Tuesday, North Korea successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States. One day later, Pyongyang announced yet a further advance in its nuclear program, allowing its missiles to withstand the extreme heat and pressure upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. In response, the top American military commander in South Korea declared that the United States was prepared for war.
The nightmare that American policymakers feared 20 years ago—a nuclear-armed North Korea with ballistic missiles that can hit America, and obliterate our treaty allies in Asia—is now frighteningly real. Twenty years of American negotiators pursuing a combination of rational carrots and sticks has failed to change the behavior of a totalitarian hermit kingdom led by a family of brutal sociopaths.
What makes this nightmare scenario even scarier is that Donald Trump is both literally and figuratively the last man capable of stopping Kim Jong Un. The current American president is the sole decider on the planet who might be able to stop the slow-rolling nightmare of a gangster regime determined to end American hegemony in Asia, on the internet, and wherever else that the U.S. insists that the rule of law should be enforced. Yet President Trump is undisciplined and emotional and seems incapable of crafting any policy that can’t be summed up in less than 140 characters.
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