On the last day of the Munich Security Conference, Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho was in a bit of a bind. He needed to leave the Bayerischer Hof Hotel by 9:30 a.m. to catch a flight, but also wanted to appear on a 9 a.m. panel of U.S. senators and members of congress to discuss U.S. foreign policy. While it may have made sense for Senator Risch to cede the spot to someone else, he had something he wanted to say—a “pretty dire” message for the participants on the “really dangerous situation” in Korea.
President Donald Trump, Risch said, was determined to prevent Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, from developing the ability to hit American cities with nuclear weapons. And no one should doubt the president’s commitment to this goal, he said. Risch was keen to clear up a common misconception: Trump was not, in fact, considering a so-called bloody nose strike whereby the United States would use force to send a message of resolve to Pyongyang:
There is no “bloody nose” policy. Senator [Jeanne] Shaheen and I drilled down with the administration on that and nobody knows where that came from. It appeared in the national media, [and] the administration says they’ve never used the term. ... There is no such thing. And if you think about it, it absolutely makes sense.
If this thing starts, it’s going to [probably be] one of the worst, catastrophic events in the history of our civilization, but it is going to be very, very brief. The end of it is [will] see mass casualties, the likes of which the planet has never seen—it will be of biblical proportions. … This president has at his fingertips the ability to dispense what he has said he is going to dispense, if the North Korean regime, if Kim Jong Un, continues down the path that he is [on] … the president can do this quickly and, as I said, it is at his fingertips.
While it’s unclear exactly what Risch was suggesting (you can watch the video of the exchange here to draw your own conclusions), the implication of his message was startling: The president of the United States is willing to launch a major war in the near future if North Korea does not back down.