Ok, America: Who Wants To Go To War With North Korea?

In light of this morning’s impromptu press conference held in New York by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, this seems like a good time to take a look at what public support looks like for a military strike on Kim’s regime.

As you’re no doubt aware, Ri said Donald Trump’s recent bombast amounts to a “declaration of war” and also suggested that Pyongyang is well within its rights to shoot down U.S. war planes (that’s a reference to U.S. bombers buzzing North Korea’s east coast on Saturday).

This is just further evidence to support our contention that Donald Trump, by reportedly ignoring the advice of his top advisors on the way to making various threats, has backed the North into a corner. That’s not to say that Pyongyang isn’t the instigator, rather that Trump doesn’t understand the dynamic. Here’s how we explained this last week:

Trump clearly has no conception of why that approach can’t and won’t work with Kim. Kim’s rule depends almost entirely on his God-like status with his own people. When you threaten to kill him in public (as opposed to communicating through backchannels that Washington is at wit’s end and a military strike is imminent), you have put Kim in an untenable position. He has to choose between appearing weak or going ahead and doing something that proves he’s not. That is not a choice for someone in his position.

And so, with that as the rather disconcerting backdrop, here’s a new piece out Monday from Elizabeth McElvein that takes a look at what you (voters) think about the prospect of another conflict on the Korean peninsula…

By Elizabeth McElvein for Lawfare

Where Do Americans Stand on Military Action Against North Korea?

In his debut before the U.N. General Assembly last week, President Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States “is forced to defend itself or its allies.” Analysts are divided over whether the president’s message aids or undermines efforts to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. In domestic politics, however, polling suggests that the president’s hawkishness may be outpacing public sentiment.

Just 33 percent of Americans believe the United States should threaten North Korea with military action to try to settle the current situation, according to a CBS News poll fielded in the days after Trump’s pledge to unleash “fire and fury” against Kim Jong Un’s regime. American attitudes on this question are—perhaps unsurprisingly—strongly colored by partisanship. Ninety percent of Democrats oppose the president’s threats of military action, as do 58 percent of independent voters. Republicans are less monolithic than are Democrats: Nearly two-thirds of Republicans support threats of military action, while 30 percent oppose them.

Americans are also decidedly split on the potential for economic and diplomatic tools to produce a peaceful outcome. CNN poll released at the end of last week found that just 43 percent of Americans believe the situation in North Korea can be resolved through economic and diplomatic efforts. This figure that includes a thin majority of Democrats (55 percent), and a minority of Independents (43 percent) and Republicans (32 percent). Optimism about prospects for a diplomatic solution appears to have declined in recent weeks, as North Korea continues to launch missiles that may becapable of hitting the United States and its territories. Last month, a Quinnipiac Survey found that 64 percent of Americans believed the U.S. would be able to resolve the situation diplomatically rather than militarily. While the poll questions used slightly different wording, the shift in sentiment is striking. This shift may well be animated by the perception that North Korea poses an “imminent” threat to the United States, a viewpoint held by half of Americans, including a majority of Republicans (61 percent) and a plurality of Democrats (45 percent) and independents (48 percent).

When it comes to commitments to U.S. allies in North Korea’s vicinity, 74 percent of Americans affirm that the United States has a duty to protect its allies, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll. This view enjoys cross-party support—from roughly three-quarters each of Republicans, Democrats and independents. The support is strongest among Republicans. Forty percent of Republicans say they “strongly agree” that the United States has an obligation to protects its allies in East Asia—nearly twice the share of Democrats who say same. Republican sentiment appears to keep pace with Trump’s apparent about-face from espousing isolationism during the campaign to affirming “ironclad” diplomatic commitments as president.

In a further departure from isolationism, 58 percent of Americans say they would support military action against North Korea if peaceful efforts fail to achieve the United States’ goals. This figure includes a striking share of Republicans: 82 percent.  And 55 percent of independents and 46 percent of Democrats say the same. Americans are significantly more hawkish now than they were in January 2003, shortly after North Korea restarted its nuclear reactors and expelled international  inspectors. At that time, a Gallup poll found that only 47 percent of Americans said they would support military action if diplomatic efforts fail. Republicans appear to being driving this shift in sentiment: GOP support for military action increased 23 points, from 59 percent to 82 percent. Democrats’ opposition to the use of military force, by contrast, has intensified since 2003, bumping up from 41 t to 46 percent.

The support for military action detailed above is predicated on the failure of diplomatic efforts, and Americans do not yet believe diplomatic efforts have failed. Three quarters (76 percent) support the imposition of even tougher economic sanctions, while just 39 percent of Americans say they would support bombing North Korean military targets, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this weekend.

Defining the point where economic and diplomatic efforts fail is complex as a matter of policy, and the associated politics will almost certainly be fraught with partisan commitments. Americans’ support for military strikes against North Korea may turn on whether the public comes to believe—as national security adviser H.R. McMaster has suggested in recent days—that the United States faces an imminent threat and a dearth of diplomatic options.

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5 thoughts on “Ok, America: Who Wants To Go To War With North Korea?

  1. Those are insane numbers! Military action in the DMZ alone will be a bloodbath add Seoul’s 30 million population and you get insanity. The alt-right wants destruction of our country, well this would be the beginning, we would look like the fools we have become. Some body needs to remove this fu*ker and the congress as lame as it is needs to do it’s job and protect the world from a horrible mistake.

  2. Even trying to keep the possible conflict conventional, i.e. non-nuclear, will IMHO, have caused severe collateral damage, from which there is no exit strategy for us as a superpower/provocateur.

  3. To answer your question, no one wants to go to war with NK, but trying to solve the problem with ineffective measures has got us to where we are today. I would argue that we have already exhausted the peaceful alternatives that were at our disposal with a committed partner we never had. I do not believe there will be too many people upset at the loss of the NK leadership. The saddest part is going to be the loss of life to the poor innocent NK people who have been subjected to decades of brutal tyrannical rule.

    I am less concerned about the battle as I am with the aftermath. A few strategically placed low yield nuclear cruise missiles is about all it will take to decimate the command and control structure. Conventional weapons would then eliminate the retaliatory capability of NK. We will win the battle but there will be a great price to pay for it.

  4. Hello! Let’s all graduate from the 8th grade!! There will be NO “battle..” no “US planes” shot down…no nothing. The US will..repeat absolutely..without a doubt..walk away from the Korean Peninsula because So. Korea has used us and has no intention of fighting for its integrity…so why should we fight for theirs??

    This all works out very well. No.Korea NOW becomes China’s problem. The US can continue to act like it’s protecting Japan for a few more years. However, in the end they re-arm and develop a nuclear capacity. We retreat from the So. and East Chine Seas and let the principal players hash out their own realities.
    The US save hundreds of billions…yipee

    Kimbo Boy then gets to wolf at the Chinese..that will go over very large! They’ll
    sell nuclear weapons to those who hate the Chinese (almost everyone) and one day Kimbo will not wake up. He’ll die from some mysterious something..maybe his death won’t even be discovered! A Tribunal of the People will take over..and the Chinese will proclaim it’s a blessing to World Peace..

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