One of the things you learn about politics over the years is that when the going gets tough politically, leaders kick off wars to boost their poll numbers and distract the public from their domestic failures. Generally speaking, the weaker the target, the better. Margaret Thatcher reversed her disastrous popularity in the early eighties by getting into a pointless war with Argentina, Ronald Reagan took on a tiny Caribbean island named Grenada in an obvious attempt to make himself look tough in time for the 1984 election, and George W. Bush invaded a defenseless country that hadn’t attacked the United States in response to 9/11.
Fast forward to 2017, and a seriously flagging Donald Trump has decided he wants a potential nuclear conflict with North Korea — a country that poses absolutely no military threat to the United States whatsoever.
You don’t have to be a supporter of the hellhole that is North Korea in order to not want a thermonuclear conflict that would kill millions of innocent people. Kim Jong Un is a genocidal tyrant who poses a grave threat to his own people and the people of South Korea. But the hermit kingdom would get wiped of the face of the earth in a conflict with the United States, and everyone including Kim Jong Un know it. Trump doesn’t understand much, but he knows there is a political benefit to international conflicts, and he’s choosing a country he thinks will make himself look good by bullying. And the language Trump is using to stoke the conflict reveals just how desperate he is to look big and tough. In response to U.S. intelligence learning that, North Korea has been able to make a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could be placed on a missile, Trump said the country “would met with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” Reported the Huff Post:
President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened North Korea, promising “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” following new reports the country has escalated its nuclear program.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” he said in a short statement to reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, before a meeting on the opioid crisis.
“He has been very threatening, beyond a normal statement,” Trump said of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. “And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
The world has been dealing with North Korea’s madness for decades, and have managed to contain the situation to the point where people aren’t engaging in deadly conflict on a mass scale. This is an achievement given the volatility of the North Korean government and the violent history of the region. Largely it is China that placates North Korea with a mixture of trade and aid. The Chinese want to prevent a catastrophic flood of immigrants over their border that would occur should the regime collapse, and are content to play nice with Kim Jong Un. Trump appeared to understand this complexity after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this year, but has now decided that upping the ante is a better policy for, well, himself.
Trump poll numbers are nothing short of disastrous. He can’t pass any legislation and his party is openly defying him to the point where some media commentators believe his administration has effectively collapsed. Trump is probably past the point of no return politically speaking, and he needs a miracle to get back control of his administration and his party. This is where a good ol’ war comes in handy, and Trump looks to be escalating a conflict that could spiral out of control in a remarkably short amount of time. A conflict with North Korea would be a disaster beyond disasters, and while America would win an initial conflict, the aftermath would likely make Iraq and Afghanistan look like garden party. This may or may not concern Trump from a moral point of view, but as we’ve seen before, when Trump is backed into a corner he can be very, very dangerous.
One hopes that adults can intervene in this war of words before it escalates further, but the stakes are incredibly high and Trump could well be leading the country into a new, disastrous conflict in order to save himself from political oblivion.
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.