The long parade of bellicose North Korea comments could, perversely, be evidence that efforts to defer military action have been working. Politico tells how fired former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus would often persuade the president to put off some action until “next week.” “Delaying the decision would give Priebus and others a chance to change his mind or bring in advisers to speak with Trump—and in some cases, to ensure Trump would drop the idea altogether and move on,” Josh Dawsey writes.

Yet the road to a major war is usually a long one. The Bush administration spent months laying the groundwork, both publicly and privately, for the war in Iraq. At this point, the president has demonstrated a pattern of comments that indicate a preference for a military response to North Korea, although it’s not clear that his preference will prevail. That pattern is enough that Trump’s feuds with Tillerson and Corker deserve to be seen not merely as wacky, somewhat disconcerting antics, but as part of a potential move toward a war—whether that’s World War III or not.