Last Friday, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell claimed that President Trump was feeding the growing crisis in North Korea with his reckless bluster and unnecessary placement of military weaponry in the Sea of Japan.
Morell – a supporter of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE who was widely believed to be her choice for the Agency’s Director – claimed that the “best thing we can do” is to “ignore” Kim Jun Un and instead deliver a very different message to the Korean dictator.
“Stop your bad behavior and you can do what you want internally.”
For former CIA officers like me who served with Morell, his statement was horrifying.
Here is what Morell would encourage America to accept:
- Concentration camps: Kim operates a system of camps that hold approximately 100,000 citizens who have been designated enemies of the state. Inmates are deliberately starved, raped, tortured, and executed after a life of working 12 – 16 hour days in isolated fields and factories. Should there be too many inmates in a given camp, fathers and mothers are ordered to kill their sons and daughters. The crematoriums tell you what they do with the bodies.
- Death to Christians: Christianity is banned in North Korea because it challenges the doctrine that Kim, his father and grandfather are the nation’s true saviors. Those caught with a Bible or seen practicing Christianity are sent to concentration camps and tortured or killed.
- Forced abortions and murder of live infants: North Korean officials routinely rape women in the camps, especially those who are captured fleeing the country. When she starts to show her pregnancy, the inmate is forced to abort the child. Alternatively, prison guards demand she deliver the child only to slaughter the baby in front of her as a form of sadistic punishment.
- Mind control: The state has a cradle-to-grave indoctrination program that instills total loyalty to the Kim family. In kindergarten, children learn that Dear Leader gives them everything they have – including the milk cartons at breakfast. As they grow older, they see photos of the Kim family in every home and office that must be cleaned with a special cloth.
Meanwhile, all radio, TV, newspaper, and internet access is wholly controlled by the regime to promote its preferred propaganda. Possession of unsanctioned material – especially foreign media – results in prison or death.
- Loss of individual liberty: The Kim regime decides the path of each person’s life based on a system called “songbun.” Nearly every element of a North Korean’s life – where they live, their profession, and whom they marry – is based on where they fall in the songbun pecking order. It even extends to how much food they’re authorized to eat.
If this sounds like something out of horror movie, it should. Only this nightmare is real. And it’s something millions of North Koreans face each and every day.
To officials like Morell, however, it’s a reality worth accepting – for the right price. Apparently, the liberal values that define my Democratic Party stop at the ocean’s edge.
And yet his alarming statement didn’t end with the effective embrace of a real-life "Hunger Games" nation. When asked what else he might do to push back against Kim, the best Morell could muster was this:
“Tighten sanctions a little bit.”
If this sounds familiar, it should. For over 10 years, America’s policy on North Korea has been to increasingly sanction every industry inside the Hermit Kingdom in order to limit its access to foreign currency, technical expertise and advanced weaponry.
The hope was that these efforts would eventually push Kim to the negotiating table, or cause his regime to collapse. Former President Obama called this approach “strategic patience.”
For those of us who focused on North Korea, however, we called it a strategic blunder.
For over 10 years, we watched Kim expand his arsenal of nuclear weapons, extend the range and number of ballistic missiles, sell advanced weapons technology to Iran and build a nuclear bomb factory in Syria.
None of this ever moved officials like Morell. Even in the face of obvious failure, his advice to America was and remains the same: Keep waiting for a day that will never come.
And his message to Kim? Keep slaughtering your people.
Smart Democrats have long known that this policy was as morally bankrupt as it was ineffective. And with continued statements like those from Morell, we are now forced to accept an awkward and frustrating political truth.
On the issue of North Korea, President Trump better serves the nation.
From sending a strike carrier group to rumors of covert action, the administration has taken a series of increasingly provocative and wholly appropriate measures to make it clear to North Korea and its communist ally China that enough is enough.
Strategic patience is over.
Preliminary results show that it might be working, at least with the reluctant Chinese. Yet Beijing can still turn off billions in trade with North Korea and stop selling them dangerous missile technology.
Still, Trump’s strategy is fraught with risks. There is a very real possibility that escalating tensions might cause an outbreak of war. The first to be struck would almost certainly be the tens of thousands of U.S. personnel in South Korea and Japan, including a family member of mine. Say nothing of the millions of citizens in Seoul and Tokyo.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear-armed KN-08 missile could strike millions of Americans from Los Angeles to New York.
But let the nation be absolutely clear: Trump’s team has no easy solutions left. Those more peaceful paths were abandoned long ago to the dilly-dallying of strategic patience.
And that is why I encourage all Americans – regardless of political party – to pray that the White House has the wisdom and courage to see this response through as quickly and peacefully as possible.
We are out of better options.
Bryan Dean Wright is a former covert CIA ops officer and member of the Democratic Party. He contributes on issues of politics, national security, and the economy. Follow him on Twitter @BryanDeanWright.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.