Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Trump Recklessly Tempts War

Russell Jaffe, Columnist

International tensions are on the rise as North Korea and the United States trade increasingly threatening demonstrations of military power. In one deliberate provocation, President Donald Trump supposedly sent an aircraft carrier to the Korean peninsula in a move that North Korea condemned as “reckless.” However, on Saturday’s “Day of the Sun,” a festival celebrating the birthday of Kim Il-Sung, North Korea’s founder, Kim Jong Un responded by publicly flaunting his military arsenal, and is currently rumored to be planning further nuclear tests to advance North Korea’s place in the arms race. For the first time since the Cold War, World War III looms as a serious threat on the horizon.

It is difficult to imagine any single event that threatens the future of humanity more than nuclear war. In the words of historian Richard Rhodes, the invention of the atomic bomb “was a millennial change in human history: For the first time, we were now capable of our own destruction, as a species.” My generation has lived our whole lives under the threat of instant annihilation. Trump’s recent aggression has turned this possibility into a dangerously imminent future. We are all living in the shadow of Oppenheimer’s deadly toy.

The number of times humanity has nearly triggered its own destruction is not often discussed. There are countless examples from the Cold War alone, but two in particular stick out.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Americans attempted to use depth charges to force a Soviet submarine to the surface, unintentionally convincing the crew that an all-out war had just begun. It was only due to a single Soviet officer — a commander named Vasili Arkhipov — that a global nuclear war was averted when he refused to authorize a nuclear strike against the orders of two other senior officers.

Another time during the Cold War, a nuclear warning system randomly malfunctioned and reported that the U.S. had launched multiple missiles towards the Soviet Union. Thankfully, a duty officer named Stanislav Petrov guessed that this was only a false alarm, once again averting disaster.

These situations are proof that a world of nuclear weapons is already far too dangerous without a demagogue like Trump pushing us toward war. The world stands at the edge of nuclear war as much as ever before, and a single push could easily bring everything crashing down.

The current flexing match between Trump and Kim Jong Un may be exactly that push. Our cannons are aimed at North Korean testing sites as intelligence officials informed NBC News that the U.S. was ready to launch a preemptive attack if Kim Jong Un followed through with his planned nuclear testing. North Korea also released a similar statement, claiming that they would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to “hit the U.S. first” if the U.S. gave any indication that they were about to strike. In fact, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol has since elaborated on this, warning that “all-out war” would result if the U.S. took military action.

In this scenario, the U.S. would almost certainly defeat North Korea, and Trump’s reckless aggression has begun to threaten them with the prospect of inevitable subjugation. Would Kim Jong Un choose to strike anyway, knowing that it would be a suicidal decision? In light of his ego and history, I fear that he would.

Moreover, Trump would likely do something similar if he were put in the same situation. They are both responsible for the precarious stalemate between our nations, and with each threat, they are gambling with the lives of every person on the planet. Sooner or later, someone’s ego will need to back down or war will become inevitable. Ultimately, the only way to win this sort of war is not to have it at all.

 

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Established 1874.
Trump Recklessly Tempts War