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(This is a genuinely scary articles. All those people like Stephen F.
Cohen, Diana Johnstone and Boris Kagarlitsky who saw Trump as a welcome
relief from neoliberal warmongering Hillary were looking at his
candidacy with blinders on. Just because Trump has ended sanctions on
Russia, is this supposed to allow us to breathe a sigh of relief? Six
years of writing screeds about imperialist warmongering in Syria and
Ukraine by the Democrats prepared the way for a weakened antiwar
movement. How many demonstrations has WWP or PSL called for opposing US
troops in Syria? If the left wasn't so fucked up, there would be a
coalition formed to build a demonstration in Washington about the threat
of nuclear war, the continued presence of American forces in
Afghanistan, drone attacks, etc. What a state of affairs.)
NY Times, Feb. 2, 2018
White House Wants Pentagon to Offer More Options on North Korea
By MARK LANDLER and HELENE COOPER
WASHINGTON — The White House has grown frustrated in recent weeks by
what it considers the Pentagon’s reluctance to provide President Trump
with options for a military strike against North Korea, according to
officials, the latest sign of a deepening split in the administration
over how to confront the nuclear-armed regime of Kim Jong-un.
The national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, believes that
for Mr. Trump’s warnings to North Korea to be credible, the United
States must have well-developed military plans, according to those
But the Pentagon, they say, is worried that the White House is moving
too hastily toward military action on the Korean Peninsula that could
escalate catastrophically. Giving the president too many options, the
officials said, could increase the odds that he will act.
The tensions bubbled to the surface this week with the disclosure that
the White House had abandoned plans to nominate a prominent Korea
expert, Victor D. Cha, as ambassador to South Korea. Mr. Cha suggested
that he was sidelined because he warned administration officials against
a “preventive” military strike, which, he later wrote, could spiral
“into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands
But the divisions go back months, officials said. When North Korea
tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in July that experts
concluded was capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States,
the National Security Council convened a conference call that included
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.
After General McMaster left the room, Mr. Mattis and Mr. Tillerson
continued to speak, not realizing that other participants were still on
the line. The officials familiar with the matter overheard them
complaining about a series of meetings that the National Security
Council had set up to consider options for North Korea — signs, Mr.
Tillerson said, that it was becoming overly aggressive.
For now, the frustration at the White House appears to be limited to
senior officials rather than Mr. Trump himself. But the president has
shown impatience with his military leaders on other issues, notably the
debate over whether to deploy additional American troops to Afghanistan.
As they examine the most effective way of giving credibility to Mr.
Trump’s threat of “fire and fury,” officials are considering the
feasibility of a preventive strike that could include disabling a
missile on the launchpad or destroying North Korea’s entire nuclear
infrastructure. American officials are also said to be considering
covert means of disabling the nuclear and missile programs.
While General McMaster also favors a diplomatic solution to the impasse,
officials said, he emphasizes to colleagues that past efforts to
negotiate with North Korea have forced the United States to make
The Pentagon has a different view. Mr. Mattis and the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., argue forcefully for
using diplomacy. They have repeatedly warned, in meetings and on video
conference calls, that there are few, if any, military options that
would not provoke retaliation from North Korea, according to officials
at the Defense Department.
Representatives of Mr. Mattis and General Dunford denied that they have
slow-walked options to the White House.
The Pentagon press secretary, Dana W. White, said that Mr. Mattis
“regularly provides the president with a deep arsenal of military
options” and that reports of a delay were “false.” General Dunford’s
press secretary, Col. Patrick S. Ryder, said: “General Dunford regularly
provides his best military advice in a timely and responsive manner.
Suggestions to the contrary are inaccurate.”
During a visit in October to the Demilitarized Zone between the two
Koreas, Mr. Mattis confronted the central contradiction in the Trump
administration’s bellicose language: Virtually any military option would
put the sprawling city of Seoul, with its population of 10 million, in
the cross hairs of North Korea’s artillery guns.
At times, South Korea’s defense minister, Song Young-moo, appeared to be
giving Mr. Mattis a guided tour of how a strike against North Korea’s
nuclear facilities would quickly trigger extensive retaliation.
Even the most limited strike, the so-called bloody nose option, risks
what one Defense Department official called an unacceptably high number
of casualties. Mr. Cha, writing in The Washington Post, said the premise
of such a strike — that it would jolt Mr. Kim into recognizing that the
United States was serious, and draw him back to the bargaining table —
“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?”
Mr. Cha wrote. “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?”
Friends said Mr. Cha pressed that case in meetings at the Pentagon, the
United States Pacific Command, the State Department and the National
Security Council. He passed along articles critical of preventive
military action by two colleagues: John J. Hamre, the president of the
Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Michael J. Green, a
senior fellow at the center who worked in the George W. Bush
administration, as did Mr. Cha.
Mr. Green warned against a preventive strike in testimony on Tuesday
before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said there appeared to be
little support for it, even among normally hawkish Republicans like
Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Dan Sullivan of
Even the White House has struggled to send a consistent message. In the
week after Mr. Trump issued his threat to rain “fire and fury” on North
Korea, Stephen K. Bannon, then his chief strategist, told a progressive
journalist, “There’s no military solution. Forget it.”
“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10
million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from
conventional weapons,” he said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Mr. Bannon’s bluntness angered other White House officials and hastened
his exit from the White House. But there is evidence that General
McMaster shares those concerns. Asked by a reporter in August whether
there was any military option that would not put Seoul in North Korea’s
cross hairs, he paused briefly, then said, “No.”
With as many as 8,000 artillery pieces and rocket launchers positioned
along its border with the South, North Korea could rain up to 300,000
rounds on the South in the first hour of a counterattack.
While that arsenal is of limited range and could be destroyed in days,
North Korea would still have time to cause widespread destruction. In a
rare appearance last year on the CBS News program “Face the Nation,” Mr.
Mattis warned that war with North Korea would be “catastrophic” —
“probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”
That does not mean the military has not begun preparing for that
possibility. At multiple Army bases across the country this month, more
than 1000 reserve officers are practicing how to set up so-called
mobilization centers, which move reservists overseas in a hurry.
But as the military gears up, Mr. Tillerson continues to look for a
diplomatic channel to North Korea. State Department officials say the
United States has far from exhausted its nonmilitary options for
pressuring Pyongyang. It could, for example, push to expel North Korea
from the United Nations or interdict ships that it suspects are
violating sanctions against the government.
Neither Mr. Tillerson nor Mr. Mattis has broken with the White House on
the issue of a preventive strike. That is because for now, they still
view it as a useful tool in deterring North Korea, according to people
briefed by the administration. More important, they continue to be
confident that, despite their anxieties, cooler heads with eventually
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