Today is the one-year anniversary of when a sizeable portion of the American electorate lost its fucking mind and handed control of the nuclear football to an oversized orangutan with the impulse control of a toddler who just snorted a half-dozen Adderall.
It’s a frightening prospect, Trump controlling all those intercontinental boom sticks. One year ago, I pleaded with the American voting public to please not fuck this up. I was frightened of the danger of global thermonuclear war Trump represented.
Alas, Donnie’s not the only one with nukes who is crazier than a shitbug.
The Supreme Exalted Infallible Important Incontinent Kim Jong-fuckface is an entire cave full of batshit. But perhaps he knows enough to listen to China, which is mostly interested in stability; they don’t want North Korea to collapse. The agreement China has with NK, in place since 1961, is that they will defend the country against unprovoked aggression.
I don’t think China is all that thrilled to be dragged into this, but if Trump soils his nappy and decides to strike first, things could get a crossing-the-streams level of bad. Alternatively, if Kimmie decides to lob his handful of nukes first, he’s on his own. The U.S. could probably strike back without fear of China getting involved.
Couple things to make clear. First is the size of the various arsenals.
The U.S. has close to 7,000 nukes, and China has fewer than 300. Now, 300 nukes are nothing to sneeze at, but it’s doubtful China wants to face total obliteration. China is a self-interested nation, and cooler heads might prevail. And Kimbo wishes he had a metric shit-ton of nukes, but he doesn’t. What he does have likely isn’t anything too impressive both in terms of deliverability and yield.
It’s not a high-tech nation. I bet in North Korea they still watch porn on VHS.
Because of their relatively pathetic arsenal, if NK strikes first, it’s not going to do shit to stop the U.S. from retaliating like a motherfucker. Might suck for quite a few Americans, or South Koreans, or Japanese, or all three, but no way in hell Kim has the ability to prevent a return strike. This is important, because it means that, unlike case of cold war with Soviet Union (I left out the “the”s on purpose), an immediate retaliatory strike isn’t necessary. The dotard can take his time and ponder all that “proportionate response” stuff. After grabbing a dictionary to look up what “proportionate” means … Or someone gives him the gist of it.
During the standoff with the Soviets, there was great fear of a BOOB – Bolt Out Of the Blue. The commie rats might send their missiles flying because Khrushchev stubbed his toe and spilled his vodka, and the “No, fuck YOU!” return strike had to take place within minutes or the ability to retaliate would be a pile of radioactive rubble. It was the whole “mutually assured destruction” thing that, crazy as it seems, probably kept us from making each other glow in the dark for several decades.
So, like, hair triggers and shit. And Trump has his finger on the button.
But, just like the “Close Door” one on the elevator, the nuke button may not do anything if Trump pushes it. Even if he pushes it five times and yells, “TRUMPY WANT NUKEY!” To understand why, we need to take a look at Nixon. A.K.A. President Piss Tank.
In 2000, the Guardian ran a story about Nixon with this as the opening line: “For most of his political life Richard Nixon was prey to drink, prescription drugs and fits of rage.” His right-hand man, Henry Kissinger, was well aware of the dangers of Nixon’s mindset and habits, and was quoted in the piece as having said more than once, “If the president had his way, there would be nuclear war each week.”
Nixon controlled a massive nuclear arsenal during the height of the cold war. Great … And he only got worse during the final days of his presidency, with the Watergate scandal unfolding, when he was often floor-licking shitfaced. Double great …
But! As reported in the Telegraph, there was Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger standing guard: “During Nixon’s last days in the White House at the height of the Watergate crisis, when some were doubting the President’s mental stability, Schlesinger reportedly instructed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to check with him before carrying out any of Nixon’s orders regarding nuclear weapons.”
I don’t need to list the reasons why having Trump in charge of nukes is scary as blood in your stool. Just check his Twitter. Unhinged? Someone ripped the door off its hinges, soaked it in kerosene, then threw it into an active volcano of narcissistic dumbfuckery.
But we’ve been here before, and James Mattis, the current U.S. Secretary of Defense, seems to be pretty levelheaded. Maybe he could intervene. In fact, it is entirely possible steps are already being taken behind the scenes to prevent nuclear destruction. The guy couldn’t push through his transgender ban in the military, so perhaps he can be blocked in other ways.
Let’s talk about the republican party for a moment to gain some insight.
