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Opinion

October 16, 2017

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The North Korea rhetoric

A general sense of political uncertainty looms as US President Donald Trump continues his abusive and dangerous rhetoric over the ongoing nuclear crisis with North Korea. Last month, in his first address to the UN General Assembly, Trump openly vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if the Kim regime fails to go along with all that the US wants to do. Despite being outrageous, the threat raised a few eyebrows. In a pair of tweets sent recently, Trump has once again made a new veiled threat of military action against North Korea.

The global community would have reacted differently 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 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 the North African region are still reeling from being destabilised by the US-led invasion of Iraq. It would not be wrong to argue that the real culprits are America’s uninformed voters who are ignorant about the complexities of politics in global conflicts. Trump was able to win elections because he enjoyed massive support from millions of Americans who are embarrassingly ill-informed.

According to a recent survey, a majority of respondents who couldn’t even find North Korea on a map favoured taking military action against the country. It is unfortunate that a large number of Americans still live in a cocoon of self-righteousness and are unaware of how US meddling inflames violent conflicts in many regions. Since voters are ill-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 even though they have limited resources and face strong opposition from the global community.

A majority of other political scientists and academics at American universities believe that not only the masses but also the policy elite have an 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.

Trump’s dangerous rhetoric is making the conflict more likely by provoking the Kim regime into doing something wrong. However, if the conflict escalates into a war, South Korea’s economy will be the first victim. A large number 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 nuclear crisis.

Living under the 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. Innocent civilians would die as a result of this because their president could not control his aggressive impulses.

According to the most recent estimates, Pyongyang already has more than 60 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 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 Trump does not adjust his rhetoric and continues to act like a bully on the world stage, it would become more difficult – even for the rest of the world – to deescalate tensions with North Korea.

Trump continues to threaten North Korea’s leader instead of finding an effective way to resume negotiations. Many experts have argued that he is incapable of handling his presidential duties 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 Trump still remains popular with Republican voters. According to a Gallup poll, more than 80 percent of Republicans approve of the job that 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 Trump. The low level of political knowledge in the American electorate will continue to pose a terrible danger to their political system and cause major foreign policy headaches. American voters have made a mistake by electing Trump as president. My biggest fear is that they might make the same mistake again in 2020.

 

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