Last week, in his maiden speech to the UN, President Trump left little doubt that time really is running out for a resolution of the North Korean and Iran nuclear issues.
Mr. Trump’s North Korea comments were indeed, ominous. He said if the U.S. had to defend itself against North Korean President Kim Jong-un’s continued provocations and threats against America and its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
In a seeming call to arms he said, “If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.” And he went on to describe the North Korean government as a “band of criminals” and Kim Jong-un as a “Rocket man…on a suicide mission for himself.”
He said that while North Korea’s “reckless pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons threatens the entire world,” America would, if necessary, act alone to deal with the threat.
As for Iran, he referred to that country as a “rogue nation” and termed the 2015 nuclear agreement “an embarrassment” that is “one of the worst and one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
He went on to say that “It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.” When taken together with his criticism of the nuclear deal’s sunset time limitations, after which Iran would be free to pursue nuclear weapons, the signal is clear.
But it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in commenting on the Trump speech in the course of his own UN remarks, who brought it all home. “In the last few months,” he said, “we’ve all seen how dangerous even a few nuclear weapons can be in the hands of a small rogue regime [i.e. North Korea]. Now imagine the danger of hundreds of nuclear weapons in the reins of a vast Iranian empire, with the missiles to deliver them anywhere on earth.”
What emerges is an appreciation that nuclear weapons can disproportionately empower even economically and otherwise weak nations. And, following the logic, it is thus folly to delay confrontation and permit “rogue nations” to continue with their nuclear development when a later confrontation would necessarily become all the more difficult to handle.
While military confrontations are never pleasant, the decision becomes easier if the issue becomes when to move, not whether.