Seoul, not Washington, must now work with Beijing and Tokyo to solve the problem. For Washington, step one is to signal American support for President Moon’s initiative of an inter-Korean dialogue.
Moon is right, in the long run, about “a need for talks between the United States and North Korea,” but conversation between the two Koreas is more achievable and more likely to be effective in the near term. If Seoul is willing to talk to Pyongyang, Washington must get out of the way.
It’s long past time to pay attention to the world as it is. This much is certain, after 16 years, when no sector of even Kabul is safe, and U.S. operations have drifted to bombing obscure Chinese separatists, it is time to immediately explore extricating the U.S. from this entire endeavor.
The latest two-year budget deal that skyrockets Pentagon and domestic spending by at least $320 billion is laying the foundation for a major economic disaster for our future. Perversely and counterintuitively, the spike in defense spending won’t solve the military’s readiness problems.
President Trump took to Twitter Monday morning to hype the plan’s release, and he chose to do so by contrasting this program with the reckless spending of the past 17 years of U.S. foreign policy. “This will be a big week for Infrastructure,” the president wrote. “After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!”
The U.S., however, cannot let fear overtake logic or insist on goals that are unnecessary and simply not possible, at least in the short run. Washington’s national security community should push for an honest, inter-agency debate about the reality in front of us. A nuclear North Korea has been deterred for the last 11 years—there is no evidence it won’t be deterred far into the future.
The security of Europe simply cannot matter more to Washington than it does to the people who live there. Changes are both appropriate and necessary with regard to the obligations of our NATO allies.
Engaging with North Korea in a productive manner is essential. The more we directly interact with them on our terms, and on U.S.-friendly territory, the better. The 2018 Olympic games have presented us with that opportunity. Let’s hope all U.S. representatives use it to the advantage of the American people they are sworn to represent.
It is long past time to stop believing in surges, leadership changes, and other tired old approaches from the interventionist Washington elite. In Afghanistan policy there is, truly, nothing new under the sun.
President Trump and members of Congress should give substantial and sober consideration to the risk they would be taking with the health of the U.S. military before ordering any ground action—including the so-called “bloody nose” option—on the Korean peninsula.
A budget impasse doesn’t have to mean that government stops working. The alternative is a continuation of the status quo through an “automatic continuing resolution.” If appropriations legislation can’t be agreed to, programs would simply carry on as before.
It’s time for hard decisions and realistic analysis. The U.S. military may have already accomplished all it can (and needs to) in Syria. It is now wading into treacherous waters as the mission expands to countering Iran, forcing a diplomatic solution in Geneva, and quietly nation-building in the northeast. The U.S. may, understandably, desire all of those things, but none rank as truly vital national security interests worthy of hefty military investment. Realism demands the U.S. weigh the immense commitments with the paltry plausible payoffs.
The U.S. should always be vigilant in protecting Americans from terrorism. If the U.S. intelligence community discovers an imminent plot being planned in Afghanistan, Syria, or anywhere else, it should take action and do so without apology or reservation. U.S. officials, however, will have to apologize to the American people if they continue to implement the same basic strategy, supported by the same stale assumptions, with the same overzealous goals, delivering only repeated failure.
The Trump administration has shown itself willing to question political orthodoxies, and Afghanistan policy is an area where Mattis must put that skepticism to good use. If he doesn’t—if he is content to allow Afghanistan to remain our forgotten forever war, constantly recycling old failures and futilities—then we are like to find ourselves in the same place 18 years hence, still pouring blood and treasure into a hole that will never be filled.
We deterred the former Soviet Union and China under the likes of Stalin and Mao, both of whom were considered crazy and irrational in their time, and we can deter North Korea under Kim Jong-un. Deterrence is the more prudent and rational course of action because there is no such thing as a limited military option or a “bloody nose” strike that doesn’t escalate in unpredictably lethal ways—including the use of chemical or biological agents that the regime is believed to possess. It would be the equivalent of Washington starting a war on the Korean Peninsula that would be catastrophic for U.S. security and prosperity.
Trump would do well to give that speech another read amid reports his team is considering nationalizing the United States’ 5G wireless network on grounds of national security. A Sunday evening Axios report, sharing a leaked memo and PowerPoint presentation authored by a senior National Security Council member, describes a potential plan for Washington to build and control the next generation in wireless connectivity, “an unprecedented nationalization of a historically private infrastructure.”
