Colson: Is Syria a warm-up for nuking North Korea? |

Colson: Is Syria a warm-up for nuking North Korea?

John Colson
Hit & Run

Wait for it, wait for it, wait …

And now we know.

We can all see, that is, how President Donald Trump behaves in the face of provocation from a foreign nation, although we’re not sure exactly what level of provocation is needed before he’ll start lobbing missiles at the newest in his lengthening list of enemy-states.

And there is at least one such state that we should be keeping in mind right now: North Korea.

To recap, just in case someone missed it, Trump last week ordered a missile attack on a Syrian air base, which he said was in retaliation for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people.

This move was greeted by widespread expressions of support and adulation (I thought Brian Williams of MSNBC went over the top with his enthusiastic praise), even on the part of some Democrats, although many people noted that Trump’s attack came without consultation with Congress, which is required by the U.S. Constitution.

Many also were puzzled by the fact that Trump had said many, many times, going back to the Obama years, that the U.S. should not attack Syria, maintaining it was not in this country’s self-interest.

In fact, the missile attack is completely at odds with Trumps nationalistic “America First” theme.

What changed?

Well, to be sure, Assad’s chemical dousing of his own people was a heinous, criminal act that should be denounced by one and all, worldwide.

And Trump has made it pretty clear that he does not feel constrained to consult with anyone when his inner muse (or his favorite adviser, the pugilistic Steve Bannon) is telling him that he is the president and he can damned well do anything he feels is right and justified.

Plus, he has made it equally clear that he does not feel our nation’s laws apply to him, nor do any of the constitutional restraints that were put in place precisely to prevent overreach by an out-of-control president.

All of which is to say that perhaps we should not have been surprised by the missile attack.

But what bothers me is that Trump ordered this attack, as far as I can tell, out of sheer hubris. He saw some images of gassed children, and the next thing we knew, we were engaged in an act of war against another sovereign nation, with no explanation of what might be accomplished by the missile salvo, no indication of any plan for what might follow.

Some commentators, undismayed by Trump’s act of war, have suggested that it might be that it was merely a symbolic move aimed at alerting the world that the U.S. would not tolerate such attacks by despots and tyrants.

Which, to some, seems like a worthwhile message to be sending out.

But what will happen when the next provocation comes our way?

That’s my real concern here, in part because of another rogue nation on the other side of the globe, North Korea, about which Trump has shown he neither understands nor cares about the political intricacies involved, and certainly has no faith in such things as diplomacy and measured response to whatever trouble might erupt on the Korean peninsula.

Already, Trump’s advisers reportedly are preparing attack scenarios for North Korea that, incredibly, include nuclear options.

That’s right, the generals are looking at everything from nuclear bombs dropped from planes winging far overhead, to missiles launched from ships, to the reinstatement of the nuclear cannon technology that was in place when the Korean War dribbled to a standstill in 1953 (the war never formally ended — no armistice was signed, and North and South Korea are still technically at war).

The M65 Atomic Cannons were decommissioned and removed, and only seven of them are still around, mostly in military museums, but they could be recommissioned and brought back.

Just last week, you will recall, the Republican party got comfortable with the idea of going nuclear when it exercised the “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster from the congressional tool box in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I worry that Trump, whose understanding of how the world works has been shown to be limited, might look back at that strategy and think, “Hey, that was a nuclear thing, and it was easy, nobody got hurt. What’s all the uproar about? We can just do the same thing with North Korea as we did with the Democrats, and everything will turn out just great!”

Or, even worse, Trump might simply get pissed off at North Korean President Kim Jong Un, for whatever damned reason, and decide it is time to take Kim out and rid the world of an unhinged autocrat.

Never mind that such thinking would be a case of a pot calling a kettle black (I believe Trump is just as loosely tethered to reality as Kim). It could easily be the opening gambit of a larger nuclear conflict.

Already on Monday, China was signaling that it felt the Syrian missile barrage was aimed at intimidating North Korea, and since China is North Korea’s closest ally and a serious nuclear power in its own right, we ought to be listening.

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