You are the sheriff. A madman (or at least, a man you have convinced the whole town is mad) barricades himself inside his house. He claims to have planted explosives around his home which are ready to explode at the push of a button. You have his house surrounded – but what should you do next?
Option A: Maintain the siege but don’t go any further. He hasn’t hit the button, which is a good sign, as the damned thing would have been pushed already if the man really was crazy. The important thing is not to provoke him, since “mad” in this case means unpredictable. And you have enough manpower to prolong the stakeout indefinitely.
Option B: Shout a warning to the man: you can bomb his house – and your bombs are far more powerful than his. Throw in a few insults. You can call his house a pigsty, for example.
Option C: Anything but B.
If you chose A or C, you are in disagreement with the president of the United States. Donald Trump, in dealing with North Korea, has picked B. And his tweets are louder than any shout, given his staggering number of “followers” and the world-media megaphone that amplifies his every his message.
Here’s that recent tweet again: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times’. 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!”
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s probably time to run for cover.
But perhaps we should first place ourselves in the shoes of the “madman”. What should we do now, after planting explosives all over the place and being taunted by the sheriff?
A: Push the button.
B: Light a cigar and ponder the injustice of a world that allows the sheriff to have big bombs but screams about your (in the sheriff’s own words) “little bombs”.
C: Roll on the floor and laugh your head off, kicking yourself for thinking that you were the maddest person in the world.
Mind you, if Kim chooses C, he might suddenly stop writhing with laughter when he recalls what happened to Saddam Hussein. The US didn’t even have to prove the Iraqi leader was hiding weapons of mass destruction. In other words, the sheriff didn’t have to show the townspeople that the surrounded man had a
bomb before proceeding to bomb
Trump’s aggression may have something to do with his new presidential role, because in 2013 he sounded quite peace-loving and cautious. Reacting to then-president Barack Obama’s announcement that he was ready to order a limited strike on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Trump tweeted a warning and called for prudence. “Be prepared. Our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III,” he declared.
Commenting on moves to resume dialogue between North and South Korea, Trump hardly helped matters by using his derisive nickname for Kim. “Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for the first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not,” he said.
Check online forums in Thailand and you find that Trump scares some netizens and charms others.
“Two complete and utter madmen playing a game of one-upmanship that could cost millions of innocent lives in a war that nobody wants,” one poster writes. “OMG!! This man is a narcissistic psychopath,” says another. On the same forum someone marvels at the “leadership and backbone” shown by the United States under Trump. Another admirer lauds Trump’s “courage” for playing a “silly game” in order to “make light of an otherwise dangerous situation”.
I agree with the last poster that the situation is “dangerous”, but I seriously doubt that Trump’s tweets “make light” of it. I don’t think you can “make light” of nuclear tension by saying you have a bigger nuclear button.
Of course, I know about “reverse psychology” and all, but that technique is designed to work on “normal” people, right? If Kim is a lunatic, as the Trump administration would have us believe, is challenging him to push the button the right thing to do?
What other options does Trump have? It’s up to the US government’s international security advisers to answer that question. As for me, I’m just grateful we have Trump as president of the United States and Kim Jong-un as leader of North Korea, and not vice versa.
For others there is nothing to be grateful about, as two complete and utter madmen play a game of one-upmanship that could cost millions of innocent lives in a war that no one wants.