I need to say more about the North Korean crisis, not because I know any more, but simply because it is far and away the most serious threat now confronting the world. Let me repeat what I said yesterday. Every nation armed with deliverable nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to every other nation in the world, because nuclear weapons cannot be defended against. I wrote and spoke and argued and protested about this almost sixty years ago as a young man, and nothing has changed. Russia poses an existential threat to every nation in the world. The United States poses an existential threat to every nation in the world. China, Great Britain, France and Israel pose existential threats to every nation in the world. Pakistan and India pose regional threats [I do not know whether they possess intercontinental ballistic missiles or long range bombers or nuclear submarines]. When North Korea succeeds in weaponizing usable long range missiles, it too will pose an existential threat to every nation in the world.
Nuclear weapons cannot be defended against. The only thing any nation can do is to try to deter nuclear armed nations from attacking it. Any nuclear armed nation whose government and military forces fall into the hands of a suicidal or irrational, hence undeterrable, ruler can at any moment launch a nuclear attack even if the cost is that ruler’s own destruction.
For reasons that I shan’t trouble you with now, the command and control structure of America’s nuclear forces is deliberately and intentionally designed to make it very difficult to delay or countermand a presidential order to launch a nuclear attack.
It is within the realm of possibility that Donald Trump, obsessed with negative press coverage and ill-tempered because rain is interrupting his golf, could from his vacation retreat issue an order to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons. If he does that, it is extremely unlikely that the trio of generals around him will intercede to reverse or simply “mislay” that order.
It is my armchair guess that Donald Trump does not care at all about the lives that such an attack would cost, American lives as well as North Korean, South Korean, and Japanese lives. My guess is that he cares about nothing save whether he looks big and important and powerful on television, in social media, and in the tabloid press. This is the second biggest crisis since World War II [the biggest was the Cuban Missile Crisis, brought to us by young, handsome, well-educated charismatic John Fitzgerald Kennedy.]