Best columns: The U.S.
Giving Kim Jong Un a ‘bloody nose’
The Wall Street Journal
It’s somewhat reassuring that North and South Korea are now attempting to lower tensions through diplomacy, said Gerald Seib. But Kim Jong Un won’t end his nuclear program, and war remains a real possibility. U.S. officials are now debating a “bloody nose strategy” in which we react to Kim’s next missile or nuclear test with a limited airstrike on North Korean military sites, to “illustrate the high price the regime could pay for its behavior.” It would be a huge gamble: Kim might respond by unleashing an artillery and rocket barrage on Seoul, killing tens of thousands of people in minutes; he might even launch a nuclear missile at the U.S. or one of our allies. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are advising that diplomatic efforts continue, national security adviser H.R. McMaster is arguing that a bloody nose is just what Kim needs. “The wild card is President Trump himself.” No one can predict what he’ll do—or what Kim might do in response. The current talks between the two Koreas may temporarily de-escalate the rhetoric, but if Kim continues to race ahead with his nuclear development, “mid-2018 could be a time of reckoning.”
The phallic subtext of nuclear war
The New York Times
When President Trump tweeted that his nuclear button was “much bigger and more powerful” than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s, said Carol Cohn, the “penis-measuring” subtext was laughably obvious. But as tempting as it is to dismiss the juvenile boasting as just another norm broken by a “president like no other,” the reality is that nuclear strategic thinking has always been laced with a dangerous hypermasculinity. When I worked with war planners early in my career, I was struck by “how removed they were from the human realities” of nuclear weapons. To make the deliberate incineration of millions of people more abstract, they hid behind “euphemistic language” laden with sexual metaphors: from “vertical erector launchers” to “thrust-to-weight ratios” to “soft lay downs” to “deep penetration.” One military adviser talked about “releasing 70 to 80 percent of our megatonnage in one orgasmic whump.” In this nearly all-male world, war planners casually discussed accepting 30 million casualties, and mocked “sissy” politicians for not having “the stones for war.” Trump’s fear of “being perceived as unmanly” appears particularly deep. But among nuclear strategists, his macho worldview is the norm, not the exception. That makes the unthinkable a bit more likely.
Conservatives shouldn’t ignore cities
Conservatives look at the electoral map and see “a vast sea of Republican red” and a few blue islands, said Kevin Williamson. “‘Who needs California?’ they ask, often with a sneer. ‘Who needs New York and New Jersey?’ The answer: America does. Conservatives, too.” Though the blue islands are geographically small, they are filled with people—tens of millions of them. One in four U.S. citizens, in fact, live in just four states—California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey—yet conservatives blithely dismiss these places as outside “Real America.” Much of what made America great in the first place has come out of coastal, urban America: Ellis Island, Wall Street, the movie and TV industries, Silicon Valley, and yes, great Republican leaders. The modern conservative movement itself emerged in Southern California and New York City, with Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr. leading the way. Today, even in deep-red states like Texas, more and more people live in cities like Houston and San Antonio. Writing off half the country is not only “bad for the Republican soul. It also will prove bad for Republican electoral prospects, in time.”
“Every Friday I meet for lunch with three or four friends from high school days. I instituted at these lunches what I called the No Trump Rule: ‘No’ not in the sense of being against Trump’s politics but against talking about him at all, for doing so seems to get everyone worked up unduly. The rule, I have to report, has been broken more than the Ten Commandments. No one, apparently, can stop talking about our president. The Trump talk quickly uses up most of the oxygen in any room where it arises, and can bring an argument to the shouting stage more quickly than a divorce settlement.”
Joseph Epstein in The Wall Street Journal ■