President Trump, the self-proclaimed proprietor of the art of the deal must recognize that diplomacy is our only option. Any military action at this time would be unpredictable, and could explode into an all-out war. Even if it were assumed the U.S. and South Korea would ultimately prevail, the cost would be staggering, and the geopolitical fallout between the U.S. and China could be far worse than what exists today, making future security environments even more perilous. What is needed, therefore, is a lowering of military tension and a rapid increase in diplomatic activity-- while there is still time.
The mentality of persistently employing lethal military power abroad has proven to be a bankrupt way of thinking. If not altered, it will soon cripple us financially, perhaps fatally weakening our national defense in the process. The time has come to jettison these failed policies and adopt a new way of thinking that restores military strength and protects our financial solvency. American citizens can only enjoy a strong national defense if we maintain a vibrant and prosperous economy.
We have yet to complete the first 100 days, and our president has shown himself nothing if not adaptable. The foreign policy of more need not be a permanent fixture of this still-young administration—and after two months of executive order governance at a breakneck pace, the White House could hardly be faulted for pressing pause to develop a plausible path to fix America’s failed foreign policy of the last 15 years.
Before President Obama left the Oval Office, he reportedly told the then president-elect Trump that North Korea would be the biggest national security crisis he would confront during his first term. If President Trump doesn't manage North Korea deftly, it could jump from a crisis to a war in short order.
The Trump administration is a lot closer to conventional foreign policy orthodoxy than many of his political enemies thought or his supporters desired. It’s easy to look at the last several weeks — Tomahawk missiles destroying some of the Assad regime’s aircraft and the U.S.S. Vinson streaming towards the Korean Peninsula — and jump to the conclusion that President Trump is leaving his America First doctrine behind.
That timeline gives us options. It means stooping to the level of North Korean bluster about preemptive strikes and ready swords is both unnecessary and reckless. It means President Trump should tune out the bad advice of the Lindsey Graham wing of the Washington establishment. It means North Korea isn’t anywhere near as “super-mighty” as it claims to be, and the United States must not let ourselves be swept into an inevitably disastrous war.
U.S. policy toward Syria over the last six years has been an unmitigated failure—as it has been in large measure throughout the Middle East—because it has veered dangerously away from any coherent strategy, let alone any of America’s vital national interests, and relied almost exclusively on the military instrument to achieve some unstated and unknown ends.
Using military force is a means to achieve a political objective. That’s why Congress is empowered by our Constitution to debate and authorize such actions. But by pursuing a grand strategy of “primacy,” responding with military force anywhere and everywhere merely because an opportunity exists, we has worsened our national security and over-extended our military.
For the next 14 years, and continuing to this very day, the legislative branch has for all intents and purposes been M.I.A. on war-related issues. Attempts to re-introduce Congress into the game have been routinely dismissed by congressional leadership as either unnecessary intrusions into the president’s powers, castigated as a partisan exercise to embarrass members of the other political party, or simply unnecessary from a constitutional standpoint.
These dictatorships weren’t cowed by massive application of American military power—they were emboldened. The real victors out of the post-Saddam fray were Sunni extremists, who used newly anarchic Iraq to incubate the most radical terrorist group in history, al-Qaeda in Iraq, today known as the Islamic State. Likewise, among the loudest huzzahs after President Trump’s airbase attack came from Syrian Islamist groups like Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, the very characters that candidate Trump promised to fight.
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.