Susan Rice, who served as Barack Obama’s UN Ambassador and then National Security Advisor, wrote a remarkable op-ed in the New York Times about the North Korea crisis. She took President Trump to task for threatening North Korea with destruction should it continue to build nuclear weapons with the intent of striking at the United States and her allies. In so doing, Rice demonstrated how Obama’s foreign policy brought the world to the brink it now finds itself on.

Kim Jong-un is not irrational

Rice makes this remarkable assertion about the North Korean leader.

“Mr. Kim is vicious and impetuous, but not irrational.” She is talking about a man who regularly has people executed with anti-aircraft guns and who had his own brother killed with a biochemical weapon. However, this assessment is the basis of her preferred policy that traditional deterrence, along with sanctions and diplomacy, will suffice to keep the North Koreans in check.

The problem is that contrary to Rice’s assertion, Kim is insane in the clinical sense. He sees nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them as extensions of his machismo, to be had because they make him feel strong and not weak. The North Korean leader also has abysmal impulse control, as noted by the sudden executions of various relatives and associates.

He is quite capable of launching a nuclear strike in a fit of pique. As a virtual god king, Kim will expect any order he gives, no matter how insane, to be obeyed. One cannot count on anyone getting courage and responding by putting a bullet in the Dear Leader’s head.

Rice does concede that missile defense is needed

Rice has broken with the president she once served and has now admitted that missile defenses would be useful to ward off a possible North Korean nuclear attack.

In this, she has joined the mainstream of Republican strategic thought as expressed by such people as Secretary of State James Mattis and Sen. Ted Cruz. Her boss worked tirelessly to undermine efforts to develop more vigorous missile defenses, with the result that options are now limited in dealing with as madman with nukes.

The wages of appeasement

The problem with Rice offering any advice on foreign policy is that as a former official of the Obama administration she lacks all credibility to do so. The policy of “strategic patience.” Which was short hand for ignoring it and it will go away, has brought us to the awful prospect of a Second Korean War. Rice is quite correct that even a first strike will result in unimaginable losses in lives and treasure. However, the alternative may be not the continuing of the status quo but losing an American city. Rice is thus the equivalent of Neville Chamberlain wagging his finger at Churchill for getting to blustery at the Nazis.