Doug Bandow
May 3, 2017
The National Interest

President Donald Trump is turning unpredictability into an art form. One week he is threatening to attack North Korea and warning of the possibility of a “major, major conflict.” The next week the president says he’d be “honored” to meet the guy he was prepared to kill.

Creating uncertainty can be an effective tactic if it’s part of a plan. Richard Nixon effectively played the crazy card, before the collapse of his presidency caused some people to worry that he really was unbalanced. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any method to President Trump’s “madness.” Instead, some suspect that he takes his cues from the last person who talked to him, since he doesn’t know much about the subject and has no meaningful opinion as to what should be done.

It’s a bit scary. So far, on Korea, the president has offered up some good ideas mixed with a few real howlers. Unfortunately, it’s evident that he doesn’t know the difference between the two, and that could have dire results when dealing with an equally unpredictable regime that is paranoid, authoritarian and isolated.

The president should step back and let the Korean situation calm. One reason is to allow South Koreans to choose their next president next week without foreign interference. Although the outcome appears certain, the race did tighten and the final outcome remains sensitive to international events. President Trump’s comments about ripping up the Free Trade Agreement and charging for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, or THAAD, might have boosted the left-wing front-runner, probably not the president’s intention. There’s no need for President Trump to stir events even more.

During this period of quiet, as we might call it, the administration should coordinate its best haphazard approach to policymaking in the region. In particular:

Read more