Smart Ideas: In Standoff with North Korea, U.S. Is Now the Unpredictable Actor

A man watches a TV screen showing a local news program reporting on North Korea's threats to strike Guam with ballistic missiles, at the Seoul Train Station on Thursday.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-Joon
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Aug. 10, 2017, 8 p.m.

A role reversal for U.S., North Korea

Alan Murray, writing for the Fortune CEO Daily

In the past, North Korea “thrived on its unpredictability, making bellicose statements and sending off missiles when no one is expecting it.” Not so in the current escalation, which sees the Hermit Kingdom “providing unusual detail about plans to launch four intermediate range missiles in mid-August that would fly over Japan and land in the water 30 to 40 kilometers from Guam.” As Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said, “they’re now telegraphing their punch, which means they don’t want to have any misunderstandings. I think it is a position of fear.” The unpredictable actor now is President Trump. “While he has surrounded himself with experienced generals, he consulted none of them before making his provocative ‘fire and fury’ comment.”

Don't tie immigration status to military service

Robin Boggs, writing for RealClearDefense

The ENLIST Act, which would offer a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants that join the military, would “politicize and endanger national security.” Claims it would “bolster military readiness” ring hollow, as the military already accepts only about one-fifth of applicants. “Just this year, the Army introduced rigorous new fitness tests to weed out marginal recruits who would struggle to meet the tough, physical demands of the job.” Additionally, “it would lower morale by attracting recruits who may not truly want to serve. How many illegal immigrants would enlist because they see it as a bulwark against possible deportation, not because they are passionate about defending America?” Part of the American military’s strength lies in its status as an all-volunteer force; providing a door to legal status for those who feel they have no other choice to avoid deportation could hurt morale and cause discipline issues.

Current tensions with Russia are not a new Cold War

Peter Savodnik, writing for Vanity Fair

Time and time again since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we’ve been told that the Cold War is flaring up again. That’s never been the case, and it’s not the case now. That’s “because the real Cold War was, at its essence, a clash of ideas.” The two sides’ massive militaries and alliances were “just the inevitable outgrowth of the underlying rivalry, and that rivalry revolved around persuading hundreds of millions of people of the rightness of a particular vision.” Now, “Russia is no longer a kleptocracy posing as a Communist utopia. It is simply a kleptocracy.”

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