North Korea and South Korea are on the verge of declaring peace.
No one, I imagine, will be quite so disappointed by this dreadful news as the distinguished war historian Sir Max Hastings.
Here, almost exactly a year ago, was what Hastings had to say about the imminent prospects of a Third World War caused – he predicted – by Trump’s disastrous brinksmanship towards North Korea.
For national leaders around the world — and above all in Asia — there is a war-games scenario that chills the blood.
The United States delivers an ultimatum to North Korea, insisting it renounces its nuclear weapons. The half-crazed regime in the capital, Pyongyang, refuses. U.S. aircraft and missiles strike at Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear facilities. North Korea’s neighbour and ally, China, responds by hitting carriers of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Pacific. Suddenly, a major war erupts.
Such a horror story yesterday came a step closer to reality, when Donald Trump issued a warning that the U.S. would take unilateral action against North Korea should China decline to do so.
Hastings was by no means alone in this nervous assessment. So too, he went on to illustrate, were many of the world’s greatest experts and strategic thinkers.
Earlier this year on these pages, I compared Trump with Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose dysfunctional personality precipitated World War I.
Now, one of the grand panjandrums of the International Institute For Strategic Affairs (IISS), Francois Heisbourg, has made the same comparison, for the same reason: because he sees the U.S. President carelessly dropping matches beside a powder keg, with the same mingling of ignorance, vainglory and recklessness that the German emperor displayed in 1914.
Heisbourg, writing in the latest edition of the IISS’s authoritative magazine, emphasises the almost unprecedented instability of the world today, with Russia rejecting the post-Cold War system in Europe and thrusting dangerously into Ukraine and towards the Baltic States; the Middle East in turmoil; the EU tottering; China relentlessly asserting new claims in the Pacific region.
Professor Sir Michael Howard, another great strategy guru, is likewise apprehensive that Trump needs a war to fulfil his constant quest for enemies, at home and abroad, and because he is a risk-taker, with little understanding of the cages he is rattling or the world order he threatens to undo.
I was told last week some of the most senior officers in America’s armed forces expect to be ordered to fight somebody before too long.
Well if this is what Trump’s Armageddon looks like, count me disappointed. And I’m not the only one.
Worst. WW3. Ever. pic.twitter.com/4LprH7lOso
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) April 17, 2018
Perhaps it’s cruel to call Hastings on the weapons-grade fatuousness of his Trump prediction. I still love his books about World War II and he was a great editor in the days when I worked under him at the Daily Telegraph, when it was still a conservative newspaper.
At the same time, though, damn it, I am utterly sick to the craw of all those experty experts who’ve been telling us in the media ever since Trump got elected how this was going to be one of the worst presidencies ever.
We’ve had something similar going on in Britain, ever since we voted Brexit. Often it’s the same experts dumping on Brexit that the papers and the broadcast channels wheel out to dump on the Donald.
Meanwhile, those few of us who’ve been saying all along “Actually Trump’s doing a pretty good job and Brexit’s going to be great” have been shunned and mocked and marginalized as swivel-eyed loons.
Well, I’m sorry, but I think it’s about time we got our payback.
If Obama’s diplomacy (lol) had achieved anywhere near close to what Trump has just achieved over North Korea, the mainstream media would have talked of little else for months.
Because it’s Trump, though, my prediction is that his success in bludgeoning Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table will be dismissed as an “even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day” moment. In other words, as an outcome Trump blundered into by accident, rather than one that reveals him to be the tactician of genius he really is.
Trump is still on track to be one of the greatest presidents ever.
How galling it must be for all those distinguished commentators who have staked their credibility on his being one of the worst.