A couple years ago I was in a roundtable discussion about the threats facing America; unsurprisingly, the focus turned to terrorism. The people around the table were all smart and successful, and each of them had varying degrees of insight on the topic. One person stood out. He was a government insider who has spent a career assessing such threats for presidents from both parties.
After everyone around the table discussed the various challenges and threats posed by ISIS, it was the insider’s turn to talk. He said he’d answer whatever unclassified questions we had, but first he wanted to ask us a question:
“Why are you so worried about ISIS?”
His point wasn’t that ISIS doesn’t represent a threat. Its creation was due in part to a series of American mistakes in the region, and eradicating (or at least dramatically limiting) the problem will take years; maybe decades.
His point was that the threats that keep Pentagon officials up at night are the ones that can result in tens of thousands or even millions of deaths.
One of those threats is North Korea.
That’s why North Korea’s latest missile test worries me so much. While they are probably years away from being able to deliver a nuclear bomb to America (and a pre-emptive strike would be even crazier than their leader seems to be), they now appear to have the technology to send a missile to Alaska.
Here’s David Sanger in the NYT:
For years, the North’s medium-range missiles have been able to reach South Korea and Japan with ease, and American intelligence officials believe the missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
But this latest test suggests that the United States may already be in range as well, and that, as one former top American intelligence official noted recently, would put enormous pressure on American missile defenses that few trust to work.
Under any circumstances, this turn of events would be alarming. Under our current circumstances, it’s horrifying.
In short, the timing couldn’t be worse.
We have the wrong guy in office and he has the wrong team behind him. That makes this a really bad moment for a historic risk to rear its head. Let me as clear as I can about why I’m so worried and why I think you should be too:
We’re facing what could ultimately be the threat of a generation. And Donald Trump is our president.
(I think that makes a pretty strong case that there’s reason for concern.)
And I’m going to burst another bubble: Adding this issue to Jared’s portfolio is not going to help.
Notice I said our president. As much as many of us would like him to be ousted from his office prematurely, Trump’s tenure is, for now, ongoing. Politics, flame wars, and justifiable outrage aside, Donald Trump is my president. If you’re American, he’s yours too. Trust me, ICBMs don’t ask for your party affiliation or voting record.
In our worst Onion headline-driven fears about a Trump presidency, we joked that he would probably respond to international emergencies by Tweeting. By the time North Korea ran its latest, and most threatening, missile test, none of us were surprised in the least that he did just that:
North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea………and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!
Breaking: China reads Trump tweet. Responds by putting “heavy move” on North Korea. With threat removed, Xi and Trump celebrate with the most amazing piece of chocolate cake ever.
It turns out that solving this particular threat will take a more strategically nuanced approach; one that mandates that the State Department and the rest of the executive branch get staffed up with people who have a qualification other than spending a career disparaging the department to which they’ve just been appointed.
This is not a test. This is not a weird handshake with a foreign leader that we can distract ourselves from with a series of hilarious memes. This is not fake news.
It’s very real. And we need Donald Trump to become a real president, real soon.
I’m not optimistic. But for the first time since all this madness started, I’m steadfastly rooting for Donald Trump.