Asia must shield against Trump’s missiles

April 14, 2017 01:00 

By The Nation

A US strike against North Korea would damage the entire region and embroil the world in conflict

There are reasons aplenty to believe that the United States under President Donald Trump could trigger another global war. If he sees more horrifying photos or hears horrendous stories about further atrocities committed by any government or militant group anywhere in the world, he might be unable to control his emotional reaction or rein in the gut instinct to punish the perceived wrongdoers. He would certainly opt for the use of force, which in American culture represents strength and power, as was clear enough in the American mainstream media’s standing ovation for Trump’s strike against Syria a week ago.

Since Trump became president, America’s global role has turned upside down and spun around. If any other nation with the power to do so had lashed out at Syria as the US did, there would have been no end to the international recriminations. Trump, however, works a form of mercurial magic, so that it doesn’t matter what he’s done or said previously. His beliefs are malleable, and US policy has to bend with them.

Thailand, of course, can offer any other country lessons in this sort of flexibility. Thailand might be the most flexible nation of all, a ready partner for any government or cause, as needs dictate. America before Trump had no such flexibility, because its actions depended on esteemed principles.

But Trump has changed all that. Claiming to be teary-eyed at seeing images of the babies gassed in Syria and ready to wreak vengeance on their behalf, he will henceforth be widely portrayed as a leader with a heart, regardless of his anti-immigration policies targeting Muslims (including Syrians). Any contradictions perceived will be dismissed as

“alternative contradictions”. White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s defences of his president’s actions are befuddling, if not shameful, teeming with words like “incredible” and “wonderful”.

For Asia, the most dangerous aspect of the careening Trump doctrine is plain to see – the possible use of force against North Korea. We in this region cannot afford to feel complacent about the US raining Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airfield simply because it was so far away in the Middle East. If there were a similar attack against targets in North Korea, all of Asia would register the impact, beginning with South Korea and rippling southward. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is a very different leader than Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Assad might have felt nothing when he unleashed chemical weapons against his own people, but Kim has far worse armaments in hand if he decides, without feelings, to strike out against South Korea, Japan or US warships in the vicinity, and the death toll could be colossal.

This is no longer a remote risk. Having finally garnered media praise and boosted his popularity ratings by acting against Syria, Trump is primed to use force again. As every world leader knows, war is a handy way to divert public attention from domestic problems.

Thus, we are again perched on the edge of an abyss. Trump no doubt feels comfortable with a Tomahawk in his hand and was unscathed in its first use. When his predecessor, Barack Obama, initially threatened to hit Assad, citizen Trump criticised him for war-mongering. As presidential candidate, Trump maintained that there was no need for American involvement. As a troubled president, he found wisdom in it. The Americans who elected him, who had no admiration for Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, love macho leaders.

With China hopefully leading by example, it would be best for Asian nations to unite against the imposition of Trump’s newfound doctrine here, so that we remain the masters of our own destiny.

Original post


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