President Trump stirred up another round of puzzled reporting on Thursday evening when he made what appeared to be a casual, unscripted remark to the press pool. At a State Dining Room dinner the White House was throwing for military commanders and their spouses, Trump gestured to the assembled and esteemed group and said to reporters, “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
“What’s the storm?” asked one of the reporters.
“Could be the calm before the storm,” Trump said again, allowing a small smile to form.
The gathered reporters scrambled for a more specific answer, but Trump wouldn’t play the game. He turned away from his comments, introduced his guests, and told the press to take a hike. For the next couple of days (until the ADHD media got distracted by Vice President Mike Pence’s NFL walkout), pundits wondered…what was the president talking about?
Well, we can’t say for sure, obviously, but it seemed like a pretty stark message to America’s enemies – specifically Iran and North Korea. Watch yourself, that remark said. I’m done playing nice.
Speaking in far more diplomatic language on Monday, Defense Secretary James Mattis gave North Korea some more food for thought in his address to the Association of the U.S. Army.
From CBS News:
Defense Secretary James Mattis says the U.S. Army “must stand ready” in the face of continued provocations by the North Korean regime.
While delivering the keynote address at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting on Monday, Mattis outlined the current strategy in North Korea for the U.S. military, saying “it is right now diplomatically led, economic sanctioned, buttressed effort to try to turn North Korea off its path.”
He conceded, however, that “neither you nor I can say” what the future holds for the regime.
“There’s one thing the U.S. Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed,” said Mattis.
Mattis embraced the current diplomatic approach to the crisis, including the UN-led sanctions on the regime supported by the international community.
He added, “But that means the U.S. Army must stand ready, and so, if you’re ready, that’s your duty at this point in time. And I know the Army will always do its duty.”
Right now, both Iran and North Korea are testing the waters, trying to see how far they can push a president that much of the world is dismissing as a reality TV star in over his head. Well, Trump is telling them, in so many words, just try me. Go ahead and think, as Osama bin Laden did, that the U.S. is a paper tiger, ready to succumb to the slightest pressure.
Trump knows the military must always be the measure of last resort. But in at least one situation – the one developing in North Korea – we may be rapidly approaching that point. Thankfully, we have a president who isn’t afraid to recognize when the time for talk is over.