Musings

The North Korean Threat

October 11, 2017

It’s rumored that before former president Obama left office, he met with incoming president Donald Trump. Obama told him that one of the biggest threats facing America, and likely one of the biggest headaches during his presidency, would be Kim Jong Un and North Korea. I doubt Trump was even paying attention. He was probably busy engaging in another pointless Twitter feud with a D-list celebrity, or possibly daydreaming about fucking Ivanka. In any event, we’re a few months into the Trump presidency, and North Korean rhetoric against the United States seems to be rapidly increasing. I can’t really say something like “it’s at an all time high,” because North Korean saber rattling has been going on for decades. It’s only the uptick in testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles that should have the U.S., and the rest of the world, taking notice.

It’s estimated that in the near future, it’s possible that the secretive country headed up by “Rocket Man,” to borrow Trump’s cute little nickname for the tubby autocrat, could have the capacity to launch a missile capable of hitting the west coast of the United States. It could also have a nuclear weapon with a payload big enough to cause catastrophic damage. The missile tests in which the North Koreans had been engaging for years were greeted with derision by the rest of the world. The rockets blew up soon after launch, or went wildly off course. But the latest tests seem to show significant strides in terms of both power and accuracy, and it’s not only the U.S. that’s worried. No one wants a nuclear powered North Korea. Trump’s Twilight Zone-flavored speech at the U.N. may have alarmed some of the delegates, but they at least agreed with the sentiment that North Korea is dangerous, and becoming more so with each passing day.

Years ago, I talked about the arbitrary nature of stockpiling nuclear weaponry. What I mean is that the United States has nuclear arms, and several other countries do as well. Having nuclear arms means that, as a nation, you have to be taken seriously. If you’re not, it’s possible that you might just decide to launch against your neighbor, in a fit of pique. America, which has had nuclear capabilities for decades, loves to try and dictate which other countries should be allowed to have them. It was just the same with Iran nearly a decade ago as it is with North Korea now. We like to have our own nuclear arsenal, but if it seems as though a country we don’t like is going to get the bomb, we try to impose sanctions and even threaten war against them. I’m not advocating that it would be a good thing for either Iran or North Korea to have nuclear weapons. What I’m saying is that it is and always has been hypocritical for the U.S., or any other nuclear powered country, to say “We should be allowed to have nuclear weapons to defend ourselves, but this other nation shouldn’t.” Who are we to dictate such terms? We’re not God, and no other nation is either.

Our declaring that we should have nuclear arms and North Korea shouldn’t seems to presuppose that our leadership is steadier and more rational than theirs. If Kim Jong Un is so volatile, it makes sense that he shouldn’t be able to have nuclear weapons. However, are we honestly saying, during a Trump presidency, that our leadership is more tempered, more restrained, more trustworthy? Look at Trump’s childishness, his pettiness, his egomania. Are we that much more comfortable that this guy has the nuclear launch codes? What if, late one night, instead of insulting the latest celebrity via Twitter, he decides he’s going to unilaterally wipe some other country off the map because of a perceived slight? How farfetched is that, exactly? With Trump’s volatility, the idea of what’s impossible changes almost on a daily basis. At this point, I’d be willing to believe almost anything. I’m almost as nervous with Trump being in power as I would be if I was living in North Korea.

Ultimately, what we can do about North Korea and Kim Jong Un becomes a question of might making right. If the U.S. can find a way to stall their weapons development through sanctions or intimidation, we’ll try to do so. But intimidation seems useless, and sanctions haven’t been getting us very far. It seems almost a foregone conclusion that North Korea will eventually develop the weapon they crave, unless the U.S. makes some sort of preemptive strike against them. It’s anybody’s guess how all this is going to shake out. There are philosophies in life that amount to something along the lines of “only worry about the things that you can change,” and I certainly can’t do anything about the North Koreans. The only thing I could do against Trump was vote against him, and look how that turned out. I don’t know if Trump and Kim Jon Un’s blustering back and forth is going to eventually lead to something more than words. In a way, they seem to be like peas in a pod, both of them clearly relishing all the talk of blowing each other’s countries off the map. We’ll all have to wait and see if either one of them ever decides to put their money where their mouth is…or their missiles, as the case may be.

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