On Thursday, I was honored to sit down with David Gergen for a wide-ranging discussion on global leadership in the 21stcentury.

David knows a thing or two about leadership – he served as a White House adviser to four U.S. presidents who hailed from both sides of the aisle: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. He now directs the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

During our conversation, we both noted French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the White House earlier in the week and the stark differences in policy and character between the French leader and our own. During his speech to Congress, Macron urged the U.S. to remain engaged in the world, stating:

“We can choose isolationism, withdrawal, and nationalism. This is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary relief to our fears. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world.”

As I told the team at MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier in the week, and quoting Napoleon (of course), a leader is a dealer in hope. Macron – a visionary, vraiment – is one of these leaders, while our own president prefers to deal in fear.

Beyond the pomp and circumstance of Macron’s visit, very real foreign policy issues were raised, most notably regarding the Iran nuclear deal. While President Donald Trump’s inclination is to pull out entirely, I believe Macron is trying bridge the gap between the U.S. and the rest of Europe. To quote another famous Frenchman, Voltaire: “Life is a shipwreck. Save what you can.” I think we ought to save what we can on this deal. I discussed this on MSNBC, and you can watch the interview here.

One individual showing surprising – if somewhat suspicious – leadership this week is North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. By Friday morning, the United States woke up to news that the Koreas had agreed to denuclearize the Peninsula and sign an official peace treaty, ending the nearly 70-year period of conditional cease-fire following the Korean War.

As wonderful as all this sounds, we should be careful to believe everything the young leader says. As I wrote for TIME magazine, given the long history of North Korea’s double-dealing, outright lying, and surreptitious construction of weapons of mass destruction, the likelihood of Kim actually surrendering his nuclear weapons is extremely low, no matter what he says publicly.

Should the wheels come off, I told Bloomberg that the possibility of a worrisome attack is something for which the U.S. should continually be preparing. If denuclearization talks don’t go the way we all hope they will, Kim could choose to lob a few nuclear weapons at Honolulu or even Seattle, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that North Korea might have the ability to deploy one or two nuclear weapons at altitude over the continental U.S., creating a devastating burst of energy called an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The short burst of vastly powerful electrical and magnetic shocks involved in said EMP could potentially devastate everything from your iPhone to the entire U.S. power grid. It would be something akin to thousands of lightning strikes hitting every home and business in America.

To mitigate these risks, I have a few suggestions for how to protect the nation from such an attack:

  1. Harden our key systems, beginning with intercontinental ballistic missiles and other nuclear strategic weapons.
  2. Increase the military’s ballistic missile defenses against the “single shot” attack that would use EMP.
  3. Pursue a variety of advanced systems that can counter long-range missiles through non-kinetic means.
  4. Focus on intelligence and early warning systems, primarily based in space, that can detect the movement of launch systems, indications of pre-launch activity, and a launch itself, as well as track incoming threats.

We can all hope that this latest chain of events and the coming spring brings a thaw to U.S.-North Korean relations. But one swallow does not a spring make, as the saying goes — Americans must be ready for another winter of confrontation if diplomacy does not succeed.

As always, thanks for reading.

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