I am very worried. So is FT columnist Gideon Rachman.
President Donald Trump is signalling resolve — vowing that the US will stop North Korea’s nuclear programme and hinting heavily that he is prepared to take pre-emptive military action. ….
Any such conclusion would fly in the face of standard military advice, which holds that it is impossible to “take out” the North Korean nuclear programme with a single wave of attacks and that therefore, following any such assault, South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region, would be exposed to retaliation.
The US military is well aware of the risks entailed by a first strike on North Korea. So it is encouraging to recall that General HR McMaster, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, has written a book lambasting US generals for not giving frank advice to politicians during the Vietnam war.
Set against that is the danger that Mr Trump — after a chaotic start to his presidency — has concluded that military action is the key to the “winning” image that he promised his voters. The president lapped up the bipartisan applause that he got for bombing Syria. He dropped a huge conventional bomb on Afghanistan shortly afterwards and his son, Donald junior, tweeted his exultation — complete with an emoji of a bomb.
Gideon Rachman, “Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un and the risk of nuclear miscalculation“, Financial Times, 18 April 2017 (gated paywall).
Rachman’s position is more nuanced than this brief brief passage suggests. Read the full column to see alternative – less frightening – options open to Mr Trump.