My hope for the new year is that the United States doesn’t bluster and blunder its way into a tragic, needless war. My fear is that the Trump administration is capable of doing just that.
I confess to having paid less attention than I should to the increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric from the administration about the nuclear threat from North Korea. I’m not talking about President Trump’s juvenile tweets calling Kim Jong Un “Little Rocket Man” and making fun of his weight. I mean statements by officials such as H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, who is not known for meaningless blather.
The potential for war with North Korea “is increasing every day,” McMaster said last month at a defense forum. “Time is running out” for a peaceful solution, he declared in another public appearance. “I don’t think we can tolerate that risk” of a nuclear-armed North Korea with advanced ballistic missiles, he told CBS in an interview.
What is alarming is that the situation McMaster describes as intolerable is the situation that exists today. I worry that with such absolutist rhetoric, the United States is ruling out the realistic options for peace.
No amount of threatening is likely to make Kim surrender his nuclear weapons, because he sees them as an insurance policy. The North Koreans watched as Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gave up their nuclear ambitions — and ended up being deposed and killed.