The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: Should We Go Nuclear on North Korea?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) reacting after the test-fire of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location.


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Conservatives were divided on Tuesday over potential U.S. responses to the escalating situation with North Korea following reports that the country now has a nuclear warhead and President Trump’s statement that further threats would lead to America unleashing “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” At National Review, Jim Geraghty wrote that Trump’s unpredictability isn’t the main problem:

The problem is that even if Donald Trump was the most level-headed, even-tempered guy on the planet … North Korea is still making miniaturized nuclear warheads, is testing ballistic missiles that can hit the United States, is threatening to use them against the U.S., and another test is coming soon. In other words, for all of his flaws – and he has many – Trump isn’t really the problem here.

Unless China suddenly applies a great deal more pressure to Pyongyang, either this president or the next will face a devastating choice among bad options: accept a nuclear-armed North Korea that can strike American cities, fight a conventional war before those ballistic missiles are operational, or fight a nuclear war somewhere down the road.

Commentary’s Noah Rothman argued that the latest development in North Korea’s nuclear program marks a critical “tipping point” that leaves the United States with two bad options: an uncertain regime of deterrence or a destructive war. “With miniaturization and delivery capability, DPRK could target the tens of thousands of U.S. armed forces stationed in Japan and Korea with almost no warning,” he wrote. “In a blinding flash, American deterrence in Northeast Asia could disappear. That’s a prospect that no American president would want to leave as his legacy. The time for good options is passed.”

At the Resurgent, Susan Wright wrote that Trump’s threat to North Korea may be “his most irresponsible move to date.” “[W]hat happens if the rest of the world begins looking at the United States and Donald Trump as the unstable world element?” she asked. “With China and Russia backing the rogue nation, it’s hard to believe that President Trump had the approval of those partners, much less his Cabinet before making a statement of this nature. This was one of Trump’s off-script moments, and with the world a powder keg, the stakes are too high to leave these matters in the hands of an inexperienced TV huckster.”

On Fox Business, Trish Regan interviewed former Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a military pundit, on the next steps the administration should take.* “I don’t want this to be a war,” he said. “I don’t want it! Nobody in their right mind wants it. But we cannot allow North Korea to have an array of missiles, an arsenal of missiles, of nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the United States. If it comes to that, I would hit them first and hit them hard knowing that it will be bloody and ugly if we do so.”

Later on the show, Regan interviewed Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, and prodded him for a more aggressive response as he tried to shift the conversation to missile defense.

Regan: You’re telling me you’re just going to sit around and wait for him to fire them at us and then we’re going to defend ourselves? Or do we need to be a little more proactive?

Lamborn: Well, we have to exhaust all diplomatic means also. China is finally starting to make some progress and step up to the plate given what they did with the U.N. on Saturday, agreeing to sanctions. That’s a positive development. But we have to send a message to Kim Jong-Un that all options are on the table. And we can’t take any options off the table.

Regan: Which is why the defense system is great and everything, but that may not be the option in terms of the here and now. We’ve got basically a year, a year and a half, according to Col. Peters, before they’re able to hit the lights of possibly Chicago. We need to take it seriously and we need to stop their program, but sanctions, Congressman, they haven’t worked in the past.

On Twitter, conservative pundits were alternately jocular and somber about rising tensions:

In other news:

Conservatives voiced outrage at Google’s firing of engineer James Damore, who circulated a memo that argued, among other things, that the lack of women in tech may be attributable to innate differences between men and women. National Review ran seven posts on the controversy Tuesday, including an editorial titled “The Mountain View Inquisition”:

Damore’s argument is a familiar one: There are differences between men and women that are longstanding, general, and broad. Given that they are as near to universal as any aspect of human social life, it is unlikely that they are mere cultural expressions, “social constructs” in the modish language of the moment. While they are of practically no use in understanding any individual, they have some potential explanatory power when we consider such questions as why it is that women on average work fewer hours than men in similar occupations, or why women often choose lower-paying career paths (such as moving from sales into human resources) when they begin to have children. These differences very likely have biological origins. It is easy to make too much of such insights, and very easy to make too little of them, especially if one is in thrall to the feminist-multiculturalist fantasy of an infinitely plastic humanity.

In the case of a company such as Google — which selects its key employees from a very narrow slice of high-achieving people with math, science, and engineering backgrounds — this question is not merely theoretical. Google maintains aggressive diversity programs and spends generously on them, but its work force remains stubbornly disproportionately male and Asian or white. The times being what they are, Google is being sued by the federal government for “extreme” discrimination against women — a fact that almost certainly informed its decision to fire Damore. Perhaps they should have listened to him instead.

At the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro called Google, “corporate fascists.” “The Google Revolutionary Brigade has reportedly offed an anonymous employee who had the temerity to pen a 10-page memorandum suggesting that Google’s diversity policies were based on bad science and worse political bias,” he wrote. “Google is a private corporation; they have every right to do what they want. But if dissenting from the company political line at a supposedly non-political company is enough to get James Damore and Brendan Eich of Mozilla fired, polarization of our corporate culture is only going to get worse. And that polarization will one day lead to completely parallel worlds for Left and Right that will exacerbate differences to the point of open conflict, as it has on college campuses.”

*Correction, Aug. 9, 2017 at 2:37 p.m.: This post originally referred to former Lt. Col. Ralph Peters as former Lt. Gen. Ralph Peters.