Washington, D.C. (June 20, 2017)-- Defined by a racist mythology and entrenched in belief that its leader holds supernatural status, North Korea poses a foreign-policy minefield for President Donald Trump, just as it has for every one of his modern predecessors. Compounding the challenge, nuclear weapons are widely held to be an essential tool to protect against the perceived existential threat posed by Western enemies. Can North Korea be stopped? And what can possibly be done when all options have been exhausted? In the July/August cover story of The Atlantic, Mark Bowden outlines a playbook for dealing with North Korea, but warns that none of the options are pretty.
The double issue also features the Health Report, with a piece by Maryn McKenna on how crowdsourced bacteria are changing the fight against antibiotic resistance, and David Dobbs reporting on how smartphones are helping to treat mental illnesses. And in politics, Frank Foer investigates why the Democrats keep losing, and Peter Beinart argues that the party has failed on its immigration stance.
The July/August double issue of The Atlantic will be online in full on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.
COVER STORY + FEATURES:
The Worst Problem on Earth
As tensions continue to flare, Atlantic national correspondent Mark Bowden outlines four strategic possibilities for the United States when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear program. The options—from exercising varying degrees of military force, to the continued acceptance of the problem—are drawn from Bowden’s extensive conversations with top national-security experts and military officers who’ve wrestled with the issue for years. The one thing the plans share: All of them are bad. The most extreme example, an all-out military attack on North Korea, plays into Trumpian logic. But, Bowden warns, “an American first strike would likely trigger one of the worst mass killings in human history … For the U.S. to force [Kim Jong Un’s] hand with a first strike, to do so without severe provocation or an immediate and dire threat, would be not only foolhardy by morally indefensible. That this decision now rests with Donald Trump, who has not shows abundant capacity for moral judgment, is not reassuring.” In the end, Bowden wagers that continued acceptance and containment of a nuclear North Korea is how the current crisis should and will most likely play out. He writes: “As the latest head of a family that has ruled for three generations, one whose primary purpose has been to survive, as a young man with a lifetime of wealth and power before him, how likely is [Kim] to wake up one morning and set fire to the world?”