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Americans Need to Take the Possibility of an Attack on North Korea Seriously

Trump won’t nominate Victor Cha to be the ambassador to South Korea at least partly because he didn’t support [1] launching a “bloody nose” strike on North Korea. Cha explains [2] in an op-ed why the “bloody nose” option is a very bad and dangerous one:

Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake. But a strike (even a large one) would only delay North Korea’s missile-building and nuclear programs, which are buried in deep, unknown places impenetrable to bunker-busting bombs. A strike also would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us.

Cha is certainly more hawkish on North Korea than many other critics of the administration’s policy, but attacking North Korea is still a bridge too far even for him. The fact that he is going public with his objections to an attack tells us that he believes that Trump and his advisers are seriously considering doing just that. It has been comforting to think that Trump, McMaster, et al. must be bluffing about military action against North Korea because it is such an obviously crazy and reckless option, but there have been too many warning signs that it is not a bluff. They may actually think they can get away with attacking a nuclear-armed, paranoid dictatorship without provoking disaster.

While Trump did not explicitly threaten preventive war or regime change last night, there are some eerie parallels between his administration’s rhetoric on North Korea over the last few months and the Bush administration’s push for invading Iraq. We see this in administration officials’ rejection of deterrence and the suggestion that preventive war is an appropriate option, we see it in their conflation of the regime’s crimes against its own people with its supposed willingness to attack the U.S. and our allies, and we see it again in their dismissive attitude towards anyone who actually knows something about the relevant region. There is the same demagogic manipulation and fear-mongering at work that we saw in 2002, and there is the same glib belief in the efficacy of military action to fix international problems. Once again, we have an ill-informed, inexperienced president who is easily manipulated by his advisers into endorsing aggressive measures.

It might have seemed far-fetched in January 2002 that the U.S. would be invading Iraq in the spring of the following year, but the groundwork for an attack was already being laid. We should take administration officials seriously when they tout the so-called “benefits” of preventive war, and Americans should be organizing against an attack on the assumption that this administration intends to launch one in the future. The last time an administration argued that deterrence was inadequate and preventive war was the answer, they followed through on their belligerent rhetoric. We ought to assume that Trump will do the same until he gives us compelling reasons to think otherwise.

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10 Comments To "Americans Need to Take the Possibility of an Attack on North Korea Seriously"

#1 Comment By Fred Bowman On January 31, 2018 @ 12:47 pm

This in complete insanity. Wasn’t there any lessons learned from Bush’s/Obama’s misadventures in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East? The US is still caught up in that quicksand with no real idea of how to get out of it. An attack on North Korea is more than likely to be the catalyst that starts the next World War. And quite likely it’ll end the American Empire just as WWI and WWII destroyed all the European Empires. Of course today’s American Generals, Politicans and Wall Streeters have lost all sense of history and eventually America will pay the price for that lost.

#2 Comment By b. On January 31, 2018 @ 1:26 pm

“Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake.”

But they don’t.

Where is Madeleine “Worth It” Albright, when you need her?

They do not even bother to “cakewalk” this. Trump and Mattis did make clear that they do not actually believe North Korea has the practical means to effectively attack the continental US – not yet, and not in immediacy – and it should not come as a surprise that the South Koreans and even the US forces on the peninsula are willingly placed at risks deemed “acceptable” and indeed “worth it”.

“Once again, we have an ill-informed, inexperienced president who is easily manipulated…”

If Only The Shrub Had Known? I reject this whitewash of both Bush and Trump – their agency in their crimes should not be edited out of the historic records.

Reagan, already afflicted, almost succeeded in derailing the US nuclear-military-industrial complex because he honestly believed in drastic reduction of nuclear arsenals, and it took all the “manipulations” by apparatchiks like Shultz to talk him out of it. Reagan has his own criminal acts of war to account for, but compared to GWB or Trump, the man was a moral giant.

#3 Comment By ukm1 On January 31, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

Businessman-President Donald J. Trump wants to be remembered in history as an American man who actually won the Korean War!

