Lindsey Graham was on Face the Nation this morning and, after making it clear he wasn’t going along with John Dickerson’s Democrat talking points on Mueller’s investigation, the conversation turned to Korea.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: North Korea–
JOHN DICKERSON: North Korea. Where are we with North Korea right now?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: We’re getting close to a military conflict because North Korea’s marching toward marrying up the technology of an I.C.B.M. with a nuclear weapon on top that cannot only get to America but deliver the weapon. We’re running out of time. McMaster said that yesterday. I’m going to urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.
South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour. It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. So I want them to stop sending dependents. And I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.
JOHN DICKERSON: How close? You say we’re getting close to a military confrontation. What are we talking about here?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: The intelligence community can tell you that better than I can. But I had an extensive discussion with the administration about this topic. The policy of the Trump administration is to deny North Korea the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tipped missile.
Not to contain it. Denial means preemptive war as a last resort. That preemption is becoming more likely as their technology matures. Every missile test, every underground test of a nuclear weapon, means the marriage is more likely. I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.
JOHN DICKERSON: Should– should the Congress be having a big, open conversation about preemptive war?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, I think so. I think the president, as inherent authority as commander-in-chief has the ability to strike North Korea to protect the American homeland. But this discussion needs to happen among ourselves.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the president’s team. There were a lot of back and forth this week about whether Secretary of State Tillerson was going to stay in the job–
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: Net-net after all the reports and so forth is over, do you have confidence in the president’s team around him to manage this tricky question?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: He’s got the best national security team of anybody I’ve seen since I’ve been in Washington. The president, himself, early on, made the right decision. I’m not going to allow North Korea to hit America with a nuclear weapon. We’re not going to live under that threat. If I have to go to war, and I don’t want to, to stop it, I will. Everybody before President Trump screwed it up, including Republicans. Now we need to get it right. And I think he’s got the right approach. He’s got the right team. I hope China will help us. We’re running out of time.
In August, I posted on how the movement to war has its own logic. How people stop talking about avoiding war and start talking about how to manage and prosecute a war. In this interview, Graham says a lot of key stuff.
First, he thinks we should start phasing dependents out of Korea. I agree. The first step should be a freeze on allowing dependents to have command sponsorship (that is a status that allows them to live in government quarters, the kids to attend DODDS schools, to use the PX and Commissary, and to use medical facilities) and let attrition start to take hold.
Second, all the talk in arms control circles is how Korea will negotiate if we only recognize them as a nuclear power and stop looking at their nuclear weapons as illegitimate. Once we concede on nukes, I’m not sure what there is to discuss, but the arms control people are so drunk with the sounds of their own voices burbling memes that they rarely have time to consider that a rogue nuclear state may not be interested in arms control. But, as Graham says and as I’ve posted on several times, the US position is that we will not accept nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea. That says to me that neither side has anything to talk about.
Third, Graham says we should be talking about pre-emptive war. This is something that Mattis, Haley, and McMaster have all hinted at.
All in all, the situation in Korea is fraught with danger and one is left with the feeling that we have moved from the “if” to the “how” stage in our thinking about a war.