In perhaps the most surreal commentary to yet appear on the burgeoning Korean crisis, the New York Times opened its op-ed pages to none other than Susan Rice. Yes. That Susan Rice. The one who knowingly lied to the American people on five consecutive Sunday show appearances after the Benghazi disaster. The same Susan Rice who steered Iran to a nuclear bonanza. The same Susan Rice who eavesdropped on conversations of political opponents of the Obama administration. Her contribution is headlined Not Too Late On North Korea.
We have long lived with successive Kims’ belligerent and colorful rhetoric — as ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama administration, I came to expect it whenever we passed resolutions. What is unprecedented and especially dangerous this time is the reaction of President Trump. Unscripted, the president said on Tuesday that if North Korea makes new threats to the United States, “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” These words risk tipping the Korean Peninsula into war, if the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, believes them and acts precipitously.
Either Mr. Trump is issuing an empty threat of nuclear war, which will further erode American credibility and deterrence, or he actually intends war next time Mr. Kim behaves provocatively. The first scenario is folly, but a United States decision to start a pre-emptive war on the Korean Peninsula, in the absence of an imminent threat, would be lunacy.
But war is not necessary to achieve prevention, despite what some in the Trump administration seem to have concluded. History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea — the same way we tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
This is part of a pattern we’re seeing on the part of Obama apparatchiks. Any deviation from what they did elicits howls (though there are obviously mixed messages, just this morning some Obama era foreign policy gurus were claiming that Trump was doing exactly what Obama had.) And success brings claims that you are just doing what they did (see Syria).
I don’t know how this plays out but it is difficult to see how we are able to maintain alliances in the region if we are no longer able to defend our allies. No matter how you cut it, North Korea having a nuclear capable ICBM constrains the actions we can take and allows who ever rules North Korea to hold American cities hostage.
We carefully studied this contingency. “Preventive war” would result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties. Metropolitan Seoul’s 26 million people are only 35 miles from the border, within easy range of the North’s missiles and artillery. About 23,000 United States troops, plus their families, live between Seoul and the Demilitarized Zone; in total, at least 200,000 Americans reside in South Korea.
Put aside, for a moment, the obvious fact that those numbers are so bizarre as to be discredited upon viewing, Lindsey Graham, in his interview with Hugh Hewitt, said it exactly right:
Well, I start every analysis out in terms of America’s national security interest. We would go to war to defend South Korea. If North Korea invaded South Korea tomorrow, we would defend them. If they attacked Japan, we would defend them. But we also have an obligation to defend the American homeland. So we’re in a unique situation of homeland defense versus regional stability. You can’t give your allies a veto when it comes to defending the homeland. So the president of the United States, Donald Trump or anyone else, I think, has to put defending the homeland first. That’s not inconsistent with helping our allies. But we cannot allow the capability to mature in North Korea that could put every American sitting in the crosshairs of a nuclear attack by a very unstable, provocative leader of North Korea.
That, in my view, is where we are. Negotiations with North Korea have been tried for over 20 years. Bill Clinton followed the Iran model and gave them economic benefits to give up their nuclear program, and, strangely like Iran, they decided to take the economic benefits and cheat. There is no reason to think another round of talks is going to yield anything but more North Korean nukes and missiles. The last chance for a no-war solution is a major intervention by China to denuclearize North Korea. If that doesn’t happen I think our choices are limited.
Susan Rice is a horrible messenger for a flawed and irresponsible message. She betrayed the people of the country for eight solid years. The regime she was part of did everything in its power to minimize American power. She has no place in this conversation, it is time for her to just STFU and go away and let responsible people deal with the mess she was instrumental in creating.