A quick peek online reveals that some people's nerves are starting to fray over the looming nuclear scenario in North Korea. But former National Security Adviser Susan Rice says "we need not face an immediate crisis if we play our hand carefully," and she offers some suggestions in a Thursday New York Times op-ed. Rice doesn't blame Americans for feeling stressed at the current "bluster" coming from both Pyongyang and President Trump, but she first notes that the latest uptick in North Korea's "belligerent and colorful" rhetoric was somewhat predictable, not an alarming, out-of-nowhere event: Strong UN sanctions were just put into place, and August is also the month when the US and South Korea usually conduct their joint military exercises, "which always set Pyongyang on edge."
What is alarming, and "extremely dangerous," in Rice's view: Trump's reaction so far. She writes that his "fire and fury" remark may lead us to "folly" (meaning an empty threat was issued, resulting in damage to the US' credibility) or "lunacy" (the US will prematurely start a war in Korea). And that latter approach would result in "hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions" of casualties, including not only Koreans, but also US troops, American expats, and the citizens of Japan—not to mention the hit the world's economy would take. Rice instead calls for pragmatism, insisting we must draw (and hold to) a red line that would result in the "annihilation" of North Korea if it ever actually uses nukes against the US or our allies. And the "reckless rhetoric" must be toned down. "Rational, steady American leadership can avoid a crisis." Read her full column. (Read more opinion stories.)