Watch what Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un do, not just what they say.
There are moments—like when the American president threatens to “totally destroy” the nation of North Korea and its raving mad “Little Rocket Man” of a leader, while the North Koreans suggest they’ll retaliate against this “declaration of war” from a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” by downing U.S. military planes and exploding a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean—when one gets the distinct impression that the United States and North Korea are headed for war.
But while words matter, they aren’t all that matter. Actions may be a better indicator of where the crisis stands and what could come next. And the governments of the alleged dotard and Rocket Man have been taking actions that tell a different story than the apocalyptic rhetoric does.
If war was imminent, we would likely see something we haven’t yet: an evacuation of Americans—civilians, military family members, non-essential personnel—from South Korea, according to Abe Denmark, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under Barack Obama. “It’s impossible to hide because it’s over 100,000 people,” he said, and it “would signal that things are getting really dangerous.”
“If you’re actually going to go to war, you have to do a lot of things—primarily in terms of logistics and communications and mobilizing reserve forces … and you don’t see any of those on the [U.S.-South Korean forces] side to the south of the [Korean Demilitarized Zone] nor to the north of it,” said Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence and commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. In 1994, for instance, when Blair was commanding a battle group in the western Pacific and the Clinton administration nearly decided to strike a North Korean nuclear reactor, Blair’s deployment was diverted from the Persian Gulf to Korea, Patriot anti-missile batteries flowed into the region, and a range of military units were put on alert to carry out war plans against North Korea.