President-elect Donald Trump’s call for a build-up of the U.S. nuclear arsenal sounds alarming but it can also be viewed as nothing more than the realization that while we may have won the Cold War, we did not eliminate the threat of forces that aim to destroy us at any sign of weakness. And although his staff has tried to walk back his comments, they are or were what they were. He wants to make sure we have the most bombs and most effective bombs and best capability to deliver them.
(I am not a Trump fan — wished his presidency was not true, but it is. This is not just a nightmare.)
Trump wants to put Russia and North Korea and Iran and the Islamic terrorists and anyone else who might want to do us harm on notice — there will be consequences.
Of course we know the consequences in most cases would be the destruction of the whole world or at the minimum a major catastrophe that would do irreparable harm to the world and all of its inhabitants.
But there you are, weapons that are so dangerous that they protect us by the notion of “mutually assured self-destruction”, I think is the phrase.
(While for the time being maintaining nuclear superiority seems paramount, I believe we should still work towards the goal of the world-wide elimination of nuclear arms, but how do you keep them from rogue nations and terrorists and wind up being caught unarmed and unprotected? a true conundrum. But I’d prefer more rhetoric on nuclear disarmament than proliferation nonetheless.)
Trump was not the first to sound the nuclear challenge or warning. It’s just that he is a little more out there with it and has the tool of instant communication with everyone in the world: Twitter. And although I personally do not use or read Twitter directly, like everyone else I can get his tweets via the traditional media.
But grandfatherly and peace-loving (five-star general hero of WWII) President Eisenhower way back in the 1950s put The Soviet Union and communist China on notice that we were ready to use our nuclear arsenal to stop aggression if need be.
And would you believe it? Eisenhower made this warning and pledge by announcing that the U.S. would protect that other China, the Island of Formosa, Nationalist China, Taiwan, the same nation we no longer recognize (except Trump has signaled a possible change in that), lest we offend the mighty communist China.
And just like Trump, Eisenhower was quizzed by reporters as to under what circumstances would the U.S. actually use nuclear weapons (again; we had dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan to end WWII).
It just so happens that I watched a video of Chris Matthews grilling Trump on under what circumstances would he actually use nuclear weapons. Trump was what some would call evasive but I think he said the right thing, that is one cannot say, a decision has to be made at the time, but what purpose would there be to have nuclear weapons if people thought you would never use them ever? And then by chance I watched a documentary on the Eisenhower administration. Ike answered reporters’ questions on the same subject much the same way.
In General Eisenhower’s case, he was a soldier who knew you don’t give enemies your plans, you keep them guessing, off balance. Trump, as a business negotiator and like a poker player, knows about keeping adversaries off balance and not showing his hand.
And, OMG! I really sound like a Trump apologist now — but I am not! I can’t stand the guy. But we are stuck with him as far as I can see — probably for the next four years at least.
And here’s something else I noticed in a kind of comparison between the nominal Republican Trump and a Democratic saint, JFK. While there is concern that Trump inappropriately applied pressure to at least two private businesses, Carrier to not send as many jobs to Mexico and Boeing about the high cost of building planes for government contract, I also just read about how JFK used strong-arm tactics against U.S. Steel to get it to raise its wages, on behalf of his supporters in a labor union, and then to get it to rescind what appeared to be a retaliatory raise in the price of steel — threatening to sick the FBI on them to reveal details of business trips, such as who stayed with whom at hotels, among other things. I mean Richard Nixon, who originally lost the presidency to JFK, was eventually hounded out of office for doing things like harassing adversaries with the FBI and the IRS. And I am no Nixon apologist either. It’s just that the more one reads (even sifting through slanted stories and out-and-out fabrications) the more one realizes how dirty politics is all the way around.
Trump takes things a bit further by doing so much bad stuff in public. He has no shame, maybe because many of his supporters have none either.
And maybe in the end it will simply be how much the public as a whole is willing to put up with him.
His staunchest supporters may eventually ask: what have you done for me? Or what have you done for me lately?
And what could make or break our new president, possibly more soon than later, will be his first foreign crisis, that is one originating from outside or unequivocally affecting U.S. interests in some other part of the world.
And then neither tweets nor bluster nor outrageous behavior will suffice.
I guess the new thing is that he is saying so much while the lame duck president is still in office — it’s a fast-paced world.
There were also thoughts early on about using a nuclear bomb to stop communist aggression in Vietnam but as is usually the case it was determined to be impractical. Instead we used conventional weapons to destroy the country to try to save it (a little sarcasm and a paraphrase of the infamous quote of an American officer on the ground).
On February 7, 1968, American bombs, rockets and napalm obliterated much of the South Vietnamese town of Ben Tre — killing hundreds of civilians who lived there.
Later that day, an unidentified American officer gave Associated Press reporter Peter Arnett a memorable explanation for the destruction.
Arnett used it in the opening of the story he wrote:
“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” a U.S. major said Wednesday.
He was talking about the grim decision that allied commanders made when Viet Cong attackers overran most of this Mekong Delta city 45 miles southwest of Saigon. They decided that regardless of civilian casualties they must bomb and shell the once placid river city of 35,000 to rout the Viet Cong forces.
After Arnett’s story was published in newspapers the next morning, February 8, 1968, the unnamed major’s remark became one of the most infamous war-related quotes in modern history.