is probably “No.” Based on all the evidence we have now, there’s little to suggest Trump is guilty of any collusion with the Russian government. There’s plenty of evidence he’s surrounded himself with Kremlin-linked associates – but not collusion.
And if all that is true, there’s also plenty of proof to expand and continue Mueller’s investigation. It’s not a witch hunt, and I suspect we haven’t hit the full depths of the scandal yet.
I wrote that this investigation could lead to a failed impeachment attempt on Trump. I continue to see nothing that changes my mind on that prediction.
The Google Memo, Colin Kaepernick, and Politics in red and blue Communities
I’m currently working on a piece for the Conservative Institute on the engineer fired over his memo. If you haven’t read about the story, I recommend this article at the Federalist because they’re one of the only places I’ve seen post the full memo instead of paraphrases.
The question everyone is asking is: Should Google have fired him for his beliefs in that memo?
I’m going to sidestep that question and make the following observation: Personal politics typically don’t matter, unless you work in a business or community that doesn’t share your beliefs.
Case in point, if you were to switch the opinions of this Google Engineer and NFL QB Colin Kaepernick, neither of them would have made the news or any trending story on social media. Kaepernick works in a conservative organization, the NFL, that has military and police recognition ceremonies before every game. The Google Engineer works in the heart of Silicon Valley, and one of the most liberal places in America.
In large part, what is happening in America, and these workplaces, is that people are dividing themselves up into enclaves of similarly minded people. People move and stay in places where everyone thinks like them.
As communities cluster, hiring practices in companies shift. One of the points of the Google memo was that the corporation lacked political diversity – a likely true point. Kaepernick works in a league where the bulk of fans are conservative leaning (notice the glee in liberal leaning magazines over the potential demise of football). In both cases, when you create a ruckus that angers the core base, it’s simply easier to jettison you then change everyone else.
People want to retreat to a comfortable community of people who reassure them that their worldview is right. Having anyone who thinks differently in that community is not accepted in modern America.
Must read links of the week
Transgenderism Doesn’t Excuse Treason: For some on the left, revolutionary identity politics covers the worst of sins. – David French, National Review
Perle of Wisdom on North Korea – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
We’re Not Out Of Time On North Korea. Here Are Our Options – Tom Nichols, The Federalist
Why Democrats shouldn’t take too much joy in Trump’s falling polls – John Podhoretz, NYPost
White House ‘Enemies List’ Drove McMaster-Bannon Feud – Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsang, Kimberly Dozier, Spencer Ackerman, The Daily Beast
American Conservatism, 1945–2017: What it’s like to teach the intellectual history of the movement to students who aren’t old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s time in the spotlight – Matthew Continetti, National Review
A Bizarre Case at USC Shows How Broken Title IX Enforcement Is Right Now – Jesse Singal, NYMag
The US Army Just Ordered Soldiers to Stop Using Drones from China’s DJI – Ben Watson, Defense One
Satire piece of the week
MOBILE, AL—After receiving several complaints regarding the accuracy of the “All are welcome” message on the sign in front of the church, local pastor Rick Pinkerton finally tacked on an additional disclaimer listing multiple exceptions to Hartford Ave Baptist Church’s welcome policy.
The sign now reads, “All are welcome, except sinners, tobacco chewers, tattooed people, democrats, homosexuals, smokers, drinkers, dancers, etc,” and, continuing on the other side, “hippies, hipsters, vegans, secular TV watchers, and Methodists,” sources confirmed.
Thanks for reading!