Lack of Credibility

19 April 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

US Aircraft Carrier Wasn't Headed to Korea After All

When North Korea launched a test missile that failed almost immediately, the American response was measured, decisive and prudent. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its escort ships were sent to the region as a show of American resolve. It would provide extra air power and logistical support in the event things on the peninsula got violent. North Korea would be deterred, South Korea and Japan would know America had their backs. The only trouble is that the Trump, administration lied. The battle group wasn't going to Korea.

The New York Times reported, "... when the United States Pacific Command said on April 9 that the Carl Vinson had been ordered to leave Singapore and return to the Western Pacific, the decision was considered highly unusual, as it had been in exercises off the Korean Peninsula just last month. 'We're sending an armada,' President Trump said 10 days ago." On April 11, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told Pentagon reporters that the Carl Vinson was "on her way up there." Fox Business News reported Mr. Trump saying on April 12, "We are sending an armada, very powerful."

Yet on Monday, Defense News stated, "... a week after the U.S. announced the carrier and its escorts would leave Singapore, forego port calls in Australia and instead return to Korean waters, the carrier and its group had yet to head north. Rather, the ships were actually operating several hundred miles south of Singapore, taking part in scheduled exercises with Australian forces in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday -- according to photographs released by the U.S. Navy -- the carrier passed north through the Sunda Strait, the passage between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. It's about 3,500 miles from Korea."

So, once again, the gang that couldn't govern straight proves it can't do foreign policy. The Trump administration just doesn't know what it is doing. Either the communication between the White House and the Pentagon is dreadful, or public statements are not checked for accuracy at all. When a government takes offense at the actions of another government and when it claims to respond by having a carrier strike force head into the region, that is actually what has to happen.

Reading the situation as charitably as possible, Mr. Trump may be practicing his unpredictability. If so, he has outfoxed the very people he needs to convince of his abilities. Kim Ky-baek, who operates the South Korean nationalist Minjokcorea website, stated, "Trump may say this was part of his smoke-screen tactic, but the impression we get is that the Trump administration still doesn't know what it is really trying to do with North Korea, and has no clear and efficient line of communication."

Across the Sea of Japan, the view was the same, "Whatever the case, whether it was deliberate misinformation or a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House, it's quite serious," said Narushige Michishita, a specialist in international security at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. "It undermines the credibility of U.S. leadership."

Now that the damage has been done, the carrier group is finally headed to the Korean Peninsula, and it should arrive next week. That will be just in time for the April 25 celebration in North Korea of the People's Army Birthday. While the presence of the ships could be of some value to the US and its allies, all the administration has achieved is a sense of unease in Seoul and Tokyo.

It is one thing to be crafty and deceive one's enemies. It is quite another to baffle one's friends. Worst of all is to make a mistake and pretend it was a strategic masterstroke. Lying to ones own staff ensures future failure.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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