North Korea, if not stopped, will build an arsenal with multiple nuclear missiles meant to threaten the U.S. homeland and blackmail us into abandoning our allies in Asia. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will sell these weapons to state and nonstate actors, and he will inspire other rogue actors who want to undermine the U.S.-backed postwar order. These are real and unprecedented threats. But the answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike. Instead, there is a forceful military option available that can address the threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.
.. Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake.
.. A strike also would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us.
.. I also hope that if North Korea did retaliate militarily, the United States could control the escalation ladder to minimize collateral damage and prevent a collapse of financial markets.
.. the rationale is that a strike that demonstrates U.S. resolve to pursue “all options” is necessary to give the mercurial Kim a “bloody nose.”
.. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind?
And if Kim is unpredictable, impulsive and bordering on irrational, how can we control the escalation ladder, which is premised on an adversary’s rational understanding of signals and deterrence?
.. Some have argued the risks are still worth taking because it’s better that people die “over there” than “over here.” On any given day, there are 230,000 Americans in South Korea and 90,000 or so in Japan. Given that an evacuation of so many citizens would be virtually impossible ..
.. these Americans would most likely have to hunker down until the war was over.
.. To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power.
.. An alternative coercive strategy involves enhanced and sustained U.S., regional and global pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize. This strategy is likely to deliver the same potential benefits as a limited strike, along with other advantages, without the self-destructive costs.
- .. First, the Trump administration must continue to strengthen the coalition of U.N. member states
- Second, the United States must significantly up-gun its alliances with Japan and South Korea with integrated missile defense, intelligence-sharing and anti-submarine warfare and strike capabilities to convey to North Korea that an attack on one is an attack on all.
- Third, the United States must build a maritime coalition around North Korea involving rings of South Korean, Japanese and broader U.S. assets to intercept any nuclear missiles or technologies leaving the country. China and Russia should be prepared to face the consequences if they allow North Korean proliferation across their borders.
- Lastly, the United States must continue to prepare military options. Force will be necessary to deal with North Korea if it attacks first, but not through a preventive strike that could start a nuclear war.
.. This strategy gets us out of crisis-management mode. It constitutes decisive action, not previously attempted, by President Trump. And it demonstrates resolve to other bad actors that threats to the United States will be countered.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “declare war.”
.. In practice, however, it seems as if the rule is observed mainly in the breach. In the post–World War II era, American forces have been committed time and again even in offensive military actions without even the slightest effort to obtain congressional authorization.
.. The latest example occurred on April 6, 2017, when President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons
.. Unless there is classified information we don’t yet know, a strike of this nature is exactly the kind of military action that should require congressional approval.
.. We were not at war with Syria. We were not acting in immediate self-defense of our nation. We were not fulfilling a Senate-ratified treaty obligation.
.. Shrugging off the Constitution is a bipartisan practice.
- Who can forget President Obama’s strikes against Libya? He ordered offensive military action against a sovereign nation without a declaration of war.
- While George W. Bush obtained congressional authorization for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his predecessor,
- Bill Clinton, launched extended aerial campaigns in the former Yugoslavia with no congressional vote.
years of presidential overreach, congressional inaction, and partisan bickering have jeopardized our constitutional structure. We are steadily moving away from the separation of powers and toward an unconstitutional legal regime that places sole war-making authority in the hands of an increasingly imperial presidency.
.. There are widespread reports that the president is considering launching a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea — a strike designed to send the strongest possible message, short of all-out war — that its ICBM program has to end.
.. The discussions are apparently so serious that the administration pulled its nominee for ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, because he opposed the strike. He then immediately took to the pages of the Washington Post to express his opposition
.. We are not facing the necessity of immediate self-defense. Oh, and in both countries, military action carries with it risks of dangerous escalation. With Russian boots on the ground in Syria, miscalculation risks a great-power conflict. With immense North Korean forces clustered near the border of South Korea, miscalculation risks a truly terrible war.
.. New military action in Syria and new military action in North Korea represent textbook cases for congressional authorization.
.. So why did the administration feel that it had the legal authority to order its Syria strike?
Well, it turns out there’s a memo.
.. Prior to the Syria strike, the administration generated a classified document by an “interagency group of attorneys” that analyzed the “legal basis for potential military action.”
.. We cannot sustain and protect our constitutional structure if we delegate arguments against the unconstitutional abuse of presidential authority exclusively to members of whichever party is out of power.
.. it’s time for Senator Corker to insist on a public debate and congressional authorization before we launch any new military action against North Korea.
.. While the facts supporting the argument may well be legitimately classified, the legal analysis itself — which will turn on questions of constitutional, statutory, and international law — should be a matter of open inquiry.
The Trump administration has in fact, either accidentally or by design, laid out aggressive markers in three parts of the world — three red lines — without any serious strategy as to what happens when they are crossed.
.. The president has specifically promised that North Korea would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States. Meanwhile, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says Pyongyang is “a handful of months” away from having this capability.
.. So what happens when that red line is crossed? What would be the American response? Victor Cha, a seasoned expert who was expected to be the nominee for ambassador to South Korea, told the administration that there really is no limited military option, not even a small strike that would “bloody” the nose of the North Korean regime. For this frank analysis, he was promptly droppedfrom consideration for the ambassadorship... But being right is not the same as being smart. Most experts predicted that Pakistan would respond to the U.S. action in two ways: First, by pursuing closer relations with China, which can easily replace the aid. Second, the Pakistani military would ratchet up the violence in Afghanistan, demonstrating that it has the capacity to destabilize the pro-American government in Kabul, throw the country into chaos and tie down the U.S. forces that are now in their 17th year of war... Thomas Schelling, the Nobel Prize-winning scholar of strategy, once remarked that two things are very expensive in international affairs: threats when they fail, and promises when they succeed. So, he implied, be very careful about making either one... Trump seemed to understand this when his predecessor made a threat toward Syria in 2013, and Trump tweeted: “Red line statement was a disaster for President Obama.” Well, he has just drawn three red lines of his own, and each of them is likely to be crossed.