For the millions, no billions of christians around the world today is a day to celebrate – Christ has risen – Rejoice! This happiness however must be tinged with just a little apprehension as this weekend is also the time when we all must look on and wonder – just who will blink first – the Donald or the Dear Leader? Or should that be the Donald or President Xi? At least two of those people in this menage a trois are at best unstable so the chances of a misstep can’t be discounted.
This crisis seems to have creeped on the world without few people being aware of it. Just 10 days ago everyone was still contemplating just how President Trump would handle the forthcoming meeting with the President of China and then everything changed – America lobbed a few missiles, by the standards of the United States arsenal they really were nothing to talk about, at Syria and before we know it the war in Korea is about to restart. A week in the Donald Trump world is like a whole year in any other.
There are many ways of reading what just happened. One way would be to see this as a great game played by the master Donald Trump. In this game he feints incompetence to lull the Chinese into a false sense of superiority as they have a face to face meeting with Mr Trump. Mr Trump then uses the excuse of a chemical weapons attack in Syria, controlled by his friend President Putin, to demonstrate just how really powerful America is and suddenly the pressure really is back on China. This is a badass President who you must treat seriously and give what he wants. Trump then pivots to North Korea, where America has legitimate security concerns and starts some serious sabre rattling in an effort to make China to do something they really don’t want to do – cripple the North Korean economy and thereby destroy the security threat, however theoretical, to the western seaboard of the continental USA. This would then be a great ‘win’ for the USA and President Trump and his poll ratings will rise. There is of course another interpretation of the whole thing and that is a President with no plan or understanding of what he really is getting himself into and seeing his Syrian actions getting a poll bump and thinking he can save his presidency by acting tough with North Korea . I haven’t got the first clue as to which is more likely to be true apart from the following:
- The power of the United States military is such that it can quite easily handle what North Korea can throw at it. It won’t be easy but they have been planning for such an eventuality and you have to assume that they know very well where the North Korean assets are placed and have plans to destroy them before they can really do any serious harm;
- The ruling elite in North Korea may well try and deploy their nuclear weapon in some form or another against South Korea. However, whether they are able to do or whether there is some form of a coup to prevent such an eventuality is anyone’s guess;
- There is no way of knowing just how capable the North Korean army really is – there certainly is an awful lot of them;
- It is unclear what China will do should the Korean war resume – although it is clear that they will not like the humiliation involved but beyond that they have far far too much to loose to let the whole thing go on for long. This is not the 1950s – China is now part of the world economy and it is vital for China to be able to trade with the world. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences beyond the Korean peninsular;
- How Russia would react to a resumption of the Korean war is unclear – however it will once more underline just how unimportant in the modern world Russia is. We now live in a China/US world and Russia will be just another spectator. I am sure that President Putin won’t like the world reminded of this;
- There are too many things that could go wrong for any one person to believe that they are in control of all the circumstances and it would be the height of hubris to think that they do.
I was thinking about all of this yesterday when I made the two pieces. It then struck me that that somewhere in my subconscious I must have been thinking about the shadows cast by the first nuclear bomb explosion all those years ago in Japan. I hope and pray that this Easter Sunday we are nowhere near seeing these things again. I don’t really think we are but I can’t be absolutely certain.