The Trump White House is demanding that the Department of Defense give them detailed plans about military options for North Korea -- but Pentagon officials are reportedly reluctant to deliver because they fear the president will use them.
The New York Times reports that Pentagon officials are "worried that the White House is moving too hastily toward military action on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate catastrophically" and that "giving the president too many options... could increase the odds that he will act."
According to the Times' sources, both Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., believe that diplomacy is the only credible option to deescalating the nuclear standoff with North Korea. The two men have argued, reports the Times, that even a limited strike on North Korea would risk escalating retaliation that would result in horrific humanitarian consequences for people in the Korean Peninsula.
On the other side is national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who also reportedly favors diplomacy but who thinks that there needs to be a credible military plan in the event that diplomacy fails.
Victor Cha, an expert on Korea who withdrew from consideration to be President Donald Trump's nominee to be the ambassador to South Korea, argued this week that any attack on North Korea risked devastating retaliation by Kim Jong Un's regime.
"If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind?" Cha wrote in an Washington Post editorial. "And if Kim is unpredictable, impulsive and bordering on irrational, how can we control the escalation ladder, which is premised on an adversary’s rational understanding of signals and deterrence?"