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 Concerned citizenry has already adapted to the idea that half the things Trump said during the campaign have now been retracted.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: Billionaires desperately need our help

It is so hard to be a billionaire these days! A new yacht can cost $300 million. And you wouldn’t believe what a pastry chef earns — and if you hire just one, to work weekdays, how can you possibly survive on weekends? The investment income on, say, a $4 billion fortune is a mere $1 million a day, which makes it tough to scrounge by with...
Readers Write: Nov. 23

Players dishonor flag for kneeling I was in the Army for three years, our son is still in the Army with 20-plus years. Another son was in the Army for 10 years. Our daughter was in the Marine Corps, and our son-in-law retired from the Marine Corps. Our grandson was in the Marine Corps for four years. All of these people were in harm’s way or...
Opinion: This is a lawless administration
Opinion: This is a lawless administration

(AP) Six weeks ago, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security completed its investigation into the agency’s disastrous handling of the first travel ban announced by the Trump administration. However, in an extraordinary and unprecedented step, the Trump administration won’t let that report become public. In...
Readers Write: Nov. 22

Moore allegations are politically motivated GOP leaders want the Republican candidate and front-runner Roy Moore to step down because of alleged sexual misconduct that supposedly happened 40 years ago. Why was not this alleged misconduct by Moore brought to light years ago? This I believe is definitely politically motivated. Money in this country is...
Opinion: Alabamans should do right thing on Roy Moore problem

The allegations and evidence against Senate candidate Roy Moore are piling up to the point of indefensibility. To the Washington Post’s extensively sourced story accusing him of misconduct toward girls as young as 14, recent days have added news of an additional accuser and a report from a retired police officer saying Moore was unofficially...
More Stories