Oct 5 2016
“A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought, and our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.” –Ronald Reagan
Just think: this could literally be one of the last essays written by a member of homo sapiens, a species very possibly due for extinction sometime within the next eight years. We’ve come all this way, even to the digital age and YouTube, and BAM! it could all be over in a week or less.
Sound pretty grim? Damn right it does and in truth alarm bells should be ringing like mad in most people’s heads right now. But unfortunately they’re not. So let’s discussed what is the least discussed issue in politics: nuclear war. Let’s find out and see what people think is the possibility of a nuclear war under a Trump Presidency, and I’ll discuss what I think, as well as ponder that impenetrable question: why are we being so stupidly nonchalant about it?
As long as there are nuclear weapons, the odds for nuclear war are unacceptably high under any Presidency. There is no precedence for a Presidency like the possibility of Trump’s in the history of the United States. The general consensus seems to be that it will be similar to other Presidencies, except that Trump will make a mess out of his every endeavor, destroy the economy and in the end turn out to be a very poor President, in all probability the worst in history.
But the question of nuclear war under Trump is actually as unpredictable as Trump is. That is one reason that Clinton repeatedly and routinely warns the American public that, “This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes.” And the power that Trump would have to use a nuclear bomb is, short of sheer persuasion, unstoppable. Trump terrifies those who work in the nuclear defense industry because there’s simply no real way of stopping him from using a bomb- or all of them- if he is determined to. Theoretically, there is still time before January to put some safeguards in place. But who among us expects that to happen? Not me, I’m sad to say.
Among all the eccentric things that Trump has promised to do, by far his most alarming are the things he has said and asked regarding nuclear weapons. Statements that include that he would ‘absolutely’ use a nuclear weapon against ISIS, his suggesting that Japan and South Korea ought to have nuclear weapons as well, since it’s ‘just a matter of time’ before they get them anyway, and his pestering a national security advisor three times over a 50 minute period why, since we have nuclear weapons, can’t we use them? Then there are the oft-repeated statements that as far as nukes are concerned, he will not take them off the table in negotiations.
Well-respected higher-ups in our nation’s national security branches are quite alarmed by Trump’s cavalier attitude toward nuclear weapons. General Hayden has expressed that his greatest concern about Trump is his erratic and unpredictable thought process, calling Trump very dangerous. Hayden has pointed out that the decision to launch a nuclear weapon is a ‘swift one, not open to debate.’
We all should burn that last statement into our brains to remember for as long as there nuclear weapons.
So while the good news is that while Trump’s Cabinet, at the very least would need Senate approval to becoming appointed (preventing any real wackos from the Cabinet), the anguishing reality is that our nuclear defense system, by it’s very design, is under the stewardship of one person, the President of the United States. What this means is that no matter how little power Trump (or any other President) might have to carry out his desired domestic policies, with one bomb he could easily throw the whole nation into chaos, national emergency, and ultimately dictatorship. It means that no matter how many pundits are counting the ways in which a Trump Presidency could be confined or controlled, those powers will cease to exist if the United States uses a nuclear bomb against ISIS, for example, and is suddenly a red hot nuclear target for Russia and China. If there are rogue tactical bombs out there such as the small bombs that NATO stockpiled in West Germany, or a bomb from a corrupt Russian general during the Yeltsin years that somehow got into terrorist hands, a U.S. strike could very well be met with a terrorist strike. In any of these scenarios the world could easily be drawn into a swift nuclear conflagration.
So what do Americans think are the chances that Trump will use a nuclear bomb should he become President? The short answer is far too high. In at least one poll that asks a number of alarming questions to its respondents (http://www.lincolnleaders.org/risk-survey-data), the risk that Trump will use a nuclear weapon sometime during his Presidency is gauged at 61% among Democrats and a whopping 26% among his own party. The fact that Republicans are ‘getting behind’ and endorsing a man that they think has a one in four chance of starting a nuclear war is nothing short of incredulous. The total average for all groups included was 46%, meaning that just about half of all Americans think that that Trump will start a nuclear war and, it would see, are not overly concerned. Which is something that gravely concerns me.
