By NATHAN CARPENTER
Over the course of today, hysteria has built, particularly on social media, over the possibility that tensions between the United States and North Korea will escalate to nuclear war.
In discussions and analysis of the threat — whether truly impending or not — there is an unfortunate tendency to speak about North Korea in monolithic terms — as no more and no less than an unstable, dangerous enemy that must be subdued or, as some analyses suggest, destroyed.
This perspective is misguided and ignores the humanity of the more than 25 million innocent people living in North Korea — people of whom many would be killed by nuclear war and of whom still more would be left in conditions approximating death.
Those people have no say in their system of government, nor in the actions of their unstable leadership, which has starved a nation of its ability to self-govern.
Many of the more than 50 million people living in South Korea would be threatened by nuclear war as well — a June Pew Research study revealed that 76% of people living in South Korea described Donald Trump as dangerous, as compared to the global median of 62%.
South Koreans have more say in their own government than do North Koreans, yet still have been given no agency to caution against a dangerous conflict that would threaten them nearly as much as the two nations directly involved.
Some people did have a say in the current escalation and subsequent hysteria, however.
Time and again, throughout a long, grueling election cycle, voters in the United States were shown how unstable Donald Trump is. And his character was presented to them not in a distant, academic sense, nor was it whispered through the rumor mill — the candidate himself proved his own instability more times than I can now even remember.
The danger posed by a Trump presidency was clear on Election Day, and yet just over 65 million people voted for him, regardless.
Those voters ignored his blatant misogyny, racism, and xenophobia — of which he was proud and unabashed. They looked past his ignorance of American politics. And, most crucial to the current situation, they evidently did not care that Trump was incapable of being faced with a complex, nuanced problem and emerging with a coherent, capable solution.
Now, the U.S. finds itself in one of its most severe foreign relations crises in decades. And it is entirely due to Trump — the president who will not ask for help, the arrogant man-child who will never pass up an opportunity to prove his strength, to prop himself up while pushing others down.
For whatever reason people chose to vote for Trump, it was with full knowledge of his significant flaws as a man and as a leader.
Many will likely say that escalation with North Korea was inevitable. Indeed, some will argue that had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton been elected instead of Trump, Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy tendencies would have pushed relations with North Korea to a similarly volatile point.
This argument is flat-out wrong. Whatever her significant faults, Clinton would have been nothing but calm and composed as president — like Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, Clinton would not have left a single word out of place on such a vital issue.
Clinton also had an encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. foreign policy concerns and the history of the U.S.’ relations with other nations, given her experience as secretary of state.
Trump, on the other hand, struggles to understand basic geopolitical concepts and relationships and has proven himself incapable of self-control when it comes to delicate situations. He is, in many ways, the opposite of the calm, measured, albeit flawed leader that Clinton would have been.
Now, all of those votes for Trump have come home to roost in a critical way. On November 8th, 2016, many in the U.S. and around the world knew that it was only a matter of time until Trump’s antics translated into serious consequences on the world stage. That time has come.
The chilling irony is that the 65 million people who voted from Trump will likely not reap the consequences of that decision, should conflict break out. Regardless of what Trump says or does, the U.S. still has one of the most capable military and defense infrastructures in the world — certainly more capable than North Korea.
Those 65 million Trump voters — and Trump himself — now cower behind the skirt of that military infrastructure, the result of exorbitant military spending that came at the expense of developing positive, coequal relationships with other nations.
It is likely that the consequences of conflict between the U.S. and North Korea would fall squarely on the heads of the more than 75 million people living in North and South Korea — people who, if they had been given a vote in the U.S. election last fall, would have voted against putting a big-mouthed coward like Trump into one of the most powerful offices in global politics.
I’ll bet that those 75 million people — now staring a serious, existential threat in the face — would love to switch places with those Trump voters right about now.