Thursday, August 10, 2017

North Korea

We just returned from a three-week Hawaiian vacation and I am happy to resume blogging.

When starting up again, the first question is, what shall I write about? The choice is always between something fun, like a travel story, or something grisly, like Trump or North Korea.

Unfortunately, I have to select the latter, since our blog is primarily about current affairs. So right now, I am going to talk about the most important issue in the world today. Next time I’ll tell you about some of our funny experiences on our recent trips. The most important thing in the world today is the face-off between two lunatics - Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un.

Now don’t misunderstand me: I am not engaging in moral equivalency between the US and North Korea, or between the two countries’ regimes. The US, despite its unhinged President, remains a functioning democracy. North Korea is an indescribably totalitarian, militarized insane asylum.

However, the verbal exchanges between the two leaders are frightening. Trump’s ‘fire and fury” speech, far from making me feel more comfortable in the belief that our leader is strong, resolute and ready to fight back, appears to INCREASE the chance of a catastrophic nuclear conflagration. No one wants or anticipates such a conflagration, but miscalculations and stupidity have been known to lead to disaster before.

The best example of unexpected suicidal behavior on a global scale was World War One: When the Germans, the French, the British, the Austro-Hungarians and the Russians happily marched off to the front in the summer of 1914, they all believed that the conflict would be brief and mild. In the end, the war engulfed the entire planet. The catastrophe was essentially the result of idiocy and miscalculation (See for example Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August).

Those of us beyond a certain age remember the fifties vividly, as well as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. I still lived in Europe at the time, but we were every bit as aware of the threat of nuclear annihilation as Americans were. My wife Anita is an air force brat. Her father flew B52s for SAC at Offutt AFB near Omaha. She remembers the absurd drills during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when she and her classmates were told to practice ducking underneath their desks when the nukes start raining down on them.

Hawaii is the first state to take the current threat seriously. Authorities there have begun to test the attack warning system, and they have broadcast instructions advising the population how and what type of shelter to seek in case of attack. After a North Korean nuclear launch, Hawaii would have fifteen minutes to protect itself. North Korea’s nuclear bombs yield roughly the same power as those that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thus, a majority of the Hawaiians would survive, even though hundreds of thousands would die.

And imagining escalation of the nuclear exchange to the mainland of the US, Japan, South Korea and other parts of the world is too horrific to even contemplate.

So here you have it, folks. I join the vast majority of public opinion in saying that the likelihood of a nuclear exchange remains small. However, the fact that something has never happened in the past does not provide certainty that it will not happen in the future.

The world survived the Cold War. Most world leaders have always understood that the point of having nuclear bombs is precisely to make sure that they never get used. I hope that both Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump remember this.

Coincidentally, America is led by the least qualified man ever to occupy the White House, precisely at a moment of the gravest danger. I now find myself praying, even though I am an atheist.

© Tom Kando 2017;All Rights Reserved
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