In times of crisis, there’s a delicate balance to be had in judging your adversaries. Determinations must be made as to the appropriate mix of tough talk and diplomacy that will ultimately help you achieve your goal. It’s times like these that require a president to gather the best minds for counsel, employ prudent word choice, and undertake careful action.

I fear some of these elements are missing in this latest debacle with North Korea.

A strategy of improvisational bluster, ratcheting up military preparations without the necessary channels and flows of diplomatic discussion is no strategy at all and equates to a dangerous recipe for disaster on the Korean Peninsula.

If it comes to military blows – and I would strongly urge President Trump that it should not –  there are only two options that should be on the table: A single long-range strike against a nuclear program or a cyber offensive. I discussed both military options with the NBC Nightly News Team this week.

But before we ever get to that point, there are several steps that the U.S. administration can, and should, take into consideration vis-à-vis its response to the mercurial and dangerous Kim Jong-un. To that end, I penned a 10-step plan for the Boston Globe this week, briefly summarized below:

1) Dial down the rhetoric. Think less “Game of Thrones,” more “Cool Hand Luke” – and nix all improvised talk of “fire and fury.”

2) Dial up the intel and surveillance. We’ve only got so many intelligence assets, and a lot of crises to keep an eye on, but given what we now know about North Korea’s recent progress in their nuclear program, more attention needs to be given to this hot spot.

3) Increase our missile defenses. Across sea, land, and air, whether at home domestically, in our overseas protectorates, and on the Korean Peninsula itself.

4) Focus on cyber options. Espionage, offensive, and defensive measures should all be increased, tested, and deployed as necessary.

5) Take counsel with our South Korean allies. They are, after all, the front-line. It’s high time we talk with them, listen, and consider their input on how to deal with their northern neighbor.

6) Build a regional approach. Allies, allies, allies! We have close friends in the region who are capable and keen on avoiding a war at all costs. We need to be leveraging those networks, rather than going it alone.

7) Train and exercise the military options. You can never be too prepared. A military response requires training and preparation – especially at sea, as I detailed in a piece for Bloomberg this week– for any scenario. And while we should not hasten to military action, we must be ready should it be necessary.

8) Pressure China to “walk the walk.” China talks a good game, but it’s not in their interest to see a strong, unified Korea. Since they are truly the only ones who can squeeze North Korea financially, they have to step up and play ball by applying the sanctions they’ve just signed off on at the UN.

9) Take a sensible negotiating position. Getting China on our side means recognizing that they will not support regime change in North Korea, nor will they accept a unified Peninsula. Once China is on board, perhaps we can get the South and North Koreans to the negotiating table and convince Kim that his life and regime are not on the line if he gives up his WMD (unlike Khadafy and Hussein).

10) Make this an international issue. Remember how the UN Security Council unanimously signed off on sanctions about a week ago? We have to continue to make this about the entire global community vs. North Korea – not a standoff between two hot-headed leaders.

There are strategic, methodical, coherent steps that can be taken. If President Trump will just listen to the very capable advisors around him, perhaps cooler heads will prevail.

As always, thanks for reading.

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