By Jan Oberg*
That’s what I hold quite likely in case the present US administration under Donald Trump’s formal leadership continues down the path its in-fighting militarist fractions seem to have chosen.
We’re in the worst, most dangerous situation since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sitting down and hoping for the best is neither responsible nor viable or wise.
I can only hope that I will be proved wrong. That the present extremely dangerous tension-building will die down by some kind of unforeseen events or attention being directed elsewhere.
The world could quite well be drifting toward what Albert Einstein called ’unparalleled catastrophe’. It’s something we may – or may not – know more about when President Trump returns from his trip to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam (APEC where he also likely to meet Russian President Putin) and the Philippines.
Except for 93-year old Jimmy Carter offering to go to North Korea, we witness nobody taking any mediation initiative – not the UN’ S-G Guterres, not the EU, not European NATO countries, not BRICS, not single countries like Sweden, not… well, you name them.
It’s about denial, about heads deep down in the sand, people hoping for the best at the moment when humanity’s future is in the hands of a couple of leaders from whom they would probably not buy a used bicycle.
That this silence all around is a roaring fact, is about as tragic and dangerous as the situation itself.
What most people don’t recognise – mainly thanks to the Western mainstream media – is that this is an a-symmetric conflict, an extremely a-symmetric conflict at that. For instance, North Korea’s military expenditures compared with those it must see as its adversaries in case of war is about 1:100, China excluded.
Why is the present situation so dangerous?
Why are we facing, seriously and for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, an increasing risk of nuclear war?
Here some, but not all, the reasons:
– the vastly superior US is run by what must in a historical perspective be close to a kakistocracy – government by the worst, least qualified and most unscrupulous citizens. There was no reason for Trump’s spontaneous golf club statement about doing something the world has never seen before, i.e. worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki; neither for his post-dinner party statement about calm before the storm; North Korea issues statements and make tests that indeed offer reason for concern but they come out of dwarf who sees himself cornered and cheated repeatedly;
– asymmetric conflicts are particularly dangerous because the superior side may successively be seduced by love of his own strength and belief in his infallibility – while the weak side may react in panic and draw the conclusion that it is better to strike first than be hit by an overwhelming, all-destructive blow by the superior adversary;
– the rush into ’group think’ – we can make no mistakes, we are morally superior. Attacks and warfare, by definition, rest on what Norwegian philosopher Harald Ofstad so precisely called ’contempt for weakness’ – an integral part also of the Nazi ideology. All US leaders and the far majority of news reports in our media build on little but clear contempt for North Korea;
– since the US of today is inept at diplomacy and second to none in only one field, namely the military, hubris is a factor that can’t be excluded; additionally, the US has not yet bothered to appoint an ambassador to Seoul. One indeed wonders what kind of contacts there actually are beyond the North Korean ambassador to the UN; the risk of the parties getting their lives crossed is immanent and large;
– as reported by the New York Times, one can already sense the rationale behind the increasingly serious talk in South Korea and Japan about acquiring some national nuclear capacity; they too do not feel confident or secure with the so-called nuclear umbrella ’protection’ of a US under Trump that is even more unpredictable than Pyongyang and they know that North Korea could make them victims in a game that would not hit or hurt the US mainland. If within a few months or a year, 2-3 countries in the region feel compelled to acquire nuclear weapons, I for one fail to see how a nuclear exchange at some point later can be avoided;
– President Trump’s speech to and about Iran and the nuclear deal was not only totally unacceptable in terms of US-Iran relation and his – fake – image of Iran; in all its primitive anti-diplomacy thrust, it also sent a signal to everybody in Pyongyang that there is no point in trying to achieve a written agreement with the U.S. because, simply, you cannot trust it;
– today’s US does not have a unified, consolidated foreign policy and much less a cohesive strategy or doctrine. We see helter-skelter procedures and ongoing fight among the White House, Congress, Pentagon, State Department, CIA and other so-called intelligence services – something that can only add to the increasing danger;
– there is no clear taboo in the US against the US using nuclear weapons. A recent scientific study reveals that a clear majority of men and women in the US would find it OK to kill 2 million civilian Iranians if that could save the lives of 20.000 US soldiers in trouble in that country;
– Western mainstream media that still shape most people’s opinions about the world and adversaries of US and NATO has stopped, long ago, asking critical questions and using alternative expertise. We’re fed with only Western perspectives while the North Koreans, their interests, history, fears, worldview, leadership and policies are written off as not worthy of analysis and reporting;
– experts used by these media have been educated in understanding only Western academic theories and perspectives and they themselves and their research is paid by NATO governments, think tanks and corporate funds – no risk there that such unfree, for all practical purposes commissioned, research would lead to massive critique of US policies in this case either. One may easily imagine, however, how the same media and experts would express themselves and fulfill their expert roles had any other country in the world repeatedly, recklessly and unpredictably issued one nuclear-use threat after the other;
– politics have gradually become devoid of intellectualism and, to quite an extent, knowledge and awareness of dilemmas, compared with a couple of decades ago. The type of people and background that populated the White House at the time of Kennedy don’t exist anymore. More money is spent on marketing decision than on intellectual inputs into them.
– and if there is no nuclear exchange in the near future, there may well be later because the U.S. leads in absurd investments nuclear weapons development, planning to spend US$ 1200 billion – 1,2 trillion – on nuclear weapons development. Without fearology, making citizens – taxpayers – fear whoever is around, there would be a mass mobilisation against such perverse squandering of money.
The hashtag #metoo against sexual harassment is urgently important, pointing to a huge problem and the necessity of ending patriarchy – which happens to also be a basic driving force underlying militarism and war.
Sexual harassment is totally unacceptable. But threatening the annihilation of large parts of, or all of, humanity is an issue of quite a different order.
It is indeed time, too, that hashtags such as, say, #metoo_fornucklearfreedom or #metoo_notonuclearwar or #metoo_forBANtreaty – taking the larger perspective of humanity as one – would be used by millions or billions of people in months to come.
However, in these dark times, we need of course much much more than clicking Like buttons and using hashtags on social media.
We need a sweeping global mobilisation and manifestation of civil society demanding that weapons in the hands of a few hundred people that can kill us all are incompatible with civilisation.
We need emphasis on the fact that there has never been held a referendum that gave these few people a mandate to hold humanity’s being or not being in their hands.
We need pointing out that the real international law violators and terrorists – nuclear balance of terror advocates – be stopped.
That is, a sweeping BAN and nuclear abolition movement, particularly in the nuclear weapons countries.
Part 2 to follow shortly will outline some of the steps that must be taken.
* The author has never visited North Korea, only the South and the border between the two.