Trump’s problem with North Korea is that problem may be beyond his comprehension

Paul Waldman wrote in The Age “Ready or not, Trump may be about to face his first full-blown international crisis”
Waldman  has little confidence in Trump’s ability to handle what may be a significant international crisis.

Here are some excerpts from his article

“A few weeks before taking office, he tweeted, “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US. It won’t happen!”

In April, Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and apparently believed that once he presented Xi with a truly spectacular piece of chocolate cake, then the premier would put a prompt end to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Then when the launch happened, the President responded with typical thoughtfulness:

“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

Waldman also points out that the option of military action against North Korea is not viable as it will trigger a massive loss of life on the Peninsula.

Diplomatic intervention will be difficult as the capability of the State Department has been badly run down during the Trump administration and Trump has failed to appoint an ambassador South Korea.

Trump has also strained relationships with the US allies he would rely on to pressure North Korea and has severely weakened the US position in NATO and United Nations.

North Korea is what C. West Churchman called a wicked problem that is ” a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.” Wikipedia

What can you do with wicked problems like North Korea?

In Wholesome Design for Wicked Problems, Professor Robert Knapp says “Instead of seeking the answer that totally eliminates a problem, one should recognize that actions occur in an ongoing process, and further actions will always be needed.” 

In other words, you just have to keep working on it.

So the solution to problems like North Korea would appear to be that there really is no solution, you just have to keep working to contain the problem as best you can, by a range of means: negotiation, diplomacy, sanctions, embargoes et cetera.

Clearly a large degree of international cooperation, particularly on the part of China is going to be a great help but this will require subtle diplomacy and a significantly coordinated effort amongst US allies, most of whom Donald Trump has managed to offend since coming into office.

The other major problem is that the current president doesn’t appear to have the concentration span, patience or intellect necessary to deal with a complex and wicked problem.

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