They’re mostly not crazy. A lot of them don’t like Trump. But they do like power. As it stands right now, Trump still has a diehard fan base. The republicans lack the will to do anything about Trump because political dynamics dictate doing so would almost certainly have a negative effect on their own bases of power. They’ll only “do the right thing” if it doesn’t lose them votes. In fact, they’ll only do the right thing if it means retaining power. Gerrymandering and voter suppression and even illegal collusion are all implements in the republican re-election toolbox; their power-hungry politicking isn’t a cynical assessment.
Many democrats aren’t a whole lot different. Politicians are mostly about achieving and staying in power. As my friend and expert political commentator Kathleen Smith says, “The USA is inhabited by a populace that still doesn’t understand the country is no longer a democracy. It’s an oligarchy designed specifically to ensure the wealth and power of the few. Everyone else is little more than a disposable cog in a machine.”
I expect there are a lot of republicans who would like to get rid of Trump, but under the current circumstances they can’t without risking their own seats. Recently, convicted fraudster / televangelist Jim Bakker said, “there will be a riot in the United States of America” if Trump is impeached, and he may be right.
Trump can fuck over the LGBT community, and immigrants, and the planet as a whole—and even collude with Russia—and a few in the republican party may make some minimal outcry, but they won’t act, because it’s not “Too far.”
Nuclear war is A Trump Too Far.
And there is a legal loophole that can be enacted before the world gets turned into a glowing ball of radioactive waste. Yep, I’m talking Section 4 of the 25th amendment.
According to the Atlantic: “Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the president in cases where he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,’ and allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the president’s objection by two-thirds vote.”
It’s a slow process, for certain, and not going to stop an imminent strike if Trump gets his knickers quickly twisted. But if Donnie the Destructor more gradually takes the world to the brink, it could be put in play.
Because nuclear annihilation gives the republican party the excuse it needs to dump him. They can look to his base and say, “Sorry, but we had to draw the line at vaporizing millions of human beings. Pence hates gays and abortion though. He’s still cool, right?”
I expect some Trumpanzees would relish a first strike against a bunch of not white people. But enough would grumble and say, “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” and let the removal slide.
The hilarious part is a lot of liberal Trump haters would likely laud the republicans for so bravely taking action to remove the orange oligarch, saving us from nuclear destruction; they’d be that relieved to be rid of him.
And even if some nukes do still fly, it may not end up translating to “Intelligent Cockroach 2020” bumper stickers.
Say Trump decides to launch a first strike again North Korea, and Mattis isn’t able to stop him. Well, sucks to be Pyongyang, but it might not escalate.
Because China might decide to be chill.
Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, said that China, “has tried to convince North Korea to excise the clause in their mutual security treaty that would obligate China to come to North Korea’s assistance. And this has happened more than once. The North Koreans have refused. So, it remains in place. I understand that the Chinese have basically said, ‘But don’t count on it.’”
And China is probably motivated by the 23-to-1 nuke ratio they’re staring down against ‘Murica. What’s more, the U.S. has what I hope are effective nuclear countermeasures in effect. Called THAAD—Terminal High Altitude Area Defense—they blow ICBMs out of the sky on final approach. If any country has the military might to prevent missiles from hitting their intended targets, my money is on the good ol’ U S of Ass Kicking.
If Trump does a nuclear first strike again Kim, well, that’s a bad thing. Bad Trump! No!
And it could lead to his removal from office via that 25.4 of the constitution thing. His removal could be the placating move to keep China from retaliating on their ally’s behalf. Pence and Mattis and the rest of the cabinet could reach out to China and say, “We’re punting this guy. Let’s chill for a bit and see if we can work this out.” And I expect China would probably go along with that, because a nuclear shooting war could turn their country into a crispy-fried parking lot if the U.S. was of a mind.
What would Russia do? Who the fuck knows what goes on in the head of Putin the Pustulent? My guess is, rather than join the shooting, they’d sit on the sidelines and figure out how to turn this to their own advantage in the aftermath.
So, probably no need to go build that bomb shelter in your backyard just yet.
Doesn’t mean we’re not still fucked though.
Climate change is likely the biggest threat we’re facing. Racism is “cool” again. The economic plan is going to further screw the poor and chip away at the middle class. The LGBT community is being marginalized at every level of the administration. Women’s bodies aren’t their own …
Yeah. It sucks. Trump gargles infected seal snot.
Don’t forget to vote. In 2018 and 2020.
And before you comment with “What does this fucking guy know?” please note I have a master’s degree in military history, focusing on the strategic containment of communism during the cold war. So there.
James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.