When congress was on the verge of repealing (and sometimes replacing) Obamacare, Americans spoke out in record numbers because they knew it would impact their lives.
We are now on the verge of nuclear war with North Korea, but vocal opposition has been relatively minimal. This complacency is a result of several myths that have led Americans to believe that war with North Korea won’t affect them personally.
In reality, its impact could be catastrophic for all of us.
Myth #1: Only people living in Guam or the Korean Peninsula are at risk
It doesn’t matter if you live in Nebraska or Tahiti: the risks associated with modern nuclear warfare are global and apply even if a bomb never falls on US soil.
Both American and North Korean nukes are 1,000 time stronger than the one that hit Hiroshima and would produce exponentially more severe and widespread effects.
According to leading researchers Alan Robock and Owen Toon, even a limited number of nuclear bombs would cause a nuclear winter and global famine. They warn that initiating a nuclear strike “could be suicidal.”
While we would hope that our top decision-makers would try to avoid this doomsday scenario, Robock says that “high-ranking defense officials are unaware that a nuclear war occurring halfway around the world from the U.S. could seriously harm the homeland.”
Myth #2: If we bomb North Korea first, they won’t be be able to strike back
The rationale for a first strike is to prevent North Korea from attacking the US and its allies. For that assumption be correct, a first strike would need to destroy all North Korean nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we don’t know the location of many of their bombs.
If North Korea does retaliate, it seems almost inevitable that Trump will order another attack, given that he’s already quite enthusiastic about using nukes. World war wouldn’t be far off.
Myth #3: Somebody would stop Trump if he tried to launch a nuclear strike.
Officially, Trump has sole decision-making power to launch a nuclear strike. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ role is merely to verify that Trump issued the orders. Even if Mattis got feisty and insisted that Ivanka was trying to launch the attack, it would only nominally slow down the process.
Unofficial attempts at intervention are also likely to fail. Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal is a continuation of his tendency to disregard top officials’ advice.
Nobody is going to save us at the last second by lunging for the nuclear football, either metaphorically or literally. Mattis probably wouldn’t even be around to tackle Trump: his office is at the Pentagon.
Myth #4: Somebody will tell you when it’s time to panic
When a doctor says “this might hurt a little,” it’s safe to assume that severe pain is imminent. Similarly, when Chief of Staff John Kelly, Republican Senator Bob Corker, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a wide variety of experts, and top military generals say that Americans should be worried, it’s time to panic.
According to Trump’s statements in the Hannity interview, war with North Korea will start with a surprise attack. Lest we doubt his credibility, a former Air Force Brigadier General confirmed that the “the public (will be) unlikely to see an attack coming.” Especially if North Korea retaliates immediately, it would be nice to have some forewarning.
Myth #5: Activism won’t prevent war.
Congress has several legislative options:
1. It could pass the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, which has already been introduced in both the House and the Senate. The bill would require Trump to obtain congressional approval before ordering a nuclear first strike.
2. Congress could introduce new legislation requiring the Secretary of State and/or Secretary of Defense to approve a nuclear first strike.
3. Congress (or a majority of Trump’s cabinet) and Vice President Pence could invoke the 25th amendment, ejecting Trump from the oval office immediately. Contrary to many reports, approval from Trump’s cabinet is unnecessary if a majority of congress and the Vice President agree.
Pence would become President. Regardless of your views on his policies, he’s much less likely to throw a nuclear-level temper tantrum than Trump.
Impeachment could have been a great option- if the process had started six months ago.
Bill Clinton’s impeachment process took over four months. Tensions are escalating too quickly for us to wait that long. Japan’s Minister of Defense alluded that Trump will initiate military action in mid-November if North Korea doesn’t comply with US demands.
Americans may have less than a month to prevent World War III.