As if to assure the world that his first year of collusion, coverup, racist utterings and sabre rattling were not an aberration Donald Trump’s latest tweet is an explicit embrace of nuclear war and its destructive potential.

Puerile size comparison aside, nuclear war is not a pissing contest. While the deaths in Nagasaki and Hiroshima are only an arguable one percent of the total casualty figures for WW2, they represent a vast increase in the acceleration of the pace of death, as in each case tens of thousands died in moments. Today’s weapons are much more powerful than those of 1945. A variety of studies offer potential death counts, but Trump clearly relishes the notion of threatening the millions of deaths and vast destruction which should result from even a limited nuclear engagement, if such a thing is possible to limit.

As disturbing as the tweet itself is a look suggests that close to half a million Americans are excited with this kind of posturing. The implicit deal is a terrifying one. Much like the citizens of North Korea, Americans are offered gratification based on their leader’s potential for instant mass murder. Clearly, many find this comforting. Kim Jung Un can at least claim with some veracity that nuclear weapons are essential for maintaining his rule. In a country like ours, which has an arsenal big enough to destroy every major city in the world, it is evil.



Nike Missile Warhead / Cold War in 24 Frames / Martin Lucas

You don’t have to be a deep reader of The Lord of the Rings to understand the corrupting effect of being the one in sole charge of total destructive power. Elaine Scarry’s book Thermonuclear Monarchy lays out some of the distorting consequences for democracy. Recent calls to create some kind of alternative to the single hand on the button such as the initiative of the Union of Concerned Scientists are indicative.

I grew up in the household of a nuclear engineer during the Cold War, aware even as a child of the functionality and destructive potential of nuclear weapons, a potential that was reinforced by the ‘duck-and-cover’ nuclear air raid drills that were a regular feature of my elementary school education. In the 1950s and 1960s, the possibility of nuclear war was a global nightmare. As Bob Dylan said in Talking World War Three Blues, “everybody’s having them dreams.” That nightmare was only ever dormant, but it has been resurrected.

Union of Concerned Scientists:


Scientific American:

BUTTON, BUTTON… | 2018 | Uncategorized