NBC’s anonymous source, described as a “senior intelligence official involved in the review” said:
"I'm not advocating pre-emptive war, nor do I think that the deployment of nuclear weapons buys more for us than it costs," but he stressed that the U.S. was dealing with a "war today" situation.
On the record, retired Admiral James Stavridis said, “I don't see any upside to it because the idea that we would use a nuclear weapon even against North Korea is highly unlikely.” Of the assassination plan, Stavridis (without a hint of irony), said “decapitation is always a tempting strategy when you're faced with a highly unpredictable and highly dangerous leader.”
This past Thursday, FoxNews was preconditioning its audience that a military strike on North Korea may be the only option. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, “Trump’s first choice for Secretary of Defense,” told FoxNews:
“We’re rapidly and dangerously heading towards the reality that the military option is the only one left when it comes to getting North Korea to denuclearize and not weaponized [intercontinental ballistic missiles] …
“The Trump administration cannot accept a nuclear launch… We cannot rely on our missile-defense system to defeat it and expose the American people to a nuclear attack. Therefore if an ICBM attack was imminent the president would have to conduct a preemptive strike.”
Earlier last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said diplomacy had “failed” and stated the U.S. was done negotiating with North Korea. Tillerson warned that “all options are on the table”. All options, that is, except diplomacy.
“Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Tillerson said at a news conference in Seoul with Yun Byung-se, the South Korean foreign minister.
What other options are there? Take one guess.
On Saturday, Reuters reported that the Pentagon has directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail to the Korean peninsula. Tom Namako, of BuzzFeed tweeted the Pentagon’s statement:
Stars and Stripes notes that “an unannounced submarine presence often transits with carrier strike groups as well.”
This past Sunday, the Financial Times interviewed Trump and he claimed that he has told China that he prepared for the U.S. to act unilaterally against North Korea.
“China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office. “If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”
But he made clear that he would deal with North Korea with or without China’s help. Asked if he would consider a “grand bargain” — where China pressures Pyongyang in exchange for a guarantee that the US would later remove troops from the Korean peninsula — Mr Trump said: “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.” […]
Mr Trump said it was “totally” possible for the US to tackle North Korea without China. Asked if that meant dealing with Pyongyang one on one, he said: “I don’t have to say any more. Totally.”
At the end of March, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said North Korea “has got to be stopped”. “Right now, [North Korea] appears to be going in a very reckless manner … and that has got to be stopped,” he said.
David Sanger of the the New York Times, writes that the “grim assessment by the intelligence community” is that “Kim, believes his nuclear weapons program is the only way to guarantee the survival of his regime and will never trade it away for economic or other benefits.”
As writer Sarah Kendzior warns, “Do not take your eye off North Korea, even as [the] Syria situation escalates. Trump policies [are] extremely dangerous.”
So, even though Trump’s moves against North Korea have been buried by the news of Trump’s electoral collusion with Russia, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s successful theft of a Supreme Court seat, and Trump’s impulsive missile attack on Syria, it cannot be ignored.
We’ve just witnessed in Syria, Trump ordering a missile strike on “impulse” without a strategy or plan to what happens next and how the news media — from MSNBC to USA Today — swooned from the Sturm und Drang on display. Trump learned that war is a great distraction.
What better distraction from Trump’s problems at home would be a second Korean war?
A war in Korea risks the lives of everyone living in Seoul, a city within 50 miles from the border with a population of more than 10 million people, from North Korean artillery. Not to mention the lives of South Koreans, Japanese, and other American allies from a retaliatory nuclear missile strike.
I do not doubt Trump would hesitate from ordering a nuclear strike. During the campaign, Trump had this infamous exchange:
TRUMP: Let me explain. Let me explain. Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?
MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in 45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.
TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?
Trump wants to be “unpredictable” when it comes to his use of nuclear weapons. During the presidential campaign in 2015, Trump said, without irony:
… The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon…
I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.
There is nothing more devastating as a nuclear war. Such a war in North Korea risks escalating quickly into a very short, but deadly global war.
James Fallows, of The Atlantic, asks “Wars are so, so much easier to get into than out of. What every strategist or soldier asks about an attack plan is: OK, what happens next?”
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