Congressional Democrats are so frightened, so scared, and so nervous that President Donald Trump would do something stupid on North Korea that several are now introducing bills in both chambers to prohibit him from launching Tomahawk cruise missiles towards Pyongyang.
Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat in the House Judiciary Committee, and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey have filed a piece of legislation that would bar President Trump from ordering a military attack against North Korea unless Congress declares war against Kim Jong-un’s regime or passes an authorization for the use of military force. Call it life insurance for everybody living on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and in East Asia more broadly — including the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and Japan. For some Democrats, this is no doubt a last-ditch effort by lawmakers to forestall a tragically inept and strategically blunderous foreign policy decision before it happens.
And let’s be perfectly clear: A U.S. military operation against North Korea in any capacity, regardless of what the targets are or how short the operation would last, is a monumentally idiotic choice for any U.S. president to make.
There is no such thing as a specific, pinpoint, and (to use John Kerry’s words) pinprick air strike in North Korea because the Kim regime would be highly likely to respond by unleashing the flames of hell on Seoul, a city of 10 million people, including hundreds of thousands of Americans. There is no wargaming scenario that I can think of that would not result in the shelling of the South Korean capital, mass panic and pandemonium in the streets, extreme traffic jams to get as far away from Seoul as possible, and the killing of millions of people.
My colleague Rob Givens, a former deputy assistant chief of staff of operations for U.S. forces in South Korea, estimated that 20,000 North Koreans would die each day of combat. Steve Bannon, the controversial former White House chief strategist and chairman of Breitbart may be wrong on a lot of things, but North Korea isn’t one of them. As he told the American Prospect on his way out the administration, “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
It’s hard to disagree with him. Apparently congressional Democrats are of same mind.
Will Conyers and Markey’s bill get anywhere in the Republican-controlled Congress? Unlikely. The vast majority of the 60 plus co-sponsors are Democrats, and as long as the authors package the bill as an attack-Trump exercise, as Sen. Chris Murphy appears to be doing, Republican lawmakers won’t sign up as co-sponsors.
But the effort has merit. Any legislative solution that keeps the war option as a last resort and helps grease the skids for a diplomatic process with North Korea that is starving in infancy deserves bipartisan support.