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McMaster’s Irresponsible North Korea Rhetoric

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Trump’s National Security Advisor made what may be his most irresponsible and dangerous comments on North Korea yet:

H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, said Saturday that the possibility of war with North Korea increases every day the problem over its nuclear program isn’t solved.

“I think it’s increasing every day,” McMaster told Fox News’ Bret Baier at the Reagan National Security Forum in California. “It means we’re in a race. We’re in a race to be able to solve this problem.”

Added McMaster: “There are ways to address this problem short of armed conflict, but it is a race because he’s getting closer and closer and there’s not much time left.”

If the U.S. was in a race to “solve” North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, we already lost years ago. The latest North Korean ICBM test confirmed that the race is over. North Korea isn’t giving up on these technologies after having made so much progress, and there is nothing that the U.S. and its allies can do to force them into giving them up. As frustrating as it may be to admit that, U.S. officials need to start admitting it and facing the unpleasant reality in front of them. Clinging to the illusion that there is still “time left” to denuclearize North Korea puts the U.S. on a path to an unnecessary and extremely costly war in pursuit of a goal that cannot now be achieved.

McMaster’s comments are worrisome because they show that there has been absolutely no change to the administration’s bankrupt approach to this issue. His comments are alarming in that he seems to treat going to war with North Korea as an inevitability. Once a government has decided that war is inevitable, it tends to behave in ways that make the “inevitable” war happen. Combined with his previousstatements that Kim and his regime cannot be deterred, he is setting the stage for an attack that would be as unjustified as it would be disastrous for the region. An impending attack on North Korea is the most likely way to provoke Kim into launching a first strike. If the potential for war is increasingly daily, it is because U.S. officials keep publicly signaling our willingness to attack North Korea.

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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