“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick tempered displays folly.” — Proverbs 14:29
On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence issued a warning to North Korea that the “era of strategic patience” was over. Pence warned that all options were on the table without specifying the options and how they could be expected to play out. The options available to President Donald Trump are the same options that were available to previous American presidents. The best option is still diplomacy, i.e., “strategic patience.”
There is no doubt that the U.S. military could inflict devastation upon North Korea and take out the current regime. But within minutes of the commencement of any military strike, North Korea would unleash thousands of artillery shells and short range missiles toward our major Asian allies South Korea and Japan. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is home to 10 million people and lies less than 40 miles from the heavily militarized border with North Korea.
Even conventional warheads would inflict tens of thousands of casualties and lead to millions of refugees. If the North Korean regime felt its downfall was imminent and that it had nothing left to lose, it is very likely that it would exercise its nuclear option. The Korean Peninsula, and perhaps parts of Japan and China too, would become wastelands and a humanitarian refugee crisis would unfold, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since World War II. The economies of South Korea, Japan and China would be severely disrupted, which would then disrupt the American economy and spread beyond. A war with North Korea also has the potential to spiral out of control and lead to military entanglements with China and Russia.
On April 19, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, proclaimed that America had also lost its strategic patience with Iran. He issued his warning even though the Trump administration has confirmed that Iran is in substantial compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Tillerson cited Iran’s support for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria as its justification. A war with Iran would bring chaos and instability to the entire Middle East and to the international oil markets, not to mention the enormous cost to human lives. It’s puzzling how President Trump has yet to lose his strategic patience with Vladimir Putin’s Russia despite its strong support for the Assad regime, its invasion of Ukraine and the Crimea, and its recent intelligence operations to disrupt and interfere with the American presidential election and elections throughout Western Europe.
The Trump administration seems itching for a fight and is displaying the sort of bravado and foolish quick temper Proverbs 14:29 counseled us about. This folly was on full display with their warning that an American naval armada was heading toward North Korea when in reality it was 3,000 miles away sailing in the opposite direction. If this is what the end of the era of strategic patience looks like, God help us all.