The erroneous “missile threat” alert sent to thousands of Americans’ phones in Hawaii on Saturday probably would have been dismissed as an obvious mistake if received just months ago. In the current climate, however, with the president only recently comparing the size of his “nuclear button” with that of North Korea’s leader, the imminent danger of war feels terribly real. Across Hawaii, people sought shelter and searched the internet for tips on “how to survive nuclear” attacks as they waited 38 agonizing minutes for Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency to issue a correction. President Trump said nothing to assuage fears following the alert, and the tension caused by his bluster toward North Korea has now been felt viscerally by millions of Americans as experts warn of a “growing risk of unintended nuclear war with North Korea.”
These anxieties are reasonable, especially considering that Trump officials are still considering the use of limited military strikes against North Korean missile sites. Even as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urge caution and restraint toward North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has reportedly arguedvocally that “military options need to be considered” to give North Korea a “bloody nose” and thereby prevent further belligerence. This argument was reinforced just last week by a provocative article in Foreign Policy, in which author Edward Luttwak claimed that the Air Force would be able to effectively eliminate North Korea’s nuclear facilities through a limited number of strikes. Even if such strikes were successful, however, a military confrontation on the Korean peninsula would likely spill over into a broader conflict—for which American society has not measured the costs.
Read the full op-ed in Slate.