It isn’t every day two world leaders play a very public game of nuclear chicken. But that’s exactly what transpired Tuesday when U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un engaged in the kind of insult hurling usually reserved for celebrity feuds. The one big difference is, this feud has the very real potential to end in fire and fury for millions of people – including Americans.
There’s little we as concerned American citizens can do about Kim Jong-un. Lunacy emanating from the hermit kingdom has been part of the foreign policy landscape for decades. Under normal circumstances, a U.S. commander in chief would simply avoid dignifying the empty threats coming from North Korea, and their display of bravado would pass harmlessly.
But these circumstances are anything but normal. After Kim Jong-un released a statement warning President Trump that he had a “button” on his desk, our pre-pubescent president just couldn’t resist clapping back with an equally pathetic retort:
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
The tweet set off alarm bells across the media almost immediately, and Americans of all stripes reacted with a range of concern and embarrassment all over social media.
Perhaps the most scathing response came late Tuesday from retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman and gun control icon Gabriela Giffords, is a decorated veteran and former pilot in the Navy, and he had some choice words for the commander in chief that he won’t be able to ignore:
As a pilot in the @USNavy, I was trained to deliver nuclear weapons. EVERYTHING we did with these weapons was deadly serious. No jokes, no threats, no mistakes. Every soldier, sailor, airman and marine gets that. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss this further. https://t.co/ovNlgNlluq
— Mark Kelly (@ShuttleCDRKelly) January 3, 2018
There are just so many things wrong with President Trump’s tactics that the most dire among them – that his tweet brings us closer to nuclear war than we’ve been in decades – almost gets lost in the noise. North Korea has successfully detonated multiple nuclear weapons, and they’ve proven they’ve developed ballistic missiles that can reach any city in the United States. It’s only a matter of time before the two technological milestones are combined and cities across the country become targets.
Mark Kelly’s comments are a sobering reminder that, in some very fundamental ways, our lives depend on how a tweet is interpreted by a crazy man in Pyongyang.