According to South Carolina’s senior senator, war with North Korea would be good.
“All the damage that would come from a war would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN.
Fortunately, since Graham uttered those words, President Donald Trump announced he’d be meeting within in the next few months with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. It’s the kind of meeting, with seemingly no preconditions and set up by South Korea, conservatives would have panned relentlessly had President Barack Obama decided to do it, claiming it would only embolden and strengthen the hand of a dictator we couldn’t trust. And we’ve seen Trump make grand pronouncements before on a bevy of issues, generate glowing headlines only later to be revealed he never had a plan to make it work and knew little about what was at stake.
Still, that’s the president we chose, and the alternative to Trump at least sitting down with Jong-un may end up being men like Graham getting us into yet another war.
Graham made his remarks as the Trump administration was reportedly preparing for the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. He also made it, seemingly, without realizing just how eerily similar his comments were to the ones he and others made before the U.S. launched a preemptive ground war in Iraq. Even after the U.S. spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in Iraq, in 2015 Graham boasted that we would “win” a war against Iran as well if we decided to attack that country to stop its nuclear ambitions. His voice is particularly important because when it comes to North Korea, he might have the ear of a president who is erratic and not well-versed in foreign policy. It’s a recipe for potential disaster, given Graham’s history.
In 2002, Graham claimed Saddam Hussein was a threat to our way of life and that attacking Iraq would send a message to the Middle East that the rule of law matters. In the run-up to that war, he said we may be there for more than a year, but if we were still there by 2009, something had gone terribly wrong, then changed his mind to say it was President Obama’s fault for not leaving tens of thousands of troops there even longer.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Graham said the Iraq war was not a mistake, even though “a land invasion may not have been the right answer.”
As bad as the Iraq war was, we were lucky the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq was sitting on a large stockpile of weapons of mass destruction were wrong. We likely won’t be as lucky with North Korea. It is well-established that country has nuclear capability; the real question seems to be how far it can fly missiles topped with nukes, if they can reach as far as the west coast, or maybe the Carolinas.
That doesn’t count the fallout resulting from destabilizing yet another region, or how North Korea would use its chemical and biological weapons. Some military experts think North Korea’s unpredictable leader might use its nuclear arsenal against U.S. ally South Korea in the initial stages of such a war.
Graham believes a million deaths would be “worth it.” Let’s hope we never have to find out. That might mean counting on Trump to succeed where others have failed.
It’s not a great option. We don’t have many others.