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Opinion: Trump is playing his cards right with North Korea

Photo by David Everett Strickler from Unsplash

The recent false alarm in Hawaii has everybody spooked about a possible nuclear attack from North Korea. While the governor of Hawaii David Ige claimed somebody just “pushed the wrong button,” panic-stricken Hawaiian residents fled their homes in fear of a non-existent threat. President Donald Trump released a statement on the situation saying that “Clearly, government agencies are not prepared” and that they “lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations.” Just a few days later, there was another false alarm in Japan from its national public broadcaster the NHK, but this was corrected in just five minutes. Hawaii has since changed its emergency protocols as the national Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “[Everybody] can trust government systems, we test them every day. This was a very unfortunate mistake.”

While this alert was fake, the threat of a nuclear attack is a real and present danger. In his New Year’s address on January 2, 2018, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un stated, “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk.” President Trump responded by saying, “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” But contrary to what many in the media will tell you, Trump’s tweets are not putting Americans at risk. They actually ensure our security.

The response to Trump’s tweet was absolute hysteria. In an interview on MSNBC, former Vice President Joe Biden said he thought it reflected negatively on the president. “I think it shows poor judgment for the president to perform as he does, particularly with tweets…words matter. The only war that’s worse than one intended is one that’s unintended.” But the fatal flaw with Biden’s assessment of Trump’s tweet is that he assumes Trump does not intend to go to war. Trump will initiate war without hesitation, but only if it’s absolutely necessary. By taking this position, I think President Trump is intelligently fulfilling the role of Commander-in-Chief.

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The Oxford Dictionary definition of nuclear deterrence is “the military doctrine according to which the possibility that a country will use the nuclear weapons it possesses in retaliation will deter an enemy from attacking.” According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Cold War led to “the United States and the Soviet Union each [building] a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Soviet policy rested on the conviction that a nuclear war could be fought and won.” So while the Soviets built nuclear weapons to initiate war, the US stockpiled weapons to prevent war.

The Soviet nuclear policies during the Cold War had a major influence on Kim Jong Un’s own nuclear strategy, but the North Korean dictator takes it even further. In a 2009 Atlantic article entitled “North Korea, the Next Iraq?” by Robert Kaplan, the author writes, “Nuclear tests and missile launches are his own warped way of trying to get the attention of the new Obama administration. He needs to be enough of a problem that Washington will have no choice but to deal with him directly.” North Korea has its missiles to keep us out. Kim Jong Il’s strategy was to use them as a deterrent to prevent foreign powers from meddling with his regime. If this were still the case, we probably wouldn’t have a problem allowing the regime to continue constructing and improving nuclear technology. But while Kim Jong Il was willing to negotiate with foreign powers, his son Kim Jong Un continues to push the international community by threatening North Korea’s neighbors, testing nuclear missiles, and expanding its nuclear program.

Trump’s response to Kim Jong Un’s veiled threat to the US was in faithful practice of nuclear deterrence. Trump is letting the North Korean dictator know that a nuclear war with the United States is not a game—if Korea were to make the first strike, we are going to shoot that missile out of the sky and respond in full force. While this may sound like an excessive show of force, we have to realize that any nuclear strike on the US or our allies would be devastating. According to a study by Princeton University, the smallest nuclear bomb, at 20 kilotons, would kill 98 percent of the population in an urban area 1.2 miles in diameter. And that’s an understatement of the real damage it would cause. Outside of that area, there would still be destruction and intense radiation. Any threat of such an attack should be taken seriously.

Many people want to believe we can resolve this conflict with negotiations or sanctions or by forcing North Korea to give up its nuclear program. But prospects in this direction look bleak. We can just look at the negotiations to save the life of Otto Warmbier as proof that North Korea is unwilling to work with the US on anything. Otto Warmbier was an American student who was imprisoned by the North Korean government for stealing a poster. After being tortured and abused in prison, he was sent back to the US in a coma covered in sores where he died after just six weeks. Ri Yong-pil, a senior Foreign Ministry official from North Korea, claims the US let Warmbier die to “stir up anti-Communist hatred.”

By letting Kim Jong Un know that, if North Korea were to try such an attack they will have their country leveled, I believe Trump is playing his cards right. Even a crazed, narcissistic dictator of a backwoods Communist hellhole can understand self-preservation. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of the “fire and fury” of a nuclear attack by the United States. Trump’s tweets shouldn’t frighten anybody here in America. He does that to let us know we’re safe, and to let them know not to mess with us or our allies.

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent article and excellent point. True to the word. only those that do not understand brinkmanship and nuclear deterrence (nuclear capability, rhetoric and posturing) will criticize President Trump’s policy on this.

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