This week, President Trump fired up media speculation by making an oblique reference to an assembly of his senior military staff possibly being the “calm before the storm.” His spokesperson (who is terrific, by the way) refused to comment on whether that was a message about possible military confrontation with North Korea. She would only say, “You can take the president protecting the American people always extremely serious. He's been very clear that that's his number one priority. If he feels that action is necessary, he will take it.”
Maybe his meaning can be discerned by considering who it’s aimed at. On the surface, it sounds like a message to Americans to brace for military action. But maybe it’s a message to Kim Jong Un that he’d better straighten up before his bellicose threats blow up in his face. Or maybe it’s a message to North Korean military officers or the Chinese that if they have the power to stop Kim, they’d better do it fast before things get ugly. On maybe it was just a weather report, and he was talking about storm preparations for the Gulf Coast.
By keeping the other side off balance and in the dark, he forces the other factions to imagine the worst and take action to prevent it. We could be bracing for a military confrontation, or he could be playing poker to bluff others into caving in or forcing an end to the crisis without us having to fire a shot. The media don’t know, but neither does Kim.
And therein lies the beauty of America’s refreshing new military strategy of not telling the enemy exactly what we’re planning to do in advance.
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