We give President Trump high marks for putting the North Korea nuclear challenge at the top of the international agenda, and injecting urgency into coping with a serious threat that has defied the efforts of three previous administrations. Let’s call it “strategic impatience,” the opposite of the Obama administration’s policy of strategic patience. But on almost every other aspect of Crisis Management 101, Trump is failing the course — and the consequences could be deadly.
Denuclearization is an unrealistic goal
Trump said this week that his goal is “complete denuclearization” of North Korea. Maybe this is the well-known Trump tactic of staking out an extreme position that he will eventually abandon. But if it is his real objective, we might as well plan on a military option.
For decades the Kim family has defined getting nuclear weapons as crucial to its survival — to deter U.S. efforts at regime change and to preserve its independence toward China. Pyongyang also probably harbors the goal of using nuclear weapons to coerce South Korea to end its alliance with the United States and expel U.S. forces from South Korea — and possibly even to force South Korea to achieve unification of the peninsula on North Korean terms...