Political Insider

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Another worry for your weekend: Sam Nunn’s warning on North Korea

You may think you’re headed into a weekend in which Puerto Rico and its recovery from Hurricane Maria is your chief concern. We’d like to add something else to your worry cart. In particular, an op-ed posted this morning on the CNN website.

It comes from former Georgia senator Sam Nunn and former energy secretary Ernest Moniz, co-chairmen of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and may be the most worried-sounding warning we’ve ever seen Nunn deliver on the topic of North Korea. A taste:

The United States and North Korea are increasingly at risk of military conflict -- most probably through an accident or miscalculation, but possibly a deliberate decision.

 Opportunities for diplomacy are narrowing. Leaders from the United States, South Korea and Japan have recently stated now is not the time for dialogue with Pyongyang -- even though any strategy other than war for halting and reversing North Korea's nuclear and missile programs must, at some point, include talks.

 So, when is the time for dialogue with North Korea to avoid a war no one wants and end a nuclear program that endangers the world? How does the Trump administration's threat to pull out of the agreement with Iran to end its nuclear program impact North Korea diplomacy?

 Today's growing dangers require a policy response that minimizes the risk of a catastrophic conflict, both directly from North Korea's nuclear and missile program and from our attempts to halt its progress.

To supplement that message, let us point you to a recent Los Angeles Times piece on the current war-gaming that’s going on within the U.S. military:

“Too many Americans have the view that it would be like the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, or like combat operations in Libya or Syria, but it wouldn’t remotely resemble that,’’ said Rob Givens, a retired Air Force brigadier general who spent four years stationed on the Korean peninsula.

And that is before the North Koreans turn to nuclear weapons. “There is only one way that this war ends,” Givens said. “With North Korea’s defeat — but at what cost?”

James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the horrific war many have long feared with North Korea is a distinct possibility. He puts the chances of conventional conflict with North Korea at 50-50 and the chances of nuclear war at 10%.

Pentagon estimates put initial casualty estimates at 20,000 per day. And that's before the conflict goes nuclear. It makes the flap over kneeling and the national anthem sound downright recreational, doesn’t it?

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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.