Trump and the Bomb: Stop Worrying?
The risk of Trump launching the nuclear arsenal is lower than many risks associated with his presidency.
March 8, 2017
The subtitle of the 1964 classic Stanley Kubrick nuclear war farce “Dr. Strangelove” is “or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”
While that subtitle is part of the film’s satire – nuclear weapons are indeed very serious and frightening and cannot be brushed aside – there is something to be said for knowing when to keep a level head about the problem.
Many of my fellow Democrats have expressed that they might prefer the equally conservative but more mainstream Vice President Mike Pence to Donald Trump, due solely to the president’s authority to launch U.S. nuclear weapons.
To me, the risk of a nuclear war still remains fairly small, while the Pence agenda – in concert with Paul Ryan – remains a very high risk with huge ramifications as well.
So, how have I found a way to “stop worrying and love the bomb” or at least relegate it to a lower-tier fear?
A recent public remark by President Trump and a glance back toward Ronald Reagan, his predecessor in the Oval Office as a television aficionado turned conservative tribune.
At a recent press conference, rambling well past an hour, Trump said that the best way to show his independence from Russia would be to fire missiles at a Russian Navy submarine off the U.S. coast – but that he would not do so, of course.
By way of explanation or proof, Trump uttered the incredible (and accurate) phrase:
I’ve been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say, because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.
By this remark, Trump meant that launching a (nuclear) World War III by attacking Russia directly would end poorly for everyone, which is why he could not even consider it.
Back in 1983, President Reagan and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were given an advanced screening of the made-for-TV sensation, “The Day After.” That film, which rocked the nation, depicted exactly the scenario Trump described, in as horrifying terms as possible.
Ronald Reagan, in his diary and memoirs, said that he began shifting the country’s nuclear war policies in response to the film, which had made him “depressed.”
It is almost certain that Trump himself has seen the film as well – probably at the time – considering his voracious consumption of television.
True, Trump is known for his uncontrolled and impulsive remarks. True, he clearly did not hesitate to authorize smaller, ill-conceived military actions such as the recent failed raid in Yemen.
But it is probably reasonable to believe him when he says that he would not be starting World War III because a “nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”
The real threat
Trump and his agenda are absolutely a threat, but most of that threat is a very real and already very present one. The damage will be less instantaneous and less visible than a nuclear war, but it is exceptionally much more likely.
Vice President Pence shares that agenda and a record to back it up. But he won’t generate the matching level of opposition that both men deserve, and so I don’t prefer him to Trump.
And at any rate, as “Dr. Strangelove” shows – after all the arguing is over, the other outcome is over pretty quick.
Trump said the best way to show his independence from Russia would be to fire missiles at their sub.
It’s reasonable to believe Trump won’t launch nukes when he says a "nuclear holocaust would be like no other."
The damage caused by Trump’s agenda will be less visible than a nuclear war, and much more likely.