As the Trump administration enters its second year, there is a risk that the good instincts and good policy expressed by Trump on the campaign trail morph into bad policy because of military advisors wholly committed to the status quo that Trump meant to challenge. Doing any more than assisting the Kurds in Syria, for example, amounts to “fighting two wars at one time.”
The U.S. must stop picking winners and losers in the Middle East’s centuries-long sectarian fights; stop providing Saudi Air Force with the munitions, aircraft, and fuel it needs to continue a military strategy that has failed; help shock a U.N.-led diplomatic process back to life; draft a more impartial Security Council resolution outlining in general terms a possible power-sharing settlement the international community would support; and last but certainly not least, start being more far more selective in when and where and on behalf of whom America deploys its military assets.
It is long past time to distance ourselves from Saudi actions inconsistent with American values and interests. What America needs is sober strategy that avoids counterproductive ethical and strategic decisions that draw the U.S. military ever further into the Mideast abyss. In this case, doing good is consistent with doing well.
The Trump administration has a prime opportunity to start the long journey of negotiating an improved text with its allies and giving Congress more of a role that befits its status under the Constitution. Just as walking away from the Iran nuclear deal, or blowing it up, would not serve the U.S. national security interest, letting its clauses expire without something to replace it would be irresponsible.
If the Trump administration hopes to change America’s focus in Syria, its first step ought to be following the Constitution and persuading lawmakers that an evolution in the focus of the campaign is in the nation’s interest. Lawmakers can no longer defer to the executive branch to make these decisions on its own. For the sake of the country’s democratic fabric, Congress must get off the bench and back into the war-making conversation.
A military alliance is only as strong as the states that contribute to it. Burden sharing is therefore not only an act of fiscal fairness to those like the United States which has carried NATO on its shoulders ever since the organization’s establishment in 1949, but a military necessity if the alliance is to deter aggression before it happens or win a war if deterrence fails.
Trump’s latest tweets strikingly put the U.S. at odds with South Korea’s willingness to pursue talks and a sustainable political end state with North Korea—even though, as their ally, we are supposed to support and defend them and their interests in the region. Just as alarming, Trump’s insistence on threatening language seems to be urging North Korea to respond in kind, even as the country seems willing to pursue a more peaceful tactic in dealings with their southern neighbor.
The Trump administration is scrambling for a Syria policy for the post-ISIS period. The job has been left to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who used an appearance at the Hoover Institution to deliver the beginnings of what the administration hoped would be a coherent, pragmatic, and results-oriented Syria strategy. There was only one, big problem however––the speech was neither coherent, pragmatic, nor realistic given the present situation Syria finds itself.
The U.S.-relationship with Pakistan must improve it is going to be maintained. The U.S. can ill-afford to send billions of dollars to a country which actively undermines our interests. Shrewd diplomacy should replace bribery.
Looking to the Constitution, the president’s foreign policy powers are quite limited. He commands the armed forces (although only Congress can authorize war), can demand reports from executive branch officials including at the State and Defense departments, and he can pardon people for offenses against the United States. He can make treaties with other countries, but only if two-thirds of senators agree. He can appoint ambassadors and other officials, although some require Senate approval.
The role of a statesman is to know how and when power should be applied or restraint and prudence be shown, and candidate Trump showed those instincts during his campaign. He should consider all options to deter the North Korean threat before embarking on a plan that would make him look even less like a winner than the predecessors he maligned.
Germany and the other NATO countries need to take primary responsibility for defending Europe, not just because that is their obligation to the alliance, but because it is their obligation to their own peoples. As Secretary of Defense Mattis told the other members of the alliance last year, “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do.”
If we are to avoid making Saturday’s scare come true, the Trump administration must learn from recent foreign policy failures to pursue a prudent course of de-escalation with Pyongyang, trusting that America’s diplomacy is part of her might, and that war is not the only, first, or best option in our toolkit of defense.
To inform citizens, thought leaders, and policy makers of the importance of a strong, dynamic military—used more judiciously to protect America's narrowly defined national interests—and promote a realistic grand strategy prioritizing restraint, diplomacy, and free trade to ensure American security.