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How Iran Would Battle the U.S. In a War (It Would Be Bloody)

June 30, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Kenneth Adelman, a former assistant to Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld and a prominent figure in the U.S. foreign policy
community, famously predicted in 2002 that a war to oust Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein would be a “cakewalk.” President Donald Trump
apparently learned nothing from Adelman’s hubris and rosy
optimism. Although he aborted a planned airstrike on Iran at the
last minute, Trump later warned Iranian leaders that the military
option was still very much on the table. He added that if the
United States used force against Iran, Washington would not put
boots on the ground but would wage the conflict entirely with
America’s vast air and naval power. There was no doubt in his
mind about the outcome. He asserted that such a war “
wouldn’t last very long,” and that
it would mean the “obliteration” of Iran.

But history is littered with examples of wars that political
leaders and the general public erroneously believed would be quick
and easy. When Abraham Lincoln opted to confront the secession of
the Southern states with force, his initial troop request was
merely for 90-day enlistments. People in Washington, DC,
were so confident that the Union army would crush the upstart
rebels at the impending battle of Manassas that hundreds drove out
in carriages to view the likely battlefield. They treated it like a
spectator event, in some cases complete with picnic baskets.
Four years later, more than 500,000 American soldiers were
dead.

Leaders and populations in the major European capitals in 1914
exuded optimism that the new war would be over in a matter of months—with their side
winning a glorious victory, of course. Once again, the situation
did not turn out as planned. The projected quick and relatively
bloodless conflict became a prolonged, horrific slaughter consuming
millions of young lives, toppling established political systems in
Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, and ushering in the plagues
of fascism and communism.

A common thread in the various blunders was the assumption that
the initial phase of a conflict would be utterly decisive. That was
Adelman’s error. Washington’s military encounter with
Saddam’s forces was fairly close to being a cakewalk. The
decrepit Iraqi army was no match for the U.S.-led invaders. When
Saddam fell from power, President George W. Bush flew to a U.S.
aircraft carrier that displayed a huge (later infamous)
“Mission Accomplished” banner.

However, the initial military victory proved to be just the
beginning of a giant headache for the United States. Within months,
an insurgency arose against the U.S. occupation force, and
political instability bordering on civil war plagued …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Case for Optimism After the Trump-Kim Handshake Summit

June 30, 2019 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

President Donald Trump secured another historic first in
U.S.-North Korea relations earlier today when he crossed into North
Korean territory at Panmunjom before a brief meeting with Kim
Jong-un. The impromptu meeting—planned in less than two days
after Trump tweeted about wanting to meet with Kim—ended with
an announcement that the two countries would restart
working level talks in a bid to break the diplomatic impasse that
has persisted since the failed Hanoi summit in late February.

Any “summit” arranged on such short notice is bound
to contain more symbolism than substance, and many U.S. experts are
rightly noting that today’s meeting has done little to move
the needle toward denuclearization. However, looking at the
handshake summit solely from the perspective of denuclearization
misses other important aspects that increase the meeting’s
significance when taken into account.

If real progress is to be
made, Washington must fundamentally transform its relationship with
Pyongyang.

The handshake summit did not produce any obvious progress
towards North Korea’s denuclearization, but it does have
major implications for improving the general state of U.S.-North
Korea relations. While U.S. observers have paid more attention to
the third item of the Singapore summit’s joint statement, which commits Kim to
denuclearization, the first bullet point was explicitly focused on
improving the relationship saying, “The United States and the
DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations.”

Kim and Trump’s meeting moves both countries closer to
this new relationship. North Korea and the United States were not
in a good place after Hanoi. Communication channels shut down, Kim
issued warnings in an April speech, rebuilt a satellite launching
pad and test fired a new short-range ballistic missile.
If the impasse had persisted and the two sides dug in their heels
it isn’t difficult to see how the two countries could return
to the high tensions that were characterized by the “fire and fury” rhetoric of 2017. Instead,
the leaders of North Korea and the United States held a summit on
incredibly short notice and said they would try to break the
logjam. Such a meeting was unthinkable just a short while ago.

Transforming the U.S.-North Korea relationship
is the best path forward both for denuclearization and general
stability. Denuclearization has always been a pie-in-the-sky policy
objective, but changing the relationship is the best means to
achieve that goal since it is the only way to address the
structural factors that pushed North Korea to acquire nuclear
weapons in the first place. Even if relationship transformation
fails to achieve denuclearization—a very likely
outcome—it could open the door to negotiating …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump Meets Kim at the DMZ: Useful Symbolism, but Little Substance Yet

June 30, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The sight of President Donald Trump at the Demilitarized Zone
(DMZ) shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and being
the first sitting U.S. president to cross over into North Korea was powerful
symbolism indeed. It suggested that the collapse of the Hanoi
summit may have been merely a temporary setback and the
rapprochement between the United States and the Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea (DPRK) was back on track. Whether or not that
assumption proves true depends very much on how realistic
Washington’s objectives are going forward.

Despite partisan sniping back home, Trump deserves credit for
making a serious effort to reduce the long-standing hostility
between Pyongyang and Washington. Nothing symbolizes that frozen
conflict more than the existence of the DMZ between North Korea and
U.S. ally South Korea. Despite its ironic name, the DMZ is the most
fortified border in the world. One should not dismiss the
importance of symbolism; the sight of the two leaders using the DMZ
as a cordial meeting place, and seeing an American leader enter the
DPRK (however briefly) sends a message that a more peaceful future
on the Peninsula is possible.

Trump continues to catch flak for his friendly relationship with
Kim and other foreign tyrants. Indeed, some critics allege that he
prefers them to democratic leaders. Although
Trump does sometimes go too far in expressing compliments to
autocrats in diplomatic settings, conciliatory rhetoric is
inherently a feature of successful diplomacy. The importance of the
personal relationship that the president is trying to develop with
Kim should not be underestimated, much less ridiculed. One
component of President Nixon’s rapprochement with China was his
conciliatory personal discussions with Mao Zedong and Zhou
Enlai.

Still, personal diplomacy and cordial summit atmospherics go
only so far in resolving difficult substantive differences. U.S.
leaders need to be far more realistic than they have been about
attainable objectives regarding North Korea. Concluding a peace
treaty with the DPRK formally ending the state of war on the
Peninsula certainly is achievable. Establishing formal diplomatic
relations between the two countries is entirely realistic and
appropriate. (Indeed, many experts believed that such an agreement
was going to emerge from the Hanoi summit.) Formalizing the current
informal arrangement in which North Korea refrains from conducting
nuclear and most missile tests in exchange for the United States
continuing to put its annual joint military exercises with South
Korea on hold is an achievable goal. Phased reductions in U.S.
economic sanctions in exchange for Pyongyang providing a
comprehensive accounting of its nuclear and missile inventories is
an attainable agreement.

Getting North Korea to give up its small nuclear arsenal and …read more

Source: OP-EDS