Ronnie Dugger / Reader Supported News – 2016-07-21 23:09:25
(July 20, 2016) — The President of the United States is the dictator on the use of America’s nuclear weapons. What then, as Donald Trump is becoming the Republican Party nominee for President, is the unsettling import of his declaration that Russia’s authoritarian President Putin and he are “stablemates” and of Trump’s plan in his late thirties for the US and Russia’s USSR to gang up to make “the Big Two” into, in fact, the world monopoly on nuclear weapons?
“We’re dealing with people in the world that would use [nuclear weapons], OK?” Trump recently told the New York Times board. “You have many people that would use it right now in this world.” That repeats the same conviction Trump proclaimed as long ago as 1987. If he wins the Presidency would his belief that nations will use nuclear weapons right now in this world make him readier to use ours right now in this world against people and nations he is angrily suspicious of?
What, too, are we to make of the phenomenon who can be our next President thinking in the late 1980s that the deterrence theory, for 71 years the ethical justification for nations having nation-killing nuclear weapons, still works concerning the US and Russia, but does not for lesser nuke-hot countries such as Pakistan and India?
“Nuclear deterrence theory,” which most of us no longer think about, now is, in reality, any one of the nine nuclear-weapons nations telling the others that if you attack us with nuclear weapons we guarantee in professed good faith, and in every way we can say it, that before they explode mass-murdering us we will retaliate massively against you with ours in the same hour mass-murdering you back, except that the United States and Russia each now, as if insanely, explicitly reserve their equal rights to strike first. This is so mass-death-destined that one must wonder if human civilization itself has become psychotic.
These and other asked, but not answered, questions obtain. Donald Trump’s decades-long, but now publicly-broadcast thinking about nuclear weapons and nuclear war as he storms our halls to elect him President provides us, willy-nilly, the slanted-downward table of a slap-the-pinball machine to play on for the help we need thinking for quite literally ourselves.
Hopefully significant on the fell issue of the use nuclear weapons are Trump’s occasional lapses into near speechlessness when he is thinking and speaking aloud about their astounding and terrifying destructiveness (“it’s unthinkable, the power”); his assertions that he is a nice person; his recognition that the proliferation of the nine national arsenals’ 10,000 or so (including our 4,670) fully active nuclear weapons is the worst problem in the world, worse even than climate change; his public statements that he does not want to be the one to detonate nuclear weapons first and that only as “an absolute last step” would he order the military to fire them off against nations or other targets.
But “I’m never going to rule anything out,” Trump says, and he wants other nations to know that “at a minimum I want them to think maybe we would use them.”
Consider, too, in the endlessly flickering TV images and the din as he is being nominated, his richly-earned reputation among his teeming critics as an alarmist hypernationalist, arrogant, poorly informed, proudly vain of his intuition, self-declared to be himself his own best authority on foreign and therefore military policy (because “I have a very good brain”), impulsive, a fabulizer who does not correct his own numerous falsehoods even as he gradually fudges back his mercurial positions, an attack-bully who mocks and slanders his critics and abides in special hostilities against Mexicans, Muslims, certain nations — Mexico, China, France. On public television Mark Shields recently called Donald Trump “an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.”
One by one this gifted and amusing but ruthless improviser blew aside his 16 competitors in the GOP primaries using a strategy suggestively comparable to deterrence theory, which he disclosed on Fox News last fall: “Anybody who hits me, we’re going to hit them ten times harder.” If he is elected this fall he personally will control “the football,” the codebox for our nuclear weapons codes, which thenafter must be kept physically near him minute by minute, day and night, always subject to his total personal command.
Since the 1990s, our government, out of the sight and knowledge of the people, has transformed the H-bombs themselves into “smaller bombs so they are more usable.” An American citizen may justly be understood and seen now to be inescapably confronted and trapped, either by failing to vote or when voting next November, inside the unlimitable ethical danger that is the unlimitable destructive power of these very bombs themselves.
Would, if President, Donald Trump, acting as elected in all our names and consciences, fire off some of our H-bombs or now even our unidentifiable because dual-use “conventional” bombs-that-explode-exactly-anywhere-on-earth-in-an-hour, horribly ensuing in the deaths and ruin of 40 million, 200 million, a billion, two billion of us and our civilizations or, after the nuclear winter, the end of all or nearly all the life on earth? Trump, like every American President for the past 60 years, could. Is there a morally and existentially unacceptable likelihood that he would?
That question about our Presidents, although rarely asked, cannot be honestly or safely avoided. It concerns the pre-eminent ethical and mortal burden of our nation and our lives as citizens, even as the uber-military and H-bomb arsenals we pay for and continue to ignore while accepting are one of the few dominating realities in humanity. If Trump is nominated no one of us can morally dare to try to answer the question for another or morally fail to answer it for himself.
Campaigning to beat Trump, Hillary Clinton declares he “shouldn’t have his finger on the button,” is “a loose cannon and loose cannons tend to misfire,” his “very thin skin” would lead us into war. A fellow Democratic senator of Bernie Sanders, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said she knows Bernie “cares deeply about making sure Donald Trump’s finger is never near the button.”
Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, “jokingly” said to a New Yorker reporter about Trump that “If he says ‘On Day One I’m going to drop a bomb on North Korea'” she would want a chance to respond to him. “I mean, with him you just don’t know.”
Among Trump’s smashed candidates in the GOP primary, the formerly top state-level politician Bobby Jindal of Louisiana said Trump is “a madman who must be stopped” and kept away from the nuclear codes; Mario Rubio of Florida called Trump “a lunatic.” The governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, a Democrat, asks, “Is this the guy you would trust with the nuclear codes?”
In the pages of the Wall Street Journal last month a lawyer, in an opinion column the Republican Journal chose to print, recalling Trump’s warnings that if he didn’t get the GOP nomination “I think there might be riots!” and that he might run third-party, asked “. . . does that kind of threat work in international affairs? Incorrectly calling a businessman’s bluff ends the deal. What if the businessman has his finger on the nuclear button?”
Trump’s anger and his tiltings in favor of personal violence (which after all is always personal), his seriously proposing the killing of the mates and children of terrorists, his proposal to mass-deport undocumented Hispanics and bar Muslims or persons from “terrorist countries” from entering the United States, his advocacy not only of waterboarding (which he says “works”), but also and very openly of much worse forms of torture, have caused much alarm and many startled condemnations.
Endorsed by the National Rifle Association, after the Orlando massacre Trump said on TV that some of the people under vicious attack there should have had guns “strapped to their ankles.” At the podium during a rally in Kansas City he saw a couple of protesters with tomatoes and told the crowd, “Knock the crap out of them. Seriously, just knock the hell out of them. I’ll pay for their legal fees.” Discussing with NBC’s Chuck Todd a protester he described as throwing punches, Trump said that “in the old days . . . they’d be carried out on a stretcher.”
Last February the board of the Washington Post wrote that Trump had “said of a protester: ‘I’d like to punch him in the face.’. . . He wants the United States to commit war crimes, including torture and the murder of innocent relatives of terrorists.” When Trump, who is actively celebrating President Putin of Russia as a leader he can work very well with, was asked by a reporter about the murders of journalists in Russia that Putin is suspected of being behind. Trump replied that we do killings here too.
Alluding to that fact, the Post continued that Trump “admires Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and sees no difference between Mr. Putin’s victims and people killed in the defense of the United States. He would round up and deport 11 million people, a forced movement on a scale not attempted since Stalin and perhaps Pol Pot.”
A political writer in The New Yorker took an interpretive leap: Donald Trump’s campaign “suggests that he’ll be a stronger leader for being shameless.” One wonders if there might be more convincing explanations.
In the both conservative and moderate intellectually up-scale magazine The Atlantic for June a psychologist, Don P. McAdams, the author of a 2011 book analyzing the psychology of George W. Bush, took on, as the article’s title said, “The Mind of Donald Trump.” Adams attributes to Trump “sky-high extroversion,” “off-the-chart low disagreeableness” despite his closeness to his family and some generosities, and an “emotional core” of anger, lying “at the heart of his charisma,” that permeates his rhetoric, describing Trump as a man who might be “an activist president who has a less than cordial relationship with the truth” and “never thinks twice about the collateral damage he leaves behind.”
Where did the guy come from? He would not talk to Adams. From Adams’ assiduous research his conclusions posited, first, that young Donald received strong praise and encouragement from his well-to-do mother and father, but that, second, this resulted in a narcissist son who cannot get enough admiration.
Donald’s father Fred was the owner and manager of apartment complexes in Brooklyn and Queens. Once, as Fred took his boy along with him to collect rents, Donald asked his dad why after ringing a doorbell he always stood to one side. His father replied, “Because sometimes they shoot right through the door.”
Wanting to be “the toughest kid in the neighborhood,” as Trump is quoted, he slugged a second-grade teacher; he went into Manhattan to buy himself a switchblade knife. His father, hemming his son in, sent him at 13 to a military academy. Per Adams from Donald’s written accounts the boy learned from his father, then during his period in the military school where the instructors “beat the shit out of you,” that in this dangerous world you have to fight.
Donald himself said of his brother Freddy, who had descended into alcoholism and an early death, “Freddy just wasn’t a killer.” In a 1981 interview in People, a few years before the interviews Donald gave in the ’80s about his wanting the US to team up with the fellow-giant USSR to control the world’s nuclear weapons, Donald Trump said, “Man is the most vicious of all animals, and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.”
In general Trump’s oleaginous “foreign policy” ideas and attitudes call for the US to draw back from multinational institutions; change or oppose trade agreements that he holds cost US factories, jobs, and US trade deficits; punitively raise import tariffs against China and also against US corporations that export jobs to increase their profits by paying dirt-low wages in poor countries; and even more basically, advert as a nation to relating independently and self-interestedly to each nation one at a time.
NATO is “obsolete,” he says. His contempt for the United Nations is very cold indeed: “. . . we get nothing out of the United Nations other than good real estate prices. We get nothing out of the United Nations. They don’t respect us, they don’t do what we want, and yet we disproportionately fund them.”
In effect Trump has said in various ways that it will be all right with him and good for the US if Japan and South Korea commit the “nuclear proliferation” the US government so anathematizes when unfriendly nations do it; that is, those two allies of ours should make their own nuclear weapons.
Remarkably, Trump added, personally kissing off the possible consequences: “If they do, they do. Good luck. Enjoy yourself, folks.” Japan will do it whether we like it or not, he says, and “I would rather have Japan have some form of defense or even offense against that maniac who runs North Korea.”
Obviously a nuclear-weaponized South Korea and Japan would entail China and lock that peninsula and the Pacific aggressor nation in World War II into a third regional nuclear arms race that would be roughly comparable to the ones in furious ferment between first Israel and Iran, now Pakistan and India.
Bruce Blair, the co-founder of Global Zero, says this development would risk collapsing the whole nuclear house of cards “and you get a world of nuclear anarchy.” The Wall Street Journal editorialized that “Trump’s Nuclear World” is “a nuclear free-for-all in which atomic weapons will inevitably fall into ever more dubious hands.”
The US maintains around the earth outside the US between 700 to 800 military bases. Getting back more of the monetary costs of our thereby militarily assisting nations we regard as friendly to us is a primary preoccupation in Trump’s ideas. Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of The Washington Post, asked him (before the TV-star tycoon announced that he banished the Post from his public rallies and press events), “. . . does the United States gain anything by having bases?” “Personally I don’t think so,” Trump replied; “. . . we’re a very poor country now.”
Trump was asked if he would take the United States into war against nuclear-up-arming China to stop its expansion into the South China Sea. “Look,” Trump said, “there’s a question I don’t want to answer. . .. I don’t want them to know what I’m thinking.”
In a different interview on that topic he said, “I don’t think we are going to start the World War III over what they did [occupying, militarizing, and claiming marine rights to the islands, alleged islands, and 90% of the surfaces of the South China Sea], it affects other countries certainly a lot more than it affects us.” Nevertheless the media-mesmerizing Trump called China’s complex maneuvers in that sea “unbelievable aggression.”
Crack Times reporter David Sanger specified during an interview with Trump that one of the candidate’s heroes, the late General Douglas MacArthur, planned, while he was commanding arrayed US military forces in the Korean War, to explode American nuclear weapons against China, North Korea, and the Chinese and North Korean armies (to stop the which Truman fired MacArthur as the general-in-chief of the war). Sanger was preparing to test Trump, in connection with his admiration of MacArthur, on his position for only detonating H-bombs as a last resort.
The reporter challenged Trump: “General MacArthur wanted to use (nuclear weapons) against the Chinese and the North Koreans, not as a last resort.”
“. . . well,” Trump fended that off, “you don’t know if he wanted to then, but he certainly said that at least. . ..”
“He certainly asked Harry Truman if he could,” Sanger asserted.
“Was he doing that to negotiate, was he doing that to win?” Trump fenced back. “Perhaps, perhaps . . . he did play the nuclear card but he didn’t use it. . .. maybe that’s what got him victory.”
