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Sticks and Stones
The Right Nightmare

The war of words between Trump and Kim Jong-un isn’t the nightmare that should keep you up at night.

Published on: August 9, 2017
Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.
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  • Dan Kearns

    The proportion of Professor Mead to Mr. Garfinkle really changes how much I want to read TAI. 🙁

    An intellectual who can see the big picture by understanding the contending views versus someone self-convinced who simply will not try to learn alternative views from the inside while still maintaining their disagreement with them? The latter I can find (and then ignore) anywhere in the legacy media. It was the former that was golden. Especially when the pace of change has dramatically increased.

    • ——————————

      I quit reading Garfinkle long ago. He’s a complete waste of time….

      • Gary Hemminger

        I don’t think he is a complete waste of time.

        • leoj

          When Garfinkle speaks on MENA politics and culture he is worth reading. His previous piece on our alliance system in the Gulf region was insightful, measured, to the point, sachlich. In contrast, this piece is silly on its face and superficial when you dive down a little deeper.

          The silly: the imagined reader is one who, fearing Kim Jong-un and PDT in equal measure, is encouraged to “try to relax” by Garfinkle, now apparently donning his therapist’s cap. It’s hard to say which is more silly, the absurd equivalence or Garfinkle’s soothing ministrations.

          The superficial: we are assured that Kim is reasonable on the basis of some opaque “expert” knowledge, and that there might actually be some unspecified benefit in our relation to China that we accrue by the Norks testing their nuclear weapons. The key passage reads as follows:
          “Yes, it’s true that a nuclear-armed North Korea complicates the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence in East Asia, and it complicates the triangular relationship between the United States, South Korea, and Japan. But it also complicates China’s life in ways potentially useful to us in the fullness of time, and the challenges it does create are not very hard to master. The danger here is that this Administration will not master those challenges because it doesn’t understand the larger picture.”
          This is a very mysterious passage, as it seems to be saying that it is actually to our benefit that a nuclear armed North Korea is to our benefit “in the fullness of time” and if one truly “understand[s] the larger picture.” Since much of the piece hangs on this assertion, which to my mind is not at all obvious, a less superficial treatment might take the trouble to explain it.

      • D4x

        I made the exception just now, to see if Garfinkle noted that North Korea has been actively supplying Iran with nuclear and missile technology. Nope. Fatal flaw, because it is not a secret, from Aug. 4, 2017:

        “Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea’s parliament, arrived Thursday for the weekend inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But given he is expected to stay 10 days, the trip is being seen as a front for Pyongyang to perhaps increase military cooperation with Tehran and to boost the hard currency for
        the dynastic regime led by Kim Jong Un.”

        Quick search “Iran North Korea Nuclear” has links to Council on Foreign Relations, The Diplomat, a wiki entry,

        Garfinkle really has his own Echo Chamber of Solitude to have missed so much evidence of the linkage between North Korea and Iran since 1979.

        • ARMSTROB

          A.I.’s tiresome attacks on Trump, I am not a supporter, is highlighted in your point on Korea’s help to Iran. How can they miss such a clear, well known point, that has been going on for so long. Where are the editors?

          • D4x

            Adam Garfinkle is the Editor, noted in the lower left hand corner, and:

            He did not ‘miss’ the linkage. He chose to express his point of view on POTUS Trump’s use of the English language, which may be Adam’s core animus to Trump. If Adam had solely focused on Trump v Kim, I still would have protested. But, to discuss NorK and Iran in the same opinion-piece, without noting the linkage, is deplorable, both journalistic and editorial malpractice.

            As the Editor, he should note that this is an opinion piece. My 40-year subscription to The New Yorker was first put in jeopardy when David Remnick used ‘Talk of the Town’ for his editorial rants against PM Netanyahu. Remnick should have had the judgment to create a separate page for his editorials, just like TNY had created a separate page for Surowiecki’s reports/analysis on business and financial markets, now called ‘The Financial Page’. Ironic, because, in Manhattan, the financial industry is often the ‘Talk of the Town’.

            I cancelled TNY on the opening day of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, when NBC, for some reason, allowed Remnick to start the broadcast with a rant against Putin, instead of broadcasting the full Opening Ceremony.

            I might have forgiven that bizarre use of a global platform if Remnick had mentioned it was the 150th anniversary of the Tsarist genocide of the Circassians, whose bones still lie in Sochi. To their credit, the Circassian descendants chose to moderate their protests, once their NoSochi campaign had failed, in order to not interfere with the Olympic spirit:


            In 1864, in exchange for boat passage from the shores of Sochi to asylum in the Ottoman Empire, the surviving Circassians sold their children into slavery: daughters to the harems, and sons to the army. The Tsar ordered the ‘cleansing’ of Circassia after losing Crimea in 1856.

