Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

South Korean protesters took part in an anti-Trump rally in front of the U.S. embassy on November 7, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. Trump visited in South Korea for two days during his Asian tour. (Photo: Woohae Cho/Getty Images)

Afraid He Might Act, Pentagon Reportedly Not Giving Trump Military Options on North Korea

The White House is still weighing plans for "preemptive" attack on North despite warnings it would "trigger an all-out war"

Jake Johnson, staff writer

The Pentagon is afraid to give President Donald Trump "too many" options for a preemptive military strike on North Korea because officials believe he might act on one of them.

"Given the staggering costs of a U.S.-led conflict on the Korean Peninsula...the Trump administration's use of preventive force would be a suicidal reaction to uncertainty."
—Mira Rapp-Hooper, Yale

That's according to an article published Friday by the New York Times, which quotes anonymous administration officials as saying the Pentagon "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 Times reports.

The Pentagon—not exactly known for hesitating when it comes to drawing up plans for aggressive military action—denied that it has "slow-walked options" to Trump.

Reported tensions between the White House and the Pentagon went public earlier this week after it was revealed that Trump tabled the nomination of Victor Cha—who was chosen to be the U.S. ambassador to South Korea—because he privately disagreed with the president's aggressive posture toward North Korea.

Cha elaborated on his disagreements with Trump—who has threatened Pyongyang with "fire and fury"—in an op-ed for the Washington Post on Tuesday, arguing that "the answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike" on North Korea.

According to the Times, White House officials—and in particular the National Security Council, led by Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster—are nonetheless still "considering the feasibility of a preventive strike that could include disabling a missile on the launchpad or destroying North Korea's entire nuclear infrastructure."

Echoing concerns expressed by Cha and other Korea experts, analysts have repeatedly warned that such a "targeted" attack, sometimes called a "bloody nose" strike, would "trigger an all-out war" on the Korean Peninsula.

"Given the staggering costs of a U.S.-led conflict on the Korean Peninsula...the Trump administration's use of preventive force would be a suicidal reaction to uncertainty," Mira Rapp-Hooper, senior fellow in the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, wrote for The Atlantic on Wednesday. "This would not be a case of choosing the least bad option...but of opting knowingly for cataclysm."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Progressives, Big Tech Critics Celebrate Confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC Chair

"Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they've enjoyed at the expense of workers, smaller businesses, and democracy."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance': Calls Grow for Justice Breyer to Retire

"Democrats could lose our razor-thin majority in the Senate at any moment," warns Rep. Mondaire Jones. "It would be irresponsible to leave the future of our democracy up to chance."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Latest Nina Turner Ad in Ohio Highlights Working-Class Need for Medicare for All

"Wealth should never dictate whether you are able to see a doctor or live a healthy life."

Jenna McGuire, staff writer ·


Biden Admin Urged to 'Prevent a Historic Wave of Evictions' by Extending CDC Moratorium, Speeding Up Aid

"Far too many renters are struggling to access emergency rental assistance programs and are at risk of losing their homes when the moratorium expires," said the president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·