Just as President Franklin Roosevelt authorized U.S. warships to fire first against Nazi naval vessels that entered protected waters prior to America’s entrance into World War II, the U.S. must take preemptive action to ensure North Korea does not have the ability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon, contends former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.
He cites the metaphor Roosevelt used in a Sept. 11, 1941, fireside chat, three months before Pearl Harbor: “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.”
Writing in an article published by the Gatestone Institute, for which he serves as chairman, Bolton pointed out that Roosevelt’s order applied whenever German or Italian ships entered “waters of self-defense” necessary to protect the U.S., including those surrounding American outposts on Greenland and Iceland.
Bolton says the significance of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test last weekend and its increased ballistic-missile testing is clear: “Pyongyang is perilously close to being able to hit targets across the continental United States with nuclear warheads, perhaps thermonuclear ones.”
He notes that prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the U.S. into World War II, American leaders were urging caution to avoid provoking the Axis powers and risking a broader conflict.
He recalls that Roosevelt, in his fireside chat, observed that others had “refused to look the Nazi danger squarely in the eye until it actually had them by the throat.”
“We shouldn’t commit that mistake today. North Korea’s behavior, and its lasting desire to conquer the South, have created the present crisis,” Bolton writes.
The U.S., he says, during 25 years of negotiations, has allowed North Korea to repeatedly breach commitments to abandon its nuclear-weapons program, despite considerable compensation and easing of sanctions.
The approach of President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice to the North Korea threat echoes the voices of Roosevelt’s day who insisted “there is no acceptable military option,” says Bolton.
Rice said recently, he notes, “we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea,” as the U.S. did with the Soviets in Cold War days.
But Bolton counsels the U.S. “should not accept such counsels of despair, based on dangerously facile and wildly inaccurate historical analogies.”
“Why accept a future of unending nuclear blackmail by Pyongyang, whose governing logic is hardly that of Cold War Moscow, and which would entail not that era’s essentially bipolar standoff, but a far-more-dangerous world of nuclear multipolarity?” he asks.
Bolton points out Kim would be willing to sell nuclear materials and technologies to Iran and other rogue states or terrorist groups for the right price.
He says there are few remaining diplomatic options, and the time to act is getting short.
One option still available, he said, is to convince China that its national interests would be enhanced by reunifying the two Koreas. But that strategy “is increasingly hard to accomplish before North Korea becomes a fully mature nuclear-weapons state.”
We’re moving rapidly to the point where Roosevelt said squarely, “It is the time for prevention of attack,'” Bolton says.
George W. Bush spoke equally directly in 2002, the former ambassador says: “Our security will require all Americans to be … ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.”
Bolton warns the “alternative is potentially global proliferation of nuclear weapons, with the attendant risks lasting beyond our power to calculate.”