Issue 3 - Drinking From the Washington Firehose
By Gordon Flake from Perth USAsia Centre | 11 Apr 2017
For years I have used the colloquialism “drinking from a firehose” to add colour to anecdotes detailing the myriad tasks of life. But in truth, during nearly 25 years working in the foreign policy community in Washington D.C. and now over three years in Perth there have been few occasions where the pace of global events required the near real-time monitoring that would warrant my favoured idiom.
Many of these occasions over the last few decades have involved North Korea as it continued development of its missile and nuclear programs. If anything, the pace of progress in North Korea’s weapons programs has increased in recent years.
Yet, for at least the last six months, it has been developments in Washington not Pyongyang which demand constant monitoring as long held standards, norms, and presumptions fall by the wayside.
This past weekend alone U.S. President Donald Trump’s much anticipated first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was upstaged by U.S. missile strikes on Syria. While North Korea was expected to be the flash point of the weekend, the “nuclear” action was taking place on Capitol Hill where the United States Senate changed longstanding rules to allow confirmation of justices to the United States Supreme Court with a simple majority….and subsequently confirmed President Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch to the Court. If that were not enough to demand one’s attention, in the ongoing saga related to the influence of Russia in the U.S. elections, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Chairman stepped down from the Russia Investigation as he himself was under investigation from the House Ethics Committee. News also broke that President Trump’s son-in-law (and Senior Advisor) Jared Kushner failed to disclose meetings with top Russian officials on his security clearance form. Not to be ignored, there are growing signs that North Korea is preparing for yet another nuclear test and by the end of the weekend it was reported that the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group had been ordered toward the Korean Peninsula.
I am in Seoul this week and I am interested to see whether the dominant story will be North Korea’s missile developments, a surprisingly competitive special South Korean election where software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo has erased the gap with the leading progressive candidate Moon Jae-in, or whether Washington will once again demand the world’s undivided attention. One thing is certain, the stakes in Korea are far higher than they are in Syria. Drinking from a firehose feels like an understatement in current times.
Professor L. Gordon Flake is the CEO of the Perth USAsia Centre
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