            Once the punditocracy revisits coverage of the Syrian Civil War, I wonder if any will mention that Manbij, Syria was a settlement for some of the Circassian survivors of 1864. Most only notice the Kurds.

            This is one reason I wish the ”West’, and our Congress, would get over Putin re-taking Crimea in 2014. Enough blood has been shed over Crimea, and Russia will never let it go.

            Sorry for going off, but it is another example of how our media has deteriorated. Editors are happy to be the inmates in their own asylum, where opinion is news, analysis is propaganda, and they would not report the linkage if Iran delivered a missile to their in-box, labeled: “Death to America. Made in North Korea”

        • MyWord245

          For Kim Nam, Iran is probably a vacation spot 🙂 Links between Iran and NK are strong. But who is helping who and with what is a little bit unclear. Friend of mine (well respected in the business) believes that Iran is supplying NK with Russian equipment which is aiding NK accelerate its program. In return NK is supplying Iran with improved missile Technology.

          • D4x

            I would think Iran has a ‘Little Korea’ village, with a gated compound for ‘retirement villas’, so the Kims can get pork with their kimchi 🙂

            Good point that “Iran is supplying NK with Russian equipment”
            From my other comment 4 days ago: “Editors are happy to be the inmates in their own asylum, where opinion is news, analysis is propaganda, and they would not report the linkage if Iran delivered a missile to their in-box, labeled: “Death to America. Made in North Korea”. “

  • Gary Hemminger

    If North Korea getting nukes is nothing to lose sleep over, then why is Japan and South Korea getting nukes something that we should actively prevent? Because of an accident? Because this would set off an arms race across the region? Say what you will, if it is okay for North Korea to get nukes, then it is okay for Japan and South Korea to get them. There really isn’t a logical argument you can make against that except for the one Garfinkle made, which I don’t think was all that good.

  • FriendlyGoat

    We had this idea that the fewer the nations with nukes, the less the likelihood of anyone shooting them. But then, along came the prospect of Crazy Kim having nukes and certain Islamists having nukes. Wow, since they’re known nuts maybe given to ideology over sense, the new answer must be for more—-not fewer—— players to have nukes for deterrence or retaliation.

    This reminds me of how America got 300,000,000 or more guns. Once we thought fewer were better, at least in handguns. Then we decided everyone should have handguns and even that you might be sort of negligent or otherwise “funny” if you don’t. Thing is, on any day, a few gun people can overreact in their local situations without consequence to most of the rest of us. Nuke shooting? Uh, that’s probably different.


      By gun people I am thinking you are talking about registered guns, correct? When was the last time some registered guns, used by their owners, overreacted? In whatever a local situation is, aren’t they all local to those involved?

      • FriendlyGoat

        I didn’t bring this up to have the customary left/right political debate about handguns.
        I brought it up with respect to the likelihood that too many nations are going to have too many nukes——because of the same thinking which causes us to now have too many guns. That is, “Everybody’s getting them—-we’d better too”.

        As for “gun people” though, I’d be talking about all of them. Good, bad, legal, illegal, sane, insane, sober, drunk.

        • Stephen

          Given desire, nothing except time. Next question.

          • FriendlyGoat

            The next question is, “Why aren’t we talking about this instead of O.J. Simpson for 20 years?”

  • J C Miller

    Adam, a nuclear armed Northern’s Korea, though bad enough, is nonetheless a distant threat. Their ability to load one of these puppies atop an ICBM aimed at us is profoundly threatening. I guess you missed the one about the Sword of Damocles.

  • Stephen

    Please understand that the foregoing analysis should by no means be taken to imply that nuclear weapons proliferation is always a non-vital threat to U.S. interests. Whether it is or isn’t depends on the context. To see the point more clearly, let’s compare the threat posed to international security by North Korea to the one posed by Iran.

    Well, that’s comforting. Let’s hope that countries like Iran and North Korea understand this fine distinction…and that they keep Mr. Garfinkle in their Roldex to explain it to them. On the other hand, Iran might just see that having the patronage of powers like China or Russia and the willingness to erode American security “guarantees” is a way to raise their value, power, and perhaps ultimately their safety.

    However, it is good to read that Mr. Garfinkle, who frequently urges us to be, if not adults, then realistic about the ways of the world, acknowledges that non-proliferation is perhaps pining for the fjords.

  • Arkeygeezer

    It looks to me like China and possibly Russia are using North Korea as a stalking horse to see how far they can push the Trump administration. They did this in the early years of the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration and benefitted both times.

    Trump responds in kind and appears to be a crazy as Kim in his rhetoric. The Chicoms and Putin have not run into anything like this in the years they have been using the NORKs as a stalking horse. Interesting. I hope it works.

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