29 September 2017   Leave a comment

The Royal United Services Institute is one of the more prestigious strategic think-tanks in the world and it has just released a grim report entitled “Preparing for War in Korea”.  The report argues that the likelihood of a war between the US and North Korea is “a real possibility”.  The report suggests two different scenarios for such a war and the analysis is thoughtful and well-informed. From the Executive Summary:

  • War is now a real possibility. With North Korea making rapid progress in its missile and nuclear programmes, time is not on diplomacy’s side. US President Donald Trump and his senior officials have said that America will not tolerate a North Korean ICBM threat to its territory and citizens, and that ‘classical deterrence theory’ is not applicable. The president has told the UN that ‘Rocket Man [Kim Jong-un] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime’.
  • The war could start in a variety of ways: North Korea could strike first if it believed that the US were moving towards a surprise attack; or a US attack might be triggered by North Korean test missiles hitting the ocean near Guam or California.

The critical assumption of the report is that US President Trump will not allow North Korea to develop the capability to strike the US homeland with nuclear weapons.  I do not think that this assumption is as solid as the report believes it to be.  Trump’s aides have long lived with other adversaries that have had this capability and they may be able to persuade the President that the situation is manageable.

 

The US Federal Reserve has issued its Survey of Consumer Finances for 2013-16.   Its survey of income and wealth in the US during that period is discouraging.  According to the report, inequality in the US has deepened to historically troubling levels:

“Data from the 2016 SCF indicate that the shares of income and wealth held by affluent families have reached historically high levels since the modern SCF began in 1989. The share of income received by the top 1 percent of families was 20.3 percent in 2013 and rose to 23.8 percent in 2016 (figure A). The top 1 percent of families now receives nearly as large a share of total income as the next highest 9 percent of families combined (percentiles 91 through 99), who received 26.5 percent of all income. This share has remained fairly stable over the past quarter of a century. Correspondingly, the rising income share of the top 1 percent mirrors the declining income share of the bottom 90 percent of the distribution, which fell to 49.7 percent in 2016.”

Such trends cannot be sustained, economically or politically.  People who believe that their futures will only get worse have no stake in maintaining the system which demands their loyalty.

 

Thousands showed up for the closing rally before the Catalonian referendum on independence despite the active opposition of the Spanish government to the vote.  Police have confiscated ballot boxes and campaign materials and have shown up in very large numbers to express the presumed illegality of the voteThe police have reportedly received orders to clear out polling places prior to the scheduled vote on Sunday.  How the police respond to the scheduled vote will be a key index of how this conflict between the regional and central government will play out.

BBC map

 

Posted September 29, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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