Parsing truth from hysteria

So, on Reddit, I am reading the comments over an unsubstantiated rumor from the White House. At one point, someone asks why is this a big deal and why we should be scared, and a user blasts off the following list of events happening this week:

  • China moving 150k troops to Korean border for aid assistance (still looking for better sourcing)
  • Russia knowing about chemical weapons attack
  • Navy barreling towards Korea
  • Putin cancelling Tillerson meeting
  • Russia canceling flights (possibly only chartered) to Turkey
  • South Korea readying their military
  • Trump calling for North Korea battle options

I look at this, and shake my head… and I proceed to go through, and make points to each.

China moving 150k troops: So, I looked everywhere for this story. In checking English Language sites I found hardly anything on this story. The Daily Mail and The Mirror 12 and 8 hours ago respectively, with a blogger breaking the news 13 hours ago. His source? A Korean News Agency who has filed a report of rumors to the effect of 150,000 troops being sent to the border to handle any refugees that may result in a preemptive strike by the US. No other news agency in the world has picked this up. China would not be able to move 150,000 troops without there being notice. So in this case, I need to hear more reputable sources before I believe (or worry) about this.

Moving on.

Russia knowing about chemical weapons attack: In this case, this is a very real story. If Russia knew of the impending chemical weapons attack, then it places a lot of tension on the whole situation. At the moment, it sounds like Russia is getting caught playing both sides, and getting the information from both and leveraging it wonderfully. However, if this is true (and this is a preliminary report, not the final one), then Trump’s involvement becomes even more sticky, especially given the Administration’s ultimatum that the US will strike again if Syria uses Chemical Weapons again. Russia has also vowed to retaliate if the US follows through. Right now, they are still having their war of words and things haven’t be set into motion yet. The other side of the coin is that the Administration sees this more as a message to North Korea, which leads us to the next bits.

Navy barreling towards Korea: The Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson and a battlegroup has been rerouted from a planned trip to Australia to head for South Korea. This is in response to the growing tension with North Korea, who annually tests their rockets and draw the ire of the neighboring nations for about 3-4 weeks before slinking away for another year. Unfortunately this time, he is playing Chicken with a President who doesn’t know when to stop. The movement of the Battlegroup is almost Roosevelt in nature. Trump, however, only following half of the edict, ” Speak Softly, and carry a big stick” and right now, Trump is loudly showing off his stick to North Korea.

Let’s not linger on that last sentence too long.

Anyhow, while the tensions are high, if Mattis and the Military side of things keep things in line (*ahem Trump*) then I see this going the way others have before. However, if Trump decides to push the button and goes to war, then… well, lets not hope that happens. Something to keep an eye on, but don’t lose sleep on this on.

Putin cancelling Tillerson meeting: Meh, typical diplomatic spat. The fact that Tillerson is still going to Russia tells me that this is more a cosmetic thing than anything serious. The players must play their parts, and right now Russia “is mad” at the US, and must, diplomatically, act accordingly. Putin’s talking points will be communication to Tillerson, and vice versa, even if they do not see each other directly. Not that bad.

Russia canceling flights (possibly only chartered) to Turkey: A Russian lobbying group “was warned” Turkey that Russia may ban charter flights to Turkey, in a repeat of the 2015 ban that lasted around 9 months. Again, this is diplomatic fisticuffs. This is what they do, wait a few months (or 9), and restore relations when everyone has moved on. Russia is upset that Turkey has backed the US on the Syria Strike. This isn’t anything to worry about.

South Korea readying their military: I SHOULD HOPE SO! With North Korea doing its annual “We will destroy you” testing, and the US sending a battle group to your background… and you are in the middle of an election where your last President was forcibly removed and is awaiting criminal charges… why yes… you get your military ready. Put this in the general worry pile for now.

Trump calling for North Korea battle options: Yes, he has asked for a full range of options for first strike in North Korea. Again, I put this to posturing, and while I think things will blow over, both Kim Jung Un and Mr. Trump do not like to back down, especially if they will be embarrassed by backing down. So, this could escalate to egos, and I do not want to head to war over ego. I would group this with the other Korea stuff.

While the person who wrote the comment is trying to scare people (everyone uses scare tactics, not just the news), it is important to check the sources and understand the situation. We watch the news and they make things sound catastrophic. And while yes, things are tense, we have seen this happen before. The difference of course is Trump, but at the moment, things are progression like others North Korea aggression before: Obama moved ships and radar into the area 2013, and previous presidents have frozen money, imposed sanctions, and other pretty savage things in the past.

My overall point here, is that it is easy to look at some of this stuff and freak out. Or to put things together to make it scary and foreboding, but remember, check you sources, be critical, and don’t just take everything at face value. If someone is scaring you, stop and ask yourself why? And ask questions. Be cautious, be thorough.  A couple of those things in the list you should be aware of, but it was also mixed in with a lot of things you shouldn’t worry about either.




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