Let’s hope he doesn’t burn up his fuse…
In the midst of heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea, two nuclear powers, it would be easy to assume that the world is on the brink of total war. Former Senator Bob Corker agrees that Trump’s reckless actions towards other countries, specifically unstable powers like North Korea, could set the United States “on a path towards World War III.” However, it is important to understand that, politically, it is in neither nation’s best interest to start global conflict; this period of heightened tensions is mere posturing.
The world witnessed something similar in the 50s: two nuclear powers vying for authority through decades of threats and bluffs. Yet even after relations worsened throughout the years, conflict never culminated into nuclear war. Why? Simply put, both nations knew that war had transformed from military battles on land or in the sea; war was synonymous with the end times. Nuclear weapons promised not only mutually assured destruction, but also the reversal of humanity’s progression back to the Stone Age. Almost 30 years since the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the United States finds itself at the beginning of another potential Cold War.
However, Kim Jong-un is a different animal altogether. The Korean dictator is no ferocious bear, but rather an unpredictable, skittish stray dog. It is difficult to understand his motives. On the surface, it seems as though Kim Jong-un is on a mission towards global domination via the nuclear destruction of his enemies. But just like the USSR, even ‘crazy Kim’ understands the consequences of such events. Dig deeper, and it becomes apparent that Kim’s posturing is a symptom of a desire for sovereignty, not conflict.
Senior Asia Specialist at the Institute for Defense Analyses, Kongdan Oh, revealed at the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council on September 21st that much of Kim’s military developments stem from growing conflicts between the North Korean people and the government. The North Korean people still adore and follow the state, yet they have become more and more independent from it. Growth of local markets and leaked information from the western world has started to deteriorate the bond between the two groups. Part of Kim’s plan to restore his authority over them is to prove his sovereignty and influence over the South China Sea.
That being said, Kim Jong-un is not necessarily just a warmongering dictator, but rather a leader attempting to maintain control over his population before it is too late. Should he actually start conflict with the United States or South Korea, North Korea would be swiftly eliminated (although at the cost of millions of lives on both sides), which directly opposes his desire for authority. Kim Jong-un is not going to start a war he is well aware he cannot win; it is not in his best interests.
It’s difficult to lead as a corpse.
Even Donald Trump is on the same page. Despite people’s opinions on the guy, one simply cannot become president by being a dunce. The media may want to present the Donald no different than Kim Jong-un, but his motives are not much different. Trump wants to maintain authority and he knows that a lack of resolve will undermine that. Similarly, he will not start global conflict with another nuclear power, even if they could be easily crushed, directly because of the well-known loss of life. Any military action against North Korea results in retaliation in the form of the bombing of Seoul and potentially nuclear weapons. China will then be provoked and a domino effect will begin. Donald Trump is no more likely to press the button than Kim Jong-un is.
Media has painted a colorful picture: two unstable leaders, each with one hand on a big red button, anxious for conflict. However, this is not reality. It is important not to take everything at face value and to look at it from a deeper level. The world is not about to end in fiery death and nuclear winter. The heightened tension between North Korea and the United States is merely more posturing from both sides and nothing more. Both leaders know that war is not in their best interests, and the effects would be catastrophic on both sides.