Trump is bluffing

The hothead-in-chief might be talking up war with North Korea, but there’s little sign that the military is preparing for it:

Among the signals that a major U.S. operation is not imminent is a trip just underway by Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a small cadre of his staff. He arrived Friday in Hawaii with plans to visit Japan, South Korea and China, all of which would be in peril if a war between North Korea and the United States explodes.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its accompanying flotilla of destroyers and guided-missile cruisers also returned to port Wednesday in Yokosuka, Japan, the Navy announced. The ships and the thousands of U.S. service members aboard spent three months patrolling the region and could have stayed at sea off the coast of the Korean Peninsula if the Pentagon was preparing for near-term conflict.

[…]

Despite North Korea’s colorful and threatening rhetorical broadsides, there also are few signs that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is spoiling for a fight that could lead to his ouster, and there has been no evacuation of American citizens from South Korea announced, said Michael C. Horowitz, a political-science professor and author at the University of Pennsylvania who studies military conflict.

“The U.S. is pre-positioned to respond to North Korean aggression on the peninsula all the time,” Horowitz said. “But what we are not seeing yet are true naval movements, family movements and troop movements that would suggest that the military is preparing for imminent conflict.”

If North Korea carries out its threat to launch missiles at Guam – especially if they actually hit that American island – Pyongyang will be a parking lot within the hour. It would be Pearl Harbor all over again, and even the Chinese would likely stay neutral if North Korea starts the war. (The announced plan is to have the missiles land several miles offshore, but how much faith do you have in North Korean targeting technology?)

But even with my low opinion of Trump, I don’t think he’ll launch this war. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s announced grandiose plans that come to nothing.

And call me optimistic, but I think Trump would suddenly find himself resigning for “health reasons” if he actually did order a pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea.

In 2017 that counts as optimism.