All of which means that, whether he calls it one or not, Trump now has a red line – a move that a number of U.S. national security hands I’ve spoken with recently consider to be a serious and even “self-inflicted” escalation of what has become a genuine crisis with North Korea. In fact, Trump’s bluster may be more genuine than his reputation for bombast over action suggests: Two Republican veterans of previous administrations told me that McMaster has repeated those public warnings about a serious consideration of military options in private sessions at which they were present.
“The point that the Trump administration seems to be making is that if North Korea achieves an ICBM capability, that is a missile that can reliably reach the United States with a nuclear weapon, that changes everything. Well, it doesn’t. It never has,” says retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former director of U.S. national intelligence, in a new interview for The Global Politico. “This hyping of the nuclear missile, which is merely one form of delivering a weapon, being able to reach the United States is a self-inflicted policy disadvantage which this administration has placed on itself.”