A general sense of political uncertainty has loomed the past few weeks as US President Donald Trump continued his abusive and dangerous rhetoric over the ongoing nuclear crisis with North Korea.
Last month, in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump openly vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if the Kim regime failed to go along with all that the US wants to do. Despite being outrageous, the threat raised few eyebrows. In a pair of tweets, Trump once again made a new veiled threat of military action against North Korea.
One wonders how differently the global community would have reacted if the leader of an Islamic country had called for the annihilation of another sovereign state. It is not uncommon for great powers to disregard the international law when it clashes with their national interest. Yet, barring the US, no other country in recent history has shown such callous disregard for international law and the universally recognised principle of state sovereignty.
In the post-cold war period, the US continues to use the threat of punitive military action as an essential foreign policy tool. The Middle East and North African regions are still reeling from being destabilised by the US-led invasion of Iraq. It would not be wrong to argue that the real culprits for the current sorry state of affairs are America’s uninformed voters who are pathetically ignorant about the complexities of politics in global conflicts. Donald Trump was able to win elections because he enjoyed massive support from millions of Americans who are embarrassingly ill-informed.
According to a recent experiment survey, the majority of respondents who could not even find North Korea on a map favoured taking military action against the country. It is very unfortunate that a large number of Americans still live in a cocoon of self-righteousness and are totally unaware of how US meddling inflames violent conflicts in many regions of the world. Since voters are poorly informed about foreign policy issues, they usually end up supporting contradictory and counterproductive policies. America’s addiction to unnecessary military conflicts is also the reason why countries like North Korea and Iran find an excuse to develop nuclear weapons despite limited resources and strong opposition from the global community.
Philip Converse, a famous American political scientist, once remarked: “The two simplest truths I know about the distribution of political information in moderate electorates are that the mean is low and variance is high.” A majority of other political scientists and academicians in American universities have a consensus view that not only the masses but also the policy elites have incoherent and incomprehensible attitudes towards foreign policy issues. Many right-wing media outlets in the US are complicit in spreading a culture of ignorance because they either unfairly leave out or downplay alternative perspectives.
President Trump’s dangerous rhetoric made conflict more likely by provoking the Kim regime into doing something wrong. However, if the conflict ever escalates into a war, South Korea’s economy will be the first victim. A large majority of South Koreans believe that Pyongyang will never start a war on the Korean Peninsula, but the Trump administration does not seem to be willing to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Living under delusions of grandeur, the Trump administration is unable to realise that if the US attacks Pyongyang, it would take a North Korean nuclear-tipped missile less than half an hour to hit the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians would because their president could not control his aggressive impulses.
According to estimates, Pyongyang already has more than sixty weapons in its nuclear arsenal. The goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula by military means is no longer possible as it will definitely provoke a nuclear war. And no one wants a nuclear war, except perhaps President Trump. If the US has been able to live with eight other nuclear states including China and Russia, it might have to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea. If Donald Trump does not adjust his rhetoric and continues to act as a bully on the world stage, it would become more difficult even for the rest of the world to open a way for de-escalating tensions with North Korea.
Donald Trump continues to threaten North Korea’s leader instead of finding an effective way to resume negotiations. Many experts have argued that Trump is incapable of handling his presidential duties, and he is making the crisis worse. It is a shame that, instead of pursuing a diplomatic solution aimed at bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table, Trump is acting like a bully in the schoolyard. But the most alarming part of the situation is that he still remains popular with Republican voters. According to a Gallup poll, more than 80 percent of Republicans approve of the job he is doing.
It is true that democracy is the rule of the people, but it fails to work in many countries when people elect bad leaders and demagogues like Donald Trump. The low level of political knowledge in the American electorate will continue to pose a terrible danger to the American political system and cause major foreign policy headaches. American voters made a mistake by electing Trump as president. My biggest fear is that they might make the same mistake again in 2020.