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The madness of nuclear war

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This picture taken on April 15, 2017 shows an unidentified rocket, reported to be a Hwasong-type missile similar to the one used in a May 14, 2017 test launch, at a military parade in Pyongyang. North Korea said May 15, 2017 it had successfully tested a new type of rocket in its latest missile launch, as analysts said it showed an unprecedented range that brought US bases in the Pacific within reach. The launch was of a “new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket” named the Hwasong-12, the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES

The current standoff between the leaders of the United States of America and North Korea, who are locked in a war of escalating threats and laser sharp vitriol, is fundamentally different from the rhetoric which was par for the course and characterised the regime of Kim-Jong-il, father of Kim-Jong-un, the present supreme leader of the DPRK. This time around it appears that the North Korean threats of an imminent missile attack on Guam, a U.S. territory are not cacophonous or simply irksome as according to the current estimate of U.S. Intelligence analysts, the regime is deemed to also possess the capabilities to follow through on its threats to mainland U.S.A.

In 1994 with the economy of North Korea blighted by mismanagement and scourged by famine, the DPRK and the United States signed an Agreement aimed at stopping and eventually dismantling the regime’s nuclear weapons programme in exchange for aid.

However, in 2002, Kim-Jong-il admitted to having reneged on the agreement, ostensibly to take strategic defensive measures against the Unite States owned nuclear weapons in South Korea. This is the dangerous impasse which successive U.S. Presidents have had to tip-toe around, supported by harsh United Nations Security Council imposed economic sanctions and delicate diplomacy, as the DPRK defiantly continued to perfect its nuclear weapons programme. The dynastic regime has been routinely and universally condemned for its authoritarianism, state sanctioned brutality and dismal human rights record.

Whilst the world is accustomed to the bellicose bombast habitually promising doom and destruction to perceived enemies near and far, the world has never witnessed a sitting U.S. President and leader of the free world not only match the provocative, bloated and childlike threats coming from the DPRK, but intentionally escalate strained tensions by publicly goading and almost daring Kim –Jong –un to “make his move.” President Trump has been extensively rebuked and trounced for his unmeasured and inflammatory responses. In effect, both leaders are doing their level best to out-shock and out-strut each other on the global stage. The “mad man theory” has been ascribed to Trump’s unprecedented reaction to the debacle by some political pundits. The analysis being that if he appears to be wildly unpredictable, irascible and illogical it might cause Kim-Jong-un to be fearful of him and force him to cease making further threats or advancing his nuclear weapons programme.

However, anyone who has a scintilla of intelligence or common sense will realize that this approach might be the most reckless gamble or costliest stunt ever carried out, taking into consideration the very real possibility of a miscalculation or other error which may cause a false nuclear attack alarm. This may occur on either side and would elicit a retaliatory nuclear exchange in a nano second, given the “off the charts” temperature of the insane rhetoric coming from both leaders.

In 1983 at a time when tensions were severely strained between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, a Soviet early warning satellite falsely indicated that the U.S. had launched 5 nuclear missiles towards the Soviet Union. However, the satellites malfunctioned and mistook sunlight reflecting off the top of the clouds as missile launches. The officer on duty at the time using his full faculties of logic and reasoning determined that it was a false alarm, surmising that it would take more than 5 missiles to start a war. The actions of Stanislav Petrov that day earned him the moniker “the man who saved the world.”

So far the worst destruction of life, property and the environment the world has ever seen in a war setting was when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Further proof of the diabolical power of these weapons is that it was estimated that 10 million people would starve to death. The effects of these cruel and inhumane instruments of war are still being felt today.

Therefore, in spite of the real or feigned madness of the protagonists-in-chief, short of a technical or human error, it is highly improbable and indeed universally inconceivable that either would launch a nuclear weapon. Rather, the unfolding drama we are witnessing in real time is akin to the extremely aggressive and menacing posturing adopted by warring alpha male silverback gorillas, our distant cousins, who interestingly enough resolve differences by displaying behaviours such as chest beating and loud hooting in order to avoid a fight to the death.

Happily, Nigeria does not have to worry about the global effects of nuclear explosions for the foreseeable future. We must however intensify our focus and efforts on developing and strengthening universally accepted principles and values of democracy, if we are to stave off a nuclear implosion. Bearing in mind that the democratic process and resultant outcome is not spectatory, but participatory, we must approach the next general election cycle in an informed and resolute manner. To wit, the electorate must imbibe and demonstrate heightened and not lower expectations of those vying for public office.



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