At this point, Businessman-President Donald J. Trump truly believes that, after multiple American military strikes on North Korea, North Koreans will be able to do nothing to American assets and American global interests and, thereby, America will literally win the Korean War once and for all.

American top military strategists believe that, North Korean missiles actually do not work and North Koreans will become extremely fearful after receiving multiple military strikes from doing any harm to American assets and American regional interests for being completely annihilated and wiped off the map by American bombs.

However, I personally believe that, the renewed American military strikes on North Korea will be the beginning of the end of a Trump-presidency!

#4 Comment By ukm1 On January 31, 2018 @ 2:01 pm

Businessman-President Donald J. Trump wants to be remembered in history as an American man who actually won the Korean War!

At this point, Businessman-President Donald J. Trump truly believes that, after multiple American military strikes on North Korea, North Koreans will be able to do nothing to American assets and American global interests and, thereby, America will literally win the Korean War once and for all.

American top military strategists believe that, North Korean missiles actually do not work and North Koreans will become extremely fearful after receiving multiple military strikes from American govt. and stop doing any harm to American assets and American regional interests for being completely annihilated and wiped off the map by American bombs.

However, I personally believe that, the renewed American military strikes on North Korea will be the beginning of the end of a Trump-presidency!

#5 Comment By Richard W. Bray On January 31, 2018 @ 2:48 pm

What Fred Bowman said.

Even if Trump and his top advisers aren’t nutty enough to attack North Korea, the prevailing interventionist ethos that permeates all facets of our foreign policy establishment is inevitably going to end in disaster for the American people.

Our deranged foreign policy establishment has already brought so much misery and heartache to so many, but these fools never learn.

[3]

#6 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On January 31, 2018 @ 4:03 pm

I don’t even see a dent-sized realist movement, let alone the anti-interventionist, pro-retrenchment one we really need.

People are so (justly) alarmed by Trumpian insouciance and volume, that they ignore the fecklessness and derangement of nearly the entire political class.

Even Bernie Sanders is yammering about Russia these days. Won’t someone one say, “merchants of death”?

#7 Comment By rayray On January 31, 2018 @ 4:07 pm

Trump recently said in an interview right before the SOTU that he’d like to unify the country it would take a “big event” to unify the country.

Remember Bush? There was nothing really there with Bush. He was an okay guy personally but didn’t have the intellectual bandwidth to really have a plan for America and his poll numbers showed it.

Trump is that times 10. Not only is he not even close to a fundamentally decent guy (there’s a long LONG history there to examine) but he has even less intellectual bandwidth and even lower poll numbers.

Bush got a boost from the war, (for a moment.) Trump would like that boost. And he thinks – I’m different, I’ll win.

There’s a dark, militaristic inevitability brewing in his small mind. North Korea would be huge. He wants to do it. And the military is too excited about getting free rein to show any restraint. That it would be a military disaster is obvious, that South Korea, China, Russia, and the EU would not approve is equally obvious.

#8 Comment By Bungalow Bill On January 31, 2018 @ 4:32 pm

Trump is now a full blown neocon swamp critter.

#9 Comment By frank williams On January 31, 2018 @ 5:28 pm

In the first phase of the Korean War, North Korea (NK)lost 25% of its population. That’s like our losing 80,000,000 millions in a nuclear war today. Yet NK did not surrender. The US Air Force destroyed every building in every village, town, and city in NK. Yet NK did not surrender. They rebuilt their cities and factories in caves and tunnels underground. Then China counterattacked. And China and NK together killed 37,000 US troops before we negotiated a truce. Just a truce. Technically, WE ARE STILL AT WAR WITH CHINA TOO. And China has said: CHINA WILL ATTACK US IF WE ATTACK US IF WE ATTACK NK. China has stages live-fire Navy and Air Force to show they mean business. Why does Larison never mention these things? Rod Dreher reads and responds to comments to his articles.Daniel Larison should do the same.

#10 Comment By Dan Green On February 4, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

If the lefties are successful impeaching Trump , then no new war . Let Russia and China do as they please. The fat Rocket man issue has been festering for a very very long time.