I originally did this as a comment to BettyC’s post, but decided I wanted to elevate it to the front page, make a tweak or two, and add a couple of additional points.
The President’s remarks today are clearly a Stephen Miller authored speech. With the exception of the Rocket Man quip. It is Miller channeling all of his own naive, arrested development sense of entitlement, paranoia, pettiness, grievances, anger, rage, and woeful ignorance of foreign and national security policy and strategy, the global system and how it works, and any state and society other than the US. It is also Miller channeling the President’s naive sense of entitlement, paranoia, pettiness, grievances, anger, rage, and woeful ignorance of foreign and national security policy and strategy, the global system and how it works, and any state and society other than the US. The ego fluffing bits about how great things are in the US under the President are Miller making sure his boss’s ego is stroked.
This would have been bad enough and inappropriate at a campaign rally, it is even worse at the UN General Assembly. Threatening to abrogate the P5+1 agreement with Iran is only going to make dealing with the DPRK worse. What Kim really wants is an assurance that the US will 1) not remove him and 2) will negotiate with him in good faith over whatever it is that Kim wants other than reassurance he won’t be removed. The threat to abrogate the agreement with Iran makes that virtually impossible. Moreover, it makes it almost virtually impossible to negotiate anything with any other state or supranational entity as no one will now believe that the US will live up to its commitments under the current administration and president. The President holds a mistaken belief that every agreement the US has entered into that he has not negotiated are bad for the US; should never have been entered into; and as a result should be abrogated. This just happens to be every single one as he and his administration haven’t negotiated any agreements since taking office in January. It demonstrates how little he and Miller understand how any of this works. If I was the governors of Alaska, Louisiana, and Arkansas I would be very worried that their states are going to be handed back to Russia and France respectively. Governor Abbot should also begin learning how to ask President Nieto for things once we give Texas back to Mexico as well. As should Governor Ducey of Arizona and Governor Martinez of New Mexico.
Kori Schake, who has held appointments at the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Department of State, and is currently at the Hoover Institution at Stanford has written an excellent essay explaining just what total destruction means in light of the President’s remarks regarding the DPRK.
President Trump took the exact opposite course in his speech today. Moreover, before the entire world, he threatened the destruction of an entire country. Not only does that draw a red line that will be difficult to walk back from; it is also a much less credible and ethical threat than a pledge to more narrowly target the Kim regime. Waging war against people already enslaved by an authoritarian government punishes them unjustly—that would have been an easy point score in front of a UN audience.
While I highly recommend the whole essay, I want to focus on this portion. When campaign plans are developed there are a list of action words that the planners and those pulled into the operational planning teams (OPTs) use. Total destruction is not one of them. What the President is potentially calling for here is the complete reduction of the DPRK. Reduction of an enemy is a tactical term (Chapter 6, paragraph 18):
The reduction of an encircled enemy force continues without interruption, using the maximum concentration of forces and fires, until the encircled enemy force’s complete destruction or surrender.
There is no way to totally destroy (reduce) the DPRK as a state without destroying the DPRK as a society. This means destroying the North Koreans who make up the DPRK as both state and society. Total destruction doesn’t refer to a strategic strike to decapitate the leadership of the government and the military. Nor was it qualified as a strategic strike to solely and specifically reduce the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, as well as its offensive military capabilities that could be directed at its neighbors. It was a warning that the President of the United States has considered and is willing to authorize the DPRK’s “complete destruction or surrender”. Given that it is unlikely that Kim would surrender… And none of this seems to account for the damage and destruction to the Republic of Korea, Japan, Guam, and the tremendous loss of life that war on the Korean peninsula would engender.
This speech is a good example of the limits of the abilities of the reasonable advisors and staffers to constrain and contain the President, his worst impulses, and the worst impulses of his advisors such as Miller. I think it is highly likely that there was originally a draft speech prepared and vetted through the Interagency with inputs from Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson, LTG McMaster, Ambassador Haley, Gary Cohn, and others which was then handed to Stephen Miller by the President with instructions to MAGA it up. And MAGA it up he did. Eventually the bad reviews will filter up to the President’s attention, whether tonight when he’s back in the residence this evening on his own watching cable TV or tomorrow morning when he’s watching Morning Joe. At that point expect the usual tweetstorm.