Bloody Noses and Bad Ideas

Bloody Noses and Bad Ideas

Your Friday author has been fielding questions lately about a proposal reportedly under discussion within the Trump national security team for a “bloody nose” strategy on North Korea. I haven’t taken this idea as seriously as I should. Let’s fix that now:


What is the bloody nose strategy? It’s a proposal to respond to a future North Korean missile test or other provocative act with a carefully targeted attack on a North Korean military facility.

What’s the purpose? To signal North Koreans that the US is willing to punish them militarily for taking actions that threaten US national security, but without starting a full-scale war. Sanctions and threats haven’t made a difference. Kim still wants a missile, fitted with a miniaturized nuclear warhead, that can reach the US mainland. A bloody nose attack is meant to make clear that North Korea will pay a price for every threatening action it takes in the future.

Is this a good idea? I think it’s a terrible idea.

Here’s why:

1- If US officials think Kim Jong-un is irrational, shouldn’t they be concerned that he’ll respond to a limited attack irrationally — by starting a war that kills hundreds of thousands of North and South Korean civilians and large numbers of US troops in a matter of hours?

2- What if he’s perfectly rational and decides to launch a proportional response to persuade the Trump administration that the US can’t attack his country without consequences? What does “proportional” mean to Kim? A counter-attack designed to kill no more than a dozen US soldiers? If President Trump launches a bloody nose strike, and North Korea kills ten South Korean and American soldiers in response, what does President Trump do next? Call it even?

3- Why are US officials confident that Kim will recognize the US attack is limited? He may think this is the big one and decide he doesn’t want to go out like Saddam Hussein.

4- If US officials believe Kim Jong-un wants to use nuclear weapons to deter the US while he invades and conquers South Korea, why would a bloody nose strike change his mind? Might it not persuade him he’s been right all along to want a nuclearized ICBM that he’s sure will prevent a future US attack?

The bottom line: Attacks don’t persuade governments to give up their defenses. They encourage them to strengthen them. Neither Washington nor the millions of Koreans living in harm’s way know how Kim would respond to a limited US attack. Let’s hope we never find out.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

More Show less

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

More Show less

Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

More Show less

50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

More Show less

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal