It’s hard to ignore the news circulating about Trump and North Korea. The coverage ranges from the Atlantic calling it the “worst problem on earth” and headlines such as, “Are We All Doomed?” from the NY Times to Twitter jokes. This new age of nuclear threats is certainly odd, and Trump’s nonchalance is frightening.
For me, even now, nuclear action seems somewhat fuzzy and distant. The nuclear age seems like it should belong back in the ’60s and ’70s. The nuclear age was so hyped at the time that to many of us today it is almost funny. It’s also the age that prompted people to look to a better future, urging on shows like Star Trek, where people from different nationalities worked together.
With the exception of activist groups working toward disarmament, the fact we have 6,780 nuclear warheads at the United States’ disposal is somewhat forgotten about. Now we are suddenly in the position of finding ourselves in a Cold War-like posturing of arms between the U.S. and North Korea.
How much of a threat is North Korea? Based on experts’ opinions, it is an unlikely threat. A missile could possibly be fired, but it’s unlikely it would reach the U.S. mainland. North Korea’s official statement at this time says they will have plans ready by mid-August to attack Guam. These are simply plans and they are plans to shoot a missile into the water, not onto land.
That being said, it’s important to emphasize something that is lost among the military-slanted dialogue. Guam is caught in an incident that it shouldn’t have a role in whatsoever. Yes, there are two large military bases there, but the island has a population of 162,742—65,000 of whom are the indigenous Chamorro inhabitants. The U.S. invaded Guam in 1898 during the Spanish American War. Since then it has been under U.S. control, with the exception of the two-and-a-half years of Japanese occupation. Today, Guamanians have full citizenship and can vote, though they do not have Electoral College representation. The Guamanians have nothing to do with this disagreement but are in potential danger because of American imperialism. And, because of the U.S.’s testing of 66 atomic and hydrogen bombs at the nearby Marshall Islands, it is likely that the residents have already been exposed to dangerous radiation. While the likelihood of anything happening is small, it’s still unfair that the Guamanians are in this position at all.
The United States’ history with North Korea has not been without incident. The history is long and complex, and threats and strong language have been used before. While recent leaders have not gone as far to say they would issue “fire and fury,” Bush called North Korea part of an “axis of evil,” and Obama said the U.S. would “not hesitate to use our military might.” In April and August, South Korea and the U.S. do annual military drills, which tend to stir up tension.
In short, try not to let some of the doomsday headlines terrify you. It’s good to be aware and updated of what’s going on, but it is unlikely anything disastrous will happen. So, look up in the Portland sky and be reassured that the red sun is coming from the smoky haze, not a nuclear attack. It’s good to be aware of what’s happening, but to the headlines asking “Are We Doomed?” No, we’re not. We’ll be okay.