Friday 22 September, 2017 Update: Brinkmanship With a Dangerous Twist


With President Trump essentially calling him out in front of the UN earlier this week, and the sanction noose tightening even more so, it was only a matter of time before the world heard from Kim Jong Un. In a recalcitrant personal statement released Thursday, Kim resorted to a creative blend of name calling. He referred to Trump as a ‘mentally deranged US dotard’ and claimed he was greatly insulted by the president’s speech to the UN General Assembly. Responding to Trump’s promise to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea should it launch a nuclear missile at the US, Kim vowed to take the ‘highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.’

Not long after Kim’s statement, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho delivered prepared remarks from his hotel in New York City. He hinted that North Korea might possibly conduct the ‘biggest ever hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific.’ It is not likely that the North has perfected a hydrogen device yet. Even if North Korea had a hydrogen weapon in its possession staging an atmospheric nuclear test is far beyond that nation’s current and future projected capabilities. The threat itself, though, remains significant as it marks an escalation in the current deadlock with the United States. By issuing a personal statement in his own name, Kim Jong Un transformed the crisis into an affair of honor between himself and President Trump.

He has now staked his reputation on confronting Trump and the United States, making Kim more unlikely to back down. Kim will probably now use the escalating rhetoric as reason to conduct more ballistic missile and nuclear tests. These will be seen by the US as proof of the continued progress of the North’s nuclear and missile programs. Further, additional tests at this point will portray Pyongyang as being indifferent to the economic and diplomatic penalties that have been placed on North Korea. That is where the true danger is right now. If sanctions and diplomatic pressure are not working effectively, it only brings the military option closer to being put in play.

This is brinkmanship combined with the cult of personality surrounding the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Nothing good can come of this. Right now, the chances of a peaceful resolution to the North Korean crisis are just below fifty percent and dropping.



The July Crisis: Moving Towards The Abyss



It is widely accepted that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the catalyst for the First World War. While this is unquestionably correct, the origins of the war are more difficult to trace. To the surprise of nearly everyone in Europe with the exception of a handful of generals and statesmen, an amalgamation of miscalculations, ineffectual diplomats, military doctrines, treaties and alliances came together and produced a war that, in many ways, shaped the twentieth century. Analyzing the events of July, 1914 in contemporary times, historians, and political scientists have an overabundance of factual material to base their conclusions on, as well as the benefit of hindsight. The thought processes of the diplomats, generals and monarchs, as well as the fateful decisions they made have been examined and scrutinized to no end. A general consensus is that the events in Sarajevo during June, 1914 did not have to lead to a major war. Looking back now, that is a simple deduction to make. In July, 1914, though, it would have been impossible.

Now, with the 100th anniversary of the July Crisis upon us, it is important to remind ourselves of how consequential a miscalculation or false impression can be in a time of heightened tensions. July 1914 is a classic example of Brinkmanship oscillating dangerously out of control. More than one party aided in pushing events to the edge of disaster for the purpose of obtaining the most advantageous outcome for their respective side. When the desired outcome did not come to fruition, they continued to push closer to the edge. By the time it was realized that there was no more room left to maneuver, it was too late to pull back.

The crisis that led to World War I did not strike as a bolt out of the blue. In 1914, Europe was a pressure cooker with a faulty release valve. Decades of tension, numerous crises, inferiority complexes and a host of other variables helped bring about a situation where war appeared to be the only logical choice remaining. It was not a question of if war was coming, but when. Think of Europe as a game board in the early summer of 1914. The pieces were in place. All that was required was for the game to begin. It did on June 28th in Sarajevo, yet none of the players were fully aware of it for another week. In some cases longer.

I know there is a lot happening in the world right now. Iraq, Ukraine, the South China Sea, and a half dozen other potential hot spots waiting to flare up at a moment’s notice. The world is a very dangerous place. In light of that, and with my genuine passion for the lead-up to World War I, I want to use Today’s DIRT to write about the July Crisis for a couple of weeks. I will present in the same informal manner that I have since this blog’s inception. I’ve tried, with success, to keep it informal and non-academic for nearly two years now. With a little luck, I can continue that. J

I hope you all enjoy the 4th of July, and if you’re down along the North Carolina coast, please stay safe.