Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime is frightening. Kim’s government is the world’s most totalitarian and most oppressive. It operates slave labor camps and engages in torture, forced medical experimentation, and rape and murder on industrial scales. The regime has worked tirelessly for decades to develop nuclear weapons and ICBMs to deliver them to the United States and other destinations. Currently, the regime is believed to possess 10 to 20 nuclear weapons and approximately 1,000 ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers.
Kim, who is widely considered to be crazy, has several times threatened a nuclear attack against the United States. There is no question about his ruthlessness: among others, he has ordered his uncle and his half-brother murdered.
Currently the Trump administration is putting pressure on North Korea, and is trying to work with China to find a way to defuse the North Korean threat. In this scenario, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof finds one of the adversaries “scary.” Kim Jong Un? Don’t be silly! Donald Trump. He begins:
President Trump is scary in many ways, but perhaps the most frightening nightmare is of him blundering into a new Korean war.
It would begin because the present approach of leaning on China to pressure North Korea will likely fail. Trump will grow angry at public snickering at the emptiness of his threats.
At some point, U.S. intelligence will see a North Korean missile prepared for a test launch — and it may then be very tempting for a deeply frustrated rogue president to show his muscle.
So Donald Trump is a “deeply frustrated rogue president,” and therefore likely to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.
What is remarkable about Kristof’s column (apart from the vituperative attitude toward our president, which is standard at the Times) is his frank admission that the Obama administration’s policies toward North Korea have failed:
Yet I’m worried because the existing policy inherited from Barack Obama is running out of time, because all U.S. and South Korean policies toward North Korea have pretty much failed over the years, and because Trump seems temperamentally inclined to fire missiles.
The Times likes to tell us that they are the “evidence-based” newspaper. What is the evidence for Kristof’s claim that our president is “temperamentally inclined to fire missiles”?
When Vice President Mike Pence says of North Korea, “The era of strategic patience is over,” he has a point: Patience has failed.
It gets worse: while Obama pursued an impotent policy, Kim’s regime has been working on ICBMs. The time is not far off when North Korea will be able to devastate America’s West Coast:
Worse, North Korea is expected in the next few years to develop the capacity to attach a nuclear warhead to an intercontinental missile that could devastate Los Angeles.
So what is Kristof’s solution? He doesn’t have one:
If a military strike is unthinkable, and so is doing nothing, what about Trump’s plan of nudging China to apply pressure to North Korea?
It’s worth trying, but I don’t think it’ll work, either.
The only option left, I think, is to apply relentless pressure together with China…
I.e., Trump’s strategy.
…while pushing for a deal in which North Korea would verifiably freeze its nuclear and missile programs without actually giving up its nukes, in exchange for sanctions relief. This is a lousy option, possibly unattainable, and it isn’t a solution so much as a postponement of one. But all the alternatives are worse.
And yet, confronted with nuclear weapons in the hands of an insane and implacable enemy that is bent on developing the ability to hit our cities with them, Nicholas Kristof is most afraid of…Donald Trump.
Have these people lost their minds?