On October 19, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster declared that President Donald Trump was not going to accept the North Korean regime threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon. “He just won’t accept it,” McMaster reported. “There are those who have said, ‘What about accept and deter?’ Well, accept and deter is unacceptable.” McMaster was speaking at a conference organized by the Foundation for the Defense for Democracies—a small but influential Washington think tank. Its leaders advocated the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now provide intellectual fuel for McMaster, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and others, such as the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which called for “The Regime Change Solution in Korea.”

Regime change also motivates neoconservative efforts to “renegotiate” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—a deal struck by the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom in 2015 to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. President Trump announced on October 13 that he would no longer certify that the deal is in the national-security interests of the United States. Congress, by law, now has until mid-December to decide whether and how to respond. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has taken the lead in designing a more coercive approach in order “to get a better deal.” Cotton has said that if tougher sanctions don’t work, they “will at least buy time for more devastating military action.” The threat, he says, “is not the nature of Iran’s weapons; it’s the nature of Iran’s regime.”

Removing hostile regimes, including by means of military action, is the logical solution if one concludes that a “rogue state” cannot be deterred. This thinking drove the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq. Many champions of that operation have now reemerged within the Trump administration and on its friendly periphery. North Korea and Iran are the two remaining members of President Bush’s “Axis of Evil.”

This article was originally published in National Interest 

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