The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Trump administration is seriously considering “limited strikes” against North Korea, or what insiders have dubbed a so-called “bloody nose” option, to show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that the U.S. means business in reining in his country’s nuclear weapons program.
In fact, the Trump team has been reportedly debating this option for months, and the Journal’s report appears to confirm that the hawks in the administration led by Gen. H.R. McMaster and others appear to be successfully convincing the President that some kind of military action is necessary.
Expert reaction to the Journal story was swift and scathing:
- It would be an act of irrational frustration that only makes a bad situation worse.” — Adam Mount, Federation of American Scientists.>
- Any strike would thus risk igniting a full-blown war on the Korean Peninsula that would endanger millions of lives and ultimately diminish U.S. power and influence in the Asia-Pacific.” — Abraham M. Denmark, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
- Preventive ‘limited’ strikes against North Korea, to signal resolve or compel [Kim Jong-un] to abandon his nuclear program, WHILE assuming [Kim Jong-un] won’t miscalculate the intent and limits of the strikes or engage in escalatory retaliation, would be insane.” — Micah Zenko, Chatham House.
- The ‘bloody nose’ strategy…is a singularly bad idea. Any use of force would need to accomplish a great deal and not just ‘send a message” given the great risks and costs of retaliation.” — Richard Haass, Council on Foreign Relations.
- Bloody nose? Wishful thinking that could easily lead to a bloody Korean peninsula and full-scale war. No one should let Trump get away with this.” — Erica Fein, Win Without War.
- Once again, team Trump risking catastrophe. There is not [a] ‘bloody nose’ gambit that doesn’t lead NK to retaliate in a way that risk all out escalation to nuclear war.” — Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Association.
- If…this is a bluff, then it’s a f**king idiotic bluff. If it’s not a bluff, then it’s a f**king idiotic strategy.” — Daniel Drezner, Tufts University
- How would a brutal dictator with a nuclear arsenal respond to being punched in the nose?” — Ilan Goldenberg, Center for New American Security
Indeed, any military conflict with North Korea could have catastrophic consequences, including nuclear war:
- The Pentagon concluded recently that in the event of a conflict, North Korea would likely use chemical and biological weapons.
- According to the Congressional Research Service, North Korea could cause tens of thousands of casualties in South Korea using conventional weapons during the first hours of an armed conflict.
- Limited strikes” could quickly spiral out of control, leading to “a massive mobilization of U.S. forces onto the Korean Peninsula, and high military casualty rates,” with total casualties estimated at least one million dead.
Diplomacy is the only option to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s now beginning to show promise and a “limited strike” would make diplomacy more difficult or kill any chance of successful negotiations:
- North and South Korea reached real breakthroughs on Olympic cooperation and agreements on future discussions in their first high-level talks in two years.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis are reportedly pushing a diplomatic approach.
- Experts say talk of war undermines diplomacy and could convince the South Koreans that they can no longer trust the Americans.
Diplomacy will not be easy or painless, and moving back from the brink toward a negotiated agreement will require compromise on both sides and relentless commitment to a peaceful solution. So-called limited war may seem like an easy and relatively painless option but the risks associated — undermining the chance for diplomacy and/or leading to total war — is too high to be silent. We urge all Americans to speak out against Trump’s reckless “limited strike” plan and continue to fight for a diplomatic resolution to this, largely Trump-inflicted, crisis.
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