The test of the latest North Korean ICBM, even though it may have been less than successful, has got American policymakers concerned. The most recent missile might be able to deliver a nuclear weapon to targets beyond the west coast of the United States into its interior. However, the reaction has been somewhat mixed, though the Washington Examiner has put a good face on the matter by casting it as an example of good cop/bad cop.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plays good cop

Tillerson offered a more consolatory statement to the North Korean government than perhaps the situation called for.

He assured North Korea that the United States does not seek regime change or an “accelerated” reunification of Korea. He insisted that the United States does not represent a threat to the North Korean government. However, the regime is threatening the United States, and that requires a response.

Sen. Lindsey Graham plays bad cop

Sen. Lindsey Graham. R-South Carolina offered a more bellicose response. He suggested that war in Korea is a real possibility, If the choice is between thousands dying in Korea and thousands dying in the United States, the Trump administration will not find it a choice at all. However, most estimates of War In Korea peg the casualties in the millions. The carnage that would be wrought by a successful nuclear strike on an American city would be beyond imagination.

Ted Cruz calls for more missile defense

Sen. Ted Cruz,.R-Texas suggested a third option between a war in Korea and a nuclear strike on the United States. He suggested that American missile defense efforts be greatly expanded to include a space based option. The proposal is a revival of the Reagan-era SDI program but would concentrate, at least initially, on the threat from rogue states.

Cruz also advocates targeting the cash flow to the government in Pyongyang that is used to pay for its military and to cut it off entirely. Some of that money, incredibly, comes from American banks. However, another source of money comes from Chinese financial institutions, which should be hit by sanctions.

Finally, Cruz suggests a “targeted information campaign” aimed at the North Korean elite.

The idea is that they will benefit if they “do the right thing” which presumably means ending the regime of Kim Jong-un and then taking a more conciliatory stance toward its neighbors as well as the United States.

The bottom line

While the media is entertaining itself with stories of White House chaos, the threat of war in the Northern Pacific is genuine. Resolving the crisis without armed conflict will take no little skill and a lot of luck.