by Dana Aliya Levinson | Contributing Writer
Now that Donald Trump is the President of the United States, I was thinking how can I resist his agenda? I decided on “100 Days of Resistance.” Every single day for the next 100 days, I will post another piece that resists President Trump and his administration. This will come in the form of personal stories as a member of a marginalized group that is threatened under President Trump’s administration, as well as pieces on broader issues that face our nation thanks to him. Today’s piece is on nuclear weapons.
Our nuclear weapons are on "hair trigger alert," meaning that President Trump now has the ability to launch a nuclear weapon without any check or balance on his power. In response to Trump's belligerence towards them, China has now put part of their nuclear arsenal on hair trigger alert. Quite simply, it seems that they're considering preparing for a potential nuclear conflict with the United States. Russia's nuclear arsenal is still on hair trigger alert and has been for decades. This coupled with Trump’s refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons and breaking with decades of nuclear draw down policy by calling for an 'arms race' could become a potentially catastrophic, literally world-ending situation.
Now to be clear, I don't worry about Trump simply deciding to drop a nuclear bomb out of the blue. What I do worry about is a Cuban Missile Crisis type situation or a NORAD false alarm Russian War Games situation. For the uninitiated, in 1962, the US had intelligence that Russia was moving and constructing nuclear weapons in Cuba. All of JFK's military advisers wanted him to act with force and bomb the facilities. He decided not to and instead managed to reach a diplomatic agreement with Khrushchev which resulted in the dismantling of the barely started nuclear weapons program in Cuba. It turned out that in fact, Russia had nuclear weapons pointed at several major US cities and their plan was to launch those weapons should the US bomb the island nation or try to take out its stockpiles. JFK's judgment and pursuit of thoughtful diplomacy over the advice of his military advisers saved the world from a nuclear holocaust.
In 1979, there was a false alarm that came across NORAD. Someone mistakenly uploaded a recording of Russian War Games to the NORAD database and the computers misread the recording as an incoming nuclear attack. Calm and cool thinking on the part of Carter's Secretary of Defense and National Security Council prevented the US from immediately responding by firing nuclear warheads at Moscow. My concern is that Trump's lack of control and thoughtfulness, as well as his inability to understand nuance or to admit fault, will accidentally escalate tensions with a sovereign nation, and will result in a conflagration with literally world-ending consequences.
Take North Korea for example. Trump has seemed to have no understanding of the history or politics that have shaped our modern world. The levers of international power are complicated. The United States needs China, not just economically, but politically as well. China is our only chess piece that has leverage with the North Korean regime, thanks to a long history of battle scars left on the collective North Korean psyche from Japanese colonization and the Korean War after the fall of Japanese Empire at the end of WWII. The long standing tensions over political power in Asia between Japan and China extend to the modern day Korean peninsula, with South Korea looked at as under US and Japanese influence, and North Korea under Chinese and Russian influence. Still, North Korean propaganda against the South leans heavily on painting them not only as a US puppet, but also as a Japanese puppet.
One can easily foresee a conflagration where Trump, not understanding how these four countries interact in a delicate regional balance, is told by his National Security Council that the North Korean regime is once again conducting nuclear tests. The South Korean regime wants some kind of swift action, as does Japan. Trump, not understanding how this can escalate into an international conflict, moves US warships into the East China sea as a show of force. China views this as an act of war, and the US putting their thumb on the scale in favor of Japan in the ongoing conflict over disputed islands in the area. Meanwhile North Korea reacts by accelerating their effort to mount a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile. Trump cannot admit fault, so he tweets, antagonizing both the Chinese and North Korean regimes further. Then Trump’s National Security Council informs him of this escalation on the part of North Korea and China, and that intelligence shows that it may actually be possible for North Korea to launch a nuclear missile at the US. They tell him his options are to pursue a diplomatic resolution or the use of force. Diplomatic resolutions in the past when it comes to North Korea have always involved the partnership of China. But China has been insulted, feeling that the US has both antagonized and attempted to delegitimize their regime, and wants nothing to do with any kind of diplomatic agreement. What happens when we have no diplomatic levers to push? This lack of understanding of the complexity of foreign affairs is dangerous, and these flash point situations are, like landmines, waiting for Trump all over the globe; from North Korea, to Iran and Saudi Arabia, to India and Pakistan, to ISIS, etc. We have given the power to quite literally end the human race to a man who has shown no ability to act calmly and rationally in the face of crisis, and has also shown no intellectual curiosity or desire to learn.
When choosing what issues are going to be our big fights of the next four years, this should be at the top of the list. We should be protesting in the streets not just about domestic issues, but also about the escalation of nuclear tensions. We should be pressuring the administration to reaffirm their support for the New START Treaty. We should be signing petitions pressuring the Defense Department to take our arsenal off of hair trigger alert. We should be asking for reform of the complete lack of checks and balances against our arsenal of the world’s deadliest weapons. We have the power to step back from the edge of the cliff, and if we can open our eyes to see it, I know we will. It's currently 11:57 PM, and we the people can turn it back to to the historically furthest point, 11:43. Or even better, let’s instead count our global nuclear weapons down to zero. The world is in our hands.
ACTION: check out Global Zero and get involved!