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Is the Sea of Japan Trump’s Gulf of Tonkin?

A U.S. naval armada entering the Sea of Japan is an eerie repeat of the events occurring over 50 years ago that started the Vietnam War.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, also known as the USS Maddox incident, drew the United States (U.S.) more directly into the Vietnam War....[and ultimately led to] the passage by Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by "communist aggression". The resolution served as Johnson's legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.

Over fifty years ago, Democrat President Lyndon Johnson deployed U.S. forces into North Vietnam, justifying this open warfare on a series of events dubbed the Gulf of Tonkin incident.  North Vietnam, as well as American intelligence officers, alleged Johnson intentionally provoked the initial naval skirmish, using the USS Maddox “as a seagoing provocateur” combined with “sabotage and hit-and-run attacks on the coast of North Vietnam.”  So eager was Johnson’s Administration to go to war against the communist Vietnamese, that it used FakeNews of its day fabricating the August 4 events to frame Vietnam as an aggressor.

Certainly General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, as a student of military history, is, presumably, intimately familiar with the series of events leading up to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  Mattis is no doubt advising President Trump in this latest high-stakes military show of force.  But Mattis did not participate in Vietnam.  Mattis enlisted the Marines in 1969, attending college ROTC during the Vietnam War, and was later commissioned a second lieutenant in January 1972. 

On Wednesday, in a meeting convened by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all 100 members of the U.S. Senate will travel to the White House to hear a classified briefing on North Korea.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats are the designated presenters.  Is this first-of-its-kind briefing a precursor to a White House laying the groundwork for a congressional request for a declaration of war against North Korea, or some current version of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

During his remarks at a working lunch with U.N. Security Council Ambassadors on April 24th, President Trump said: 

The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable, and the Council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not.  North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve.  People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem.

President Trump has ordered an armada led by USS Carl Vinson to the Sea of Japan, Breitbart reported.  National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster approved, called Trump's action "prudent."

Well, it's prudent to do it, isn't it?" McMaster told Fox News on Sunday. "I mean, North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior. This is -- this is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear capable regime.”

Consider the timeline of recent events North Korean events:

  • Donald Trump hosted China’s President Xi Jinping at his hotel Florida Mar-A-Lago resort.  
  • While Trump and Jinping were at dinner, U.S. forces strategically bombed a Syrian airbase back to the stone age with 59 Tomahawk missiles sending a warning to Bashar Assad not to use chemical weapons. 
  • Following the dinner, McMaster said that “Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed with President Trump that North Korea's behavior is ‘unacceptable’ and that the Korean Peninsula must be denuclearized.”
  • McMaster revealed that “The president has asked to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat the American people and to our allies and partners in the region.”
  • Upon his return to China, President Xi Jinping moved 150,000 troops to the North Korean border “to prepare for pre-emptive attacks by the US.”
  • Meanwhile, Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson strike force into the Sea of Japan.
  • Senate Majority Leader has called for a never-before-seen classified security briefing for the entire Senate at the White House before the Joint Chiefs.

The timeline suggests President Trump has obtained permission from or forged an alliance with China’s president allowing a U.S. missile strike on North Korea from the carrier fleet in the Sea of Japan. 

Trump is certainly shrewd enough to negotiate a Chinese-approved military strike on a nuclear North Korea, a problem created by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and ignored by former President Obama.  The Senate briefing at the White House may produce the congressional support Trump would need to bomb North Korea’s missile bases into the stone age just as he bombed the Syrian aircraft base into oblivion.  

By ordering ships into the Sea of Japan, Trump, like Johnson, may well be intentionally baiting Kim Jong-un, awaiting a provocative, aggressive act to justify a military strike on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The real question is whether the new Republican president is shrewd enough to defang a nuclear enemy while avoiding a protracted confrontation rivaling Vietnam.

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”  Edmund Burke, the philosophical founder of Anglo-American conservatism.


Written by Susan Swift

California PolitiChick Susan Swift is a lawyer, actor, wife and one conservative mother of seven children. Her new children's book series, Good Guys With Guns, introduces children to the good guys in law enforcement who use guns to protect others.


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