Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1341, (20 - 26 April 2017)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1341, (20 - 26 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Trump the unpredictable

First it was a strike against Syria, then the “Mother of all Bombs” in Afghanistan. Is it North Korea’s turn next

Trump the unpredictable
Trump the unpredictable

US President Donald Trump hits hard and helter-skelter. His unpredictability often leaves friend and foe alike confused and confounded.

The predication of the 45th US president to surprise is unnerving. He knows that engagement is also in Washington’s interests. There are good reasons to cheer the bombing of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, his strategy of hitting enemy targets across the world does not necessarily mean that North Korea is easy prey. Any aggression on North Korean nuclear facilities will leave Washington’s allies in Northeast Asia confused and confounded. It will also provoke China.

“If the US goes on with its reckless option of using military means then that would mean from that very day, an all out war,” North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC. “We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” he warned menacingly.

And Pyongyang is just as temperamental and unpredictable as Trump. “Our natures’ own predilections and antipathies alike strange. There are people from whom we secretly shrink, whom we would personally avoid,” wrote Charlotte Bronte. Trump and Pyongyang are both wayward and recalcitrant.

Yet, it is not quite the proverbial “Clash of the Titans”. Trump has the upper hand. Trump’s hit hard and run tactics have proven that he should not be judged on his campaign rhetoric. He is actually a man of action.

His proclivity is disconcerting. Trump was born in the Year of the Dog, the Fire Dog to be specific, according to the Chinese horoscope. The Chinese believe that those born under the animal sign of the Fire Dog are naturally charismatic and easily attract attention. And, Trump does attract attention. Indeed, he craves publicity and projects himself as a despot and an arrogant tyrant.

Ironically, the Chinese understand why Trump acts so recklessly. The Chinese animal zodiac astrology claims that when the “Snake”, “Horse” and “Goat” come together in a chart they form a strong influence for fire because these three are the creatures carrying the strongest fire elements. The three creatures are known for their bravado, capricious nature and hard headed temperance. And, the “Fire” element feeds the earth element, and Donald Trump is an Earth person. The Chinese, meanwhile, do not give two hoots what animal sign in the Chinese zodiac North Korean President Kim Jong-Un is.

Trump bombed the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Few Muslim nations, let alone the international community, gave a second glance.

Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is the deadliest weapon except for the nuclear bomb. The MOAB or GBU-43/B massive ordnance air blast is the US military’s most destructive conventional bomb. The only public figure who objected was Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai. “This was an inhuman act, a brutal act against an innocent country, against innocent people, against our land, against our sovereignty, against our soil and against our future,” Karzai said in the Afghan capital Kabul.

General John Nicholson, the US Afghanistan commander, suddenly decided to deploy this previously unused weapon of mass destructive power at this particular moment. The Afghan government was jubilant. The Afghan Defence Ministry said the bomb struck a village area in the Momand Valley where IS fighters were using a 300-metre-long network of caves. They also added that the 9,800 kilogram bomb also destroyed a large stash of IS weapons. Afghan Presidential Spokesman Shah Hussein Murtazawi told the BBC that IS commander Siddiq Yar was among those killed.

“What does the dark lord master Cyrus Beene want in return for this? You should never apologise for being you,” said David Rosen the author of Sex, Sin and Subversion. Rosen could easily have been referring to Trump, rather than Cyrus Beene.

The so-called “Mother of all Bombs” is a taste of things to come. Three months into his presidency, a pattern is emerging as far as Trump is concerned. Trump ignored the Afghanistan problem during the campaign, although he had previously called Bush’s intervention a “terrible mistake”. As with Syria and North Korea, he has no known policy for ending the conflict. “Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump said prior to Chinese President Xi’s US visit.

Will Kim Jong-Un defy intense international pressure and go ahead with the sixth nuclear test? What kind of strike would the US consider: A surgical strike at North Korea’s nuclear facilities, or a sort of decapitation strike to take out Kim Jong-Un, betting that a new North Korean leader would abandon nuclear tests? A South Korean businessman based in Cairo who spoke on condition of anonymity told Al-Ahram Weekly that, “29 April is D-Day.”

“As was also true under Barack Obama, Trump refuses to understand that as much as North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles rankle the Chinese, they are not going to try to force the North to disarm. Not that China lacks leverage to pressure Pyongyang. But the competing pressures are greater. First, Beijing is just as fearful as all the other parties about how North Korea might react if its back is to the wall. Second, Beijing doesn’t want to be seen as engaging in regime change. Third, helping destabilise North Korea may create an unmanageable refugee crisis. Fourth, North Korea is a strategic buffer for China, which cannot risk having it replaced someday by a US ally,” warned Mel Gurtov, editor-in-chief of Asian Perspective.

This week, North Korea conducted the sixth nuclear test on the 102nd anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung, the grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong-Un. The test was an abysmal failure. Tension in the Korean Peninsula has reached a feverish pitch, not seen in years if not since the end of the Korean War in 1952. But, Trump is not likely to pay any notice.

According to an editorial in semi-official Chinese daily Global Times, Pyongyang is unwilling to budge. “The US must bear the major responsibilities for the mess in Northeast Asia, as it has buried too much strategic distrust in the region. For North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambition voluntarily, it must be convinced the major powers can collectively guarantee its security. But Pyongyang now trusts nothing but nuclear weapons. Despite rounds of sanctions, as long as the regime can hang on, it is unlikely to surrender,” Global Times warned.

“Before Trump, each US administration generally followed the path of escalating sanctions and military threats over Pyongyang while strengthening security commitments to Seoul. Washington has never tried to seriously communicate with Pyongyang and urge it to abandon its nuclear programme by relieving Pyongyang’s security anxiety,” noted the daily.

“When the old strategy doesn’t work, Washington blames China for not cooperating with it. China in fact has imposed very stringent sanctions against North Korea. The accusations are used to defend Washington’s failed policy,” Global Times concluded.

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