After a disturbing week of rhetoric about the possibility of nuclear attacks, I remain amazed at our president’s willingness to gamble on being above the laws that the rest of us have to observe. I have in mind Murphy’s Law that “if anything can go wrong, it will,” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” that sometimes means “no good deed will go unpunished.” In this world of constant and multi-layered communication across different languages and cultural understandings, most of us recognize the need to proceed with caution.
While it may (or may not) be true that Mr. Trump meant only to convey to Mr. Kim a strong warning (the equivalent of going from 0 mph to 90 in 5 seconds in an on-screen race), it is also possible that his rhetoric was a reaction to (and distraction from) the ongoing investigation of his allegiance to Russia. Whatever his intent, he has revived the specter of nuclear war in many minds and made it more likely to occur, if only as an accident.
I wonder if he or any of his advisors are thinking about our place in history—assuming that human life survives a nuclear war. For one-hundred years, we have enjoyed the reputation of “good guys” because of our crucial contributions to both world wars, despite our decision to unleash nuclear warheads on Japan at the end of WWII. If we make the same decision again, however, for whatever reason, our survivors may well find themselves in the world’s “bad guys” column.
Not everyone agrees in retrospect that the decision to end the second war by a few weeks or months was a good idea. Add to that uncertainty the reality of a small country like N. Korea with a few missiles and bombs threatening the richest country in the world (with thousands of missiles and bombs), and it won’t matter much “who started it.” Does anyone remember the Peter Sellers film “The Mouse That Roared”? We have the power, of course, but it is the power to “do what is right,” not to “win at all costs.”
Now is the time to protest this kind of “foreign policy” before it is too late.