Pence Rattles the Saber

Yesterday, Mike Pence delivered remarks to U.S. and Japanese troops aboard the USS Ronald Reagan at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, during which he doubled-down on the Trump administration's saber-rattling.

[To patriotic music, Pence, clad in a bomber jacket, walks onto a stage on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan, surrounded by cheering military folks. He waves and takes his place at a podium. Cut to Pence, mid-remarks, where he speaks to a huge crowd and stands in front of a group of seated service members clad in fatigues.]

The United States of America will always seek peace, but, under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready. [edit] And those who would challenge our resolve or our readiness should know: We will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response! [applause]
There is a lot to unpack here.

First, there's the image of the vice-president of the United States standing in military garb on a military ship in front of members of the military, saying the United States "will always seek peace, but." But.

Then there's Pence saying "the sword stands ready," which is a dogwhistle to North Korea, whose Foreign Ministry refers to their nuclear program as "the treasured sword of justice."

Then there's the warning of an "overwhelming and effective" response to challenges to "our resolve or our readiness." Let's carefully examine that: Pence is not saying that there will be a response to threats to our safety or sovereignty, or to the safety or sovereignty of our allies, but is essentially threatening: "If you disrespect us, we'll show you who's boss."

The entire thing sounds like a dare: Just give us an excuse.

That sort of belligerence is terrifying. And it is deeply at odds with a foreign policy that centers diplomacy or "seeks peace."

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