‘Tis The Season

For another war, because why not? The ones the last Republican President started are going so well.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he was ready to start talks with North Korea without precondition. “We’ll talk about the weather if you like,” he said. He omitted the part about their having to give up their nuclear weapons and missiles first. But then his own spokesperson undercut him.

North Korea is making some signs that they would be open to discussions of – something – but definitely not giving up their nukes. So Tillerson’s offer was well-timed. But others in the administration, likely including National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, have something else in mind. The problem is that nobody knows what it is.

A number of Washington-based nuclear experts on my Twitter timeline say that the administration seems determined to strike North Korea preventively. That’s likely a war crime, but let that go for now. Dan Drezner is worried, and Joshua Pollack lays it out in a tweet thread. Selected tweets from that thread:

Lindsay Graham is beating the war drums. “Time is running out.” On whose timetable? In the 1950s, his arguments were made on hitting the Soviet Union to prevent them from getting a nuclear arsenal. In the 1960s, it was China. While it would be pleasant for us if they didn’t have nuclear weapons, we’ve all managed to live together for the past 60 years or so. We’ll manage with North Korea too.

It’s possible that the war talk is designed to convince China to magically fix things with North Korea. But they can’t. The US administration doesn’t seem to understand that.

If North Korea is attacked, it will devastate Seoul with conventional artillery. That’s been true for many decades, so Graham and McMaster should know that. Japan would probably take some hits too. My guess is that North Korea still doesn’t have a lot of nuclear-armed missiles deployed, but how about just a couple on Seoul, three on major cities in Japan, and one or two on the US West Coast? That could be pretty ugly, and dropping a bunch of nukes on North Korea wouldn’t bring back those millions of people. The scenario is worked out in more detail here and here.

Meanwhile, Nikki Haley is doing a Colin Powell to convince us that war with Iran is a good idea.

As badly as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone, war with North Korea or Iran would be worse. While you’re calling Congress to stop the tax plan, you might want to say that you wish Congress would hold hearings on administration plans for war against North Korea.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice.

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