Also during Trump’s interview with the board of the Post, its publisher Frederick Ryan Jr., who may have been struck by the graphic violence of Trump’s rhetoric against ISIS (“bomb the shit out of ISIS,” “quickly cut off the head of ISIS”), asked him without preliminaries, “Would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?”
“I don’t want to use — I don’t want to start the process of nuclear,” replied the evidently startled prospective commander-in-chief. “Remember,” he hinted, “I’m a counter-puncher,” and he continued trying to back into the outfield with some wandering remarks concerning one of his opponents in the primary campaign.
“This is about ISIS,” Ryan cut in. “You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?”
In the transcript of the meeting some cross-talk is noted then as Trump in effect was refusing to answer the publisher by asking instead to personally meet and shake hands with the seven Post people participating in the event. That happened.
Questioned about “human-caused climate change,” Trump said, “I’m not a believer . . . in man-made climate change.” But then, just before he seemed about to bolt away from the meeting, he unexpectedly opened forth with a passionate and startling outburst about nuclear weapons.
“I think we’re in tremendous peril,” said the phenomenon Donald Trump. “I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons. The biggest risk in the world to me — I know President Obama thought it was climate change — to me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons.
“That’s — that’s the climate change that is a disaster, and we don’t even know where the weapons are right now. We don’t know who has them. We don’t know who’s trying to get them. The biggest risk for this world or this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.”
As it happens, perhaps irrelevantly and perhaps not, two of Trump’s more famous backers, the billionaire casino owner Sheldon G. Adelson of Las Vegas and the widely celebrated and politically independent Indiana basketball coach Billy Knight, have attracted attention recently as enthusiastic advocates of exploding nuclear weapons on human populations in modern cities.
Adelson, a passionate champion of Israel, in 2012 gave at least $98 million to 34 Republican campaigns and groups. By himself he constitutes and conducts the sardonically-labeled “Las Vegas primary” in which GOP candidates journey to his Las Vegas Sands angling for some of his abundant money: being this year worth about 27 billion dollars he ranks 22nd among Forbes Magazine‘s list of the top 400 US billionaires.
When Adelson supported Marco Rubio for President this year, Trump tweeted that the billionaire wanted to make Rubio “his perfect little puppet.” In due course, Adelson switched to backing a SuperPAC for Ted Cruz. Trump, now openly raising money instead of saying he would be paying his own way, has said he may need one billion dollars for the rest of his campaign.
In mid-May after he basically consolidated his apparent nomination, Trump with his campaign manager then conferred in a private meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Adelson in the St. Regis in Manhattan.
According to the apparently well-sourced report in the Times, during that presumably opulent occasion Adelson committed directly to Trump to spend, on the rest of Trump’s campaign alone, about one hundred of Adelson’s roughly 270 hundreds of millions of his dollars.
Posted online in January there was a video in which Adelson, shown “a few years ago” seated and talking with a second man on a stage before a smallish assembled audience, advocated dropping a nuclear bomb on urban Iran unless that country agreed to quit its work relevant to its getting nuclear weapons.
Concerning the notorious “Iran deal” with six other nations to limit Iran’s nuclear-materials program, the onstage Adelson asked, “What’s there to negotiate about?” He explained in the video how he would proceed.
First, he said, after getting relevant Iranians’ attention, he would explode a nuclear weapon in a desolate Iranian desert, hurting no one. Then he would tell the Iranians to abandon their nuclear weapons or, “See! The next one is in the middle of Teheran.”
Introducing Trump during a series of boisterous rallies in Indiana wherefrom Trump was to achieve his national majority of the GOP convention delegates, one evening Coach Knight climaxed his build-up of his candidate exclaiming that like Harry Truman, “one of the three great American Presidents,” Trump, that man right over there, would have the guts to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki just like Truman did (in 1944 he said, though it was ’45), and Trump would be “the fourth great President of the United States!”
At that Donald Trump, filmed for history on TV, suddenly smiled broadly and stepped over to Knight, put a hand on his back, and shook his hand vigorously, emphatically.
Ronnie Dugger won the 2011 George Polk career award in journalism. He founded The Texas Observer, has written biographies of Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, a book on Hiroshima and one on universities, many articles in The New Yorker, The Nation, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and other publications, and is now writing a book on new thinking about nuclear war. This is his second of two articles on Trump and nuclear weapons; the first was published last Thursday. email@example.com
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.