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Haley’s Irresponsible Threat Against North Korea

Nikki Haley threatened that the U.S. would attack North Korea if it conducted another missile test:

Speaking from Washington, where she and other members of the U.N. Security Council will meet with President Donald Trump later Monday, Haley told NBC’s “Today” show that “we are not going to do anything unless he gives us reason to do something.” But should North Korea continue its recent pattern of saber-rattling, Haley said the U.S. is prepared to respond with military force.

“If you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to do that,” Haley said in response to a question about what activity from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un might prompt a response from the U.S. military. “But right now, we’re saying don’t test, don’t use nuclear missiles, don’t try and do any more actions, and I think he’s understanding that and China’s helping us really put that pressure on him.”

If Haley’s remarks reflect the administration’s position, that is a very foolish and dangerous threat to make. North Korean missile tests may be undesirable, but they don’t come close to justifying military action against North Korea. The fact that Haley seems to think that a missile test “gives us reason” to take military action confirms that she hasn’t considered the likely consequences of attacking North Korea, and it also tells us that she has a very low bar for justifying the use of force. Because an attack on North Korea could have such devastating results for the entire region, this is not a threat to made lightly and really shouldn’t be made at all. We can hope that this is the empty threat that it ought to be, but that is all the more reason why Haley shouldn’t have made it in the first place.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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