Despite a holiday weekend that promises relaxation for some, the atmosphere in the wider world is not so calm. Thursday, the U.S. dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb in in its arsenal on caves in Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda fighters are believed to be based. Friday, North Korea escalated its war of words with the Trump administration, saying in a statement that nuclear war could break out on the Korean peninsula “at any moment.” And then there’s Syria.
Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Syria, iraq and several other nations, and current Executive Professor at Texas A&M says North Korea is unlikely to make good on its threat to start a nuclear war. He also believes President Donald Trump’s aggressive actions in the Middle East function as a signal to the region that things have changed in Washington.
On how to assess the seriousness of North Korea’s threats:
“Clearly we have gotten their attention, which is a good thing. The country to watch is not North Korea, so much as it is China. Sometimes you get lucky in international relations, sometimes you don’t But the fact that President Trump received the Chinese president just before and as this was breaking out – that is serendipity. That is a good thing. Obviously we’re going to listen to what the North Koreans say, but I would look to the Chinese for interpretation. “
On chances of a North Korean nuclear attack:
“I first would say there is very little likelihood that there would be any action by North Korea. Certainly not aggressive action toward us, or toward South Korea. They will bluster. They may run another missile test.”
On the significance of dropping an extremely large bomb, called MOAB, on Afghan caves:
“So your listeners know, it’s called the Mother of All Bombs, but that’s not technically what it stands for – Massive Ordinance Air Blast. We’ve never used it in a hot war before. So it was a great way I think for the administration to demonstrate a different approach to Al Qaeda, without embarking on a completely new policy. I would consider this an escalation in the established policy…I think it’s a pretty shrewd move. Now I think it’s interesting, because the MOAB as I understand it, is not a deep penetrator. It’s kind of like the daisy cutters we used in Vietnam. It goes for surface impact. So does it dig deep enough to get at tunnels? It’s a technical point, but technical points are important too.”
On President Trump’s surprising emphasis on foreign policy:
“I can’t think of a president who has been more engaged internationally in the first hundred days of his presidency. You have to go back to George H.W. Bush to see this intensity of engagement. So one broad message he is sending is that what happens in the international arena is important to American security, and that he is going to have America lead international efforts. [After] years in the foreign service, that’s music to my ears.”
On whether Trump has the right approach in foreign affairs:
“I think he is doing the right things in talking to our traditional allies, consulting with them, taking their advice, and then determining an action. So, again, the broad brush that he is painting with is international engagement, and a willingness to use force when necessary. The harder part is going to be articulating that into a coherent policy. That’s going to take a little bit of time, but so far so good.”