The Lamps are Going Out in Asia

Joseph Dethomas in 38 North:

The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, August 3, 1914

ScreenHunter_2834 Sep. 26 19.26US President Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19 may well come to be viewed as “historic,” but not in a good way. This article will leave for others the impact of Donald Trump’s and Kim Jong Un’s reality TV show rhetoric. But the substance of Trump’s speech—including threats to both North Korea and the Iran deal—may have closed any remaining doors to a diplomatic resolution to this crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Moreover, Trump’s speech and the North Korean reaction seem to have set us on a path that could very well end in a major war in Asia. The escalating threats and the closing off of diplomatic options by both sides makes it now more likely than ever that President Trump will have to make good on his threat to “utterly destroy” a nation of 25 million people. The strategic consequences of carrying out this threat, even if successful, will be felt for the remainder of this century, largely to the detriment of the United States and the Western World.

Major wars are not created with a single action. They flow from a series of decisions that drive participants towards a sense that no other action but war can extricate them from their predicament. For example, many historians now credit Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany’s July 2, 1914 telegram to the Austrian government, which gave his ally a so-called blank check to do whatever it wished in the crisis with Serbia, as the fatal step that set the machinery inexorably in motion for the catastrophe of World War I. Trump shares one common and dangerous trait with the Kaiser: both were amateur militarists given to public bluster and adopting an ultra-nationalist bully-boy style of diplomacy, in part to cover up vast weaknesses in their own characters and their lack of understanding of their countries’ true strengths. But neither of these individuals intended to unleash catastrophe. Certainly, the Kaiser would never have sent his blank check if he had known it would result in the fall of his own dynasty, the disappearance of centuries-old empires, the death of millions, and the emergence of Nazism in his country. No doubt, Trump sees himself as a heroic figure standing up to a mad tyrant using rhetoric, economic pressure and, if necessary, military force to break him. He does not see because he does not understand the vast risks he is running for his own citizens, or millions of residents of East Asia.

More here. [Thanks to Dan Dennett.]