Such gross off the cuff speculation on the chances of our collective suicide defy description except to say they come from very troubled people in a very troubled age. I myself have trouble sleeping nights and my daughter just asked me, “Are you all right? You look like you’re about to die.” Maybe my reaction is more appropriate. I like to think so. But I find it hard not to come to the same conclusion as these polls. I like to think there’s a much smaller chance than half that Trump could just go ahead and unleash a nuclear warhead as a tactical weapon in an overall Middle East war strategy. I would like to say that there is a one in a thousand chance of Trump going against the advice of his generals and actually using a nuke as a field weapon. However these are not normal times and while it is true that Trump’s cabinet needs to be approved by the Senate, he is much freer in whom he chooses to consult with and listen to in the Pentagon. A key relationship with a firebrand reckless general who has Trump’s ear could increase the chances significantly that the U.S. will use the first nuclear bomb since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The effects of just one bomb on human life in a moderately sized city in Syria for example are of course simply too horrifying to contemplate. Unfortunately, that bombing would just be the beginning of a cascading scenario in which major powers like a justifiably outraged China and Russia would put America into their nuclear sights as they suddenly entered into a hostile relationship with our country, driving what was once a minimal chance of nuclear into becoming more like a 50/50 bet and sending the world economy reeling into an extreme recession in the process. What would happen after that is anybody’s guess, but it is very unlikely that the major powers of the world would allow America to walk into the region and secure the world’s largest oil supplies without massive resistence. In the worst-case scenario, one missile might be way too many, and a thousand not enough. Everything we have strived and hoped for, our whole civilization, our very existence could be wiped out literally in a matter of days.
Perhaps a more likely scenario than the one above is that, as a result of poor decision-making the U.S. finds itself inextricably caught in a web that it can’t get out of. Resorting to combat, mistakes are made, grievous ones that lead to a nuclear war. The algorithms of such scenarios are too complicated and numerous to go into here, and just how and why a nuclear war would be triggered could be the result of hundreds or even thousands of possible mistakes either unilaterally or multilaterally, involving players all the way from Russia to Israel. It would be the darkest chess game humankind would ever play out, and would probably be its last.
The point however is that gifted statesmen, regardless of whether they are hawks or doves, are experts at avoiding such pitfalls through skillful diplomacy and make sure that, especially in times of war, stable international relationships are maintained.
I was appalled yesterday to read someone say that Trump by himself is not that bad, really. As our most boorish celebrity, the awful things he’s said about women, Mexicans, and Muslims, his delight in being appalling, his love of wallowing in the pig mud; he really has no redeeming qualities other than just being absurd enough to laugh at. But suddenly like a flash it came to me that I just might understand him a little better now. He’s the rich joker, the funny gossipy fat rich man who loves his fame and his famous friends, and most of all his self-importance. His life is a merry-go-round in Trumpsville and even his biggest blunders are fun to him; to him and his closest circle that is. He has hurt many people in his life, especially women and many grievously, but honestly, I don’t think he understands that. He has justifications for his justifications. There’s no end to his layers; the only problem is that they are of dry, stale pastry- of no substance.
So no, Donald Trump, the possible harbinger of World War 3, and despite his racism and sexism, is not the world’s evilest guy. He’s no Stalin or Hitler. In fact, he’s not even a politician. He’s a man whom I should not be writing about at all. He has absolutely no credentials or talent in the least to be President. And it is not his fault; we cannot blame Trump fully for this blunder.
Far more responsibility goes to the Republican Party for allowing itself to be so disorganized and inept to ever allow Trump to be nominated in the first place. They had several opportunities to shut him down and failed every time. They failed miserably and they failed not because they lacked the stamina or the strength, but because they lacked the courage. To Trump and his supporters, they let a Trojan Horse to wreck the GOP because they were too chicken to stand up to him and all the supporters he brought with him. And their party leader, Paul Ryan, failed them because he found it more to his benefit to hide and wait out all this Trump nonsense so he can prepare himself for 2020. He missed his spot to play the hero, to even possibly win the Presidency. But he didn’t even try and seemed to act out of petty self-protection and greed, placing him about one centimeter higher than turncoat Ted Cruz in my opinion.
America must change. In the very near future it is incumbent upon us as a people to require credentials of our people in office. If there is one thing we can learn from this disaster, should Trump become President and luckily we survive it, is to never again allow just anybody to run for the President of the United States. Just because somebody has a lot of supporters does not necessarily make them fit to be President. It seems that with many Trump supporters, they know he’s not fit, but they don’t care- they just want change. That is no way to hold a democracy.
Postscript May 2019 “If we have them (nuclear weapons), why can’t we use them?” -Donald Trump