Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an “imminent threat.” They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.
The safest conclusion based on currently available public information is that Russia did not intend to advantage or disadvantage any particular candidate and that Russia was not “supporting” anyone for president. Instead, its saboteurs sought to sow discord and mistrust among U.S. citizens, undermining our constitutional processes and faith in the integrity of our elections. Advertising or demonstrations for or against Trump or any other candidate were means to the Russian end of corroding public trust, not ends themselves.
Appeasing authoritarianism comes in many forms. All of them are ugly. Some are obvious and extremely dangerous, and some are subtle, indicating a mindset portending future danger because of a propensity to ignore reality. Opening the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, prominent American media outlets displayed the latter appeasement mentality in full measure, becoming stenographers for North Korea’s propaganda machine. Reflecting boundless gullibility, representatives of our free press stepped up to carry Pyongyang’s message.
Animosities are so high that not even full disclosure may be enough to resolve the current disputes and restore faith to critical government institutions. And no matter how carefully analyzed, the disclosures will inevitably impair some legitimate government endeavors. But the most important government interest here is restoring the citizenry’s faith in its government. That interest above all must prevail.
Ambassador John Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. He served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2005-2006. He was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001 to 2005. In the Reagan Administration, he was an Assistant Attorney General.
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