Yesterday I pointed out the shoddy thinking behind the notion that Trump’s airstrikes in Syria were an effective “message” to either Assad or other adversarial states. The airstrikes themselves were wildly ineffective. America’s options against the Syrian regime remain limited. A ground war would be stupid, air strikes alone accomplish very little, and there is no military solution to a brutal civil war with bad actors on all sides.
But it’s not just Syria for whom Trump is posturing. He is also fronting against North Korea, sending carriers into the waters off the coast of the country. He is even considering placing nuclear weapons in South Korea for some reason. To hear pundits tell it, Trump’s actions are supposed to show resolve that intimidates North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un into submission.
In reality, the North Korean regime isn’t impressed, because it knows Trump’s military threats are empty. China has no intention of reigning in their buffer against an open and democratic society in South Korea. North Korea’s deterrent threat of strikes against Seoul remain in place no matter what military action the United States might take.
There is a reason that the North Korea problem has plagued both Republican and Democratic administrations in an intractable way: it’s almost impossible to solve by military means or with military threats.
Lobbing sixty missiles at an empty tarmac in Syria and sending aircraft carriers to stare down the North Korean coastline aren’t acts of firm resolve. They’re just more Trumpism: act aggressively, threaten everyone, and see what comes of the chaos. The problem? Kim Jong-Un and Bashar Al-Assad thrive on chaos, and they’ve been doing it a lot longer than Trump.
There are words for Trump’s actions, but “presidential” isn’t one of them.