Years ago, David Pryce-Jones told me a story, oft-applicable. In 1935, the SA accosted a British nurse in the streets of Frankfurt. She had been seconded to a hospital there. The British consul in Frankfurt, Max Auwe, advised the Foreign Office that the British response should be strong. Otherwise, the Nazis would think they could get away with anything.
I believe Dr. Auwe was a naturalized citizen, born in Germany or Austria. He was not naïve. He knew.
Anyway, they fired him. His government fired him. And a short while later, they signed the Anglo-German Naval Treaty.
The other week, Manuel Noriega died, prompting me to look up the exact circumstances of our Panama war. They killed an unarmed American soldier. They wounded another. They arrested and beat up another, and threatened his wife with rape.
“That was enough.” Those were President Bush’s words. “That was enough.” We went in.
Come now to Otto Warmbier, the American student whom the Norks have returned to us in a coma. He didn’t fall into this condition “naturally.” So, what do we do? The problem is, the Norks have nukes. That severely — severely — limits your options. I once heard a high source in the White House — a very high source — say, “If you think there are any good military options in North Korea, you haven’t looked at the military options.”
That’s the point of preemption: one of the most thankless jobs in the world, as President Bush’s son George W. knows. No one likes a preemptor. People will always say that the preemption was unnecessary, or premature. But once a dictatorship goes nuclear — once they acquire WMD — there is little you can do. Including protect the lives of your own citizens.