Marc Thiessen offers up one of the dumbest and most dangerous proposals for dealing with North Korea:
If Trump wants to stop North Korea’s drive for nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. homeland, he should look to the success of his Syrian strike as a model. Specifically, he should announce that North Korean nuclear and missile tests will no longer be tolerated — that, henceforth, North Korea is a ballistic missile “no-fly zone” and a nuclear weapons “no-test zone.” Any attempt by North Korea to launch a ballistic missile will be met with a targeted military strike either taking out the missile on the launchpad or blowing it up in the air using missile defense technology. And any attempt to test a nuclear weapon will be met with a targeted strike taking out the test site and other related nuclear facilities.
Thiessen wants the president to issue a threat that he can’t back up without illegally attacking another country and risking a major war. He also somehow thinks that a regime that is hyper-sensitive about its sovereignty will comply with demands made under threat of an illegal attack on its territory. Of course, North Korea won’t comply, and Trump will be left with the choice of backing down from his stupid threat or carrying it out with potentially disastrous consequences.
The Syrian government was never likely to retaliate against U.S. or allied forces over the missile strikes earlier this year, and it didn’t really have the capability to do so in any case. As pointless and illegal as that attack was, it was relatively low-risk and easy for the president to get away with. Launching an attack on North Korean territory, whether it is “targeted” or not, would not only make the U.S. the aggressor but would risk escalation into a very costly conflict. Besides having absolutely no authority or right to initiate hostilities against another state to penalize it for conducting weapons tests, this could trigger a war in which North Korea ends up using its nuclear arsenal against major population centers in South Korea, Japan, and possibly even in the U.S.
Thiessen claims that the attacks he is recommending would be acts of self-defense, but not even the most tortured reasoning from a leading torture supporter can back that up. Preventive war cannot be defensive, and Thiessen is arguing for waging preventive war. Preventive war is inherently aggressive, unjust, and has no legal justification. The U.S. wouldn’t be defending itself or one of its allies against attack, and it wouldn’t even be a pre-emptive strike to counter an imminent threat. Attacking North Korea over missile or nuclear weapons tests would be an unlawful act of aggression against another state carried out solely because it happened to be doing something that our government disapproves of. It is a deranged idea that any sane government would automatically rule out.