Collins: Paging the Trump Armada


Let’s consider the case of the wrong-way warships.

Last week, North Korea was planning a big celebration in honor of its founder’s birthday. For North Koreans, holiday fun is short on barbecues and high on weaponry. The big parade in Pyongyang featured monster canisters that theoretically contained intercontinental ballistic missiles. It’s possible they were actually empty and that right now, North Korea only has bragging rights in the big-container race.

But its intentions were definitely bad, and the United States was worried there might be a missile launch or an underground nuclear test.

What should Donald Trump do? “We’re sending an armada,” said the president. Possible confrontation? As a concerned citizen, you had to be very worried. North Korea is, in every way, a special and dangerous case.

Trump was talking about bringing in four warships, one of them an aircraft carrier. Was this going to mean real shooting? His critics back home had to decide whether to protest, wave the flag in support or simply stock the fallout shelter.

Everybody was talking about the dangers. If North Korea sent up a missile, would the U.S. retaliate? Then what would happen to South Korea and Japan? People debated all the variables. The only thing that did not come up was the possibility that the American flotilla was actually no place near the neighborhood.

Yet, as Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt reported in The Times, at the moment the president was announcing his armada, the warships in question were actually going in the opposite direction, en route to a destination 3,500 miles away, where they were to take part in joint exercises with the Australian navy.

Whoops. The official response was that the administration was sending an armada eventually.

But about the missing warships. It’s possible Trump was bluffing, which certainly sounds like a bad idea. After all, if this administration has a strong card in foreign policy, it’s that the rest of the world thinks he’s so crazy he might do anything. It seems more likely that the administration just screwed up, and some people thought the warships had been rerouted when they really weren’t.

We’re really not asking for a lot, but can’t the president at least be clear about the direction our ships are headed? Concerned citizenry has already adapted to the idea that half the things Trump said during the campaign have now been retracted. NATO is great, the Chinese don’t manipulate their currency. And the Export-Import Bank is, well …

OK, OK. In the end, the North Koreans did test a missile but it exploded right after launch. It is possible this was due to a long-running American cybersabotage program. If so, Trump couldn’t have mentioned it as a matter of security. Otherwise he’d certainly have been out there expressing his gratitude to the Obama administration for having done so much work on it. Hehehehe.

When it comes to Trump and foreign affairs, the big problem is that you want to be fair, but you don’t want to encourage him. A lot of Americans liked the idea of responding to a chemical attack in Syria by bombing a Syrian air base. But if the president thought it was popular, wouldn’t he get carried away? It’s like praising a 4-year-old for coloring a picture, and the next thing you know he’s got his crayons out, heading for the white sofa.

What we want to do is take the crayons away and murmur: “Good boy. Now why don’t you go off and nominate some ambassadors for a change?”

And go find your boats.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Infrastructure spending won’t transform America

“MASON CITY. To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new.” — Robert Penn Warren, “All the King’s Men” (1946) WASHINGTON — Appropriately, Warren began the best book about American populism, his novel based on Huey Long’s Louisiana career, with a...
Opinion: Planting seeds to nourish Westside

Having not long ago celebrated the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., his words could not ring more true for me and dozens of other Atlantans in this New Year. Just steps from where Dr. King and his family lived during his final years, and across the street from where Civil Rights leaders met to discuss plans for peaceful protests in the 1960s...
Opinion: Great leadership, vision key to future of HBCUs
Opinion: Great leadership, vision key to future of HBCUs

First, if it were not for HBCUs, our nation’s rise to worldwide power probably would have been compromised by extreme social and economic instability. HBCUs spent their first century waging a war against illiteracy, poverty and hopelessness. Long after many predominantly white institutions began aggressively recruiting African-Americans in 1969...
Opinion: Russia’s meddling has consequences
Opinion: Russia’s meddling has consequences

His name was “Jermaine,” and based on his Twitter profile picture, he was a young black male. In early November of 2015, Jermaine was angry about racial tensions and violence on the campus of the University of Missouri. “The cops are marching with the KKK!” he claimed on Twitter. “They beat up my little brother! Watch...
READERS WRITE: FEB. 18

Foreign nations should defray cost of open borders If people want open walls on the borders, I would suggest that we insist other countries contribute to our welfare system to support their people who emigrate. That would show goodwill on all sides. The problem is the one-sidedness of the situation. They are taking money from our needy people, who...
More Stories