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Pro and Con, or squished? my follow-up post

[ by Charles Cameron — concerted: in which a single voice should be heard in contrast with others ]

Having said all that I did about bridge-building, and respectfully hearing and annotatimg both sides in a highly divisive environment, I have another issue, another question.

When is it time for the peace-maker to take a side?

What if Jay Rosen is correct in A few notes on unbuilding a key part of the presidency? Should we be terrified at the very idea of one man having control of the nuclear arsenal?

Since the start of the Cold War some 70 years ago, Americans have been aware of a crazy thing about the holder of the Presidency. That person could blow up the world. The possibility of nuclear annihilation changed the institution by introducing new psychological facts to the relationship between the American people and the occupant of the White House. And, we should add, between the publics of other nations and the American President. For this was a terrible power to invest in one man.

And taking things a step further — is the world at serious risk of major nuclear war with Donald Trump in the Presidency? If so, should the peace-makers and bridge-makers take issue with him? And how? With what stratagems? And in what tone of voice?

8 Responses to “Pro and Con, or squished? my follow-up post”

  1. Timothy Furnish Says:

    No. I remember much the same being said by the Left about Ronald Reagan–how he would “blow up the world,” etc. Yet his two-terms worked out pretty well.
    Charles, I understand your attempts to split the difference, bridge the gap, find modern ground, etc. But sometimes one side is just wrong–and in this case, hysterical. And it’s not the conservative/GOP side.

  2. Cheryl Rofer Says:

    I think Rosen’s article is dead on. That said, like so much about Trump, it is only one piece of the larger problem.
    Rosen’s article deals with perceptions. The question of whether the risk of nuclear war has gone up deals with the actuality. Also like so much about Trump, we simply don’t know. He “loves the power” of nuclear weapons and has Twitter-advocated an arms race. But he also has said that he never would be the first to use them. OTOH, he is hypersensitive enough that his “never be the first” might not mean what I would mean by those words.
    Putin is testing him with a number of smallish provocations. There has not even been an NSA meeting on how to address them. One danger is that Putin will go too far, Trump will overreact, and there we are.
    OTOH (so many other hands), the secretaries of Defense and State are flying around the world to reassure our allies that Trump didn’t mean what he said. Most recently, that we would “take the oil” (whatever that means) in Iraq. That in itself is a danger, because when the president and his cabinet are saying diametrically opposed things, whom do the allies believe? And that leaves no time for them to staff up or deal with adversaries.
    India and Pakistan are another possibility for nuclear war, and the United States has played a role in keeping them from it, although that role has been largely under the radar. Are we doing those things now, because mercifully Trump and his destroyers have not yet found them? What happens when they do?
    And then there’s the whole question of his relations with Russia. That might seem a stabilizing factor, but the Kremlin seems to be heading into a bad case of buyer’s remorse.
    Overall assessment of the danger of nuclear war: Hard to know, but will keep lots of people up at night.

  3. Scott Says:

    I am skeptical. On one hand I hear how the Russians got Trump elected, then I hear that he’s going to start a war with them. From the same people. They need to make up their minds. Trump doesn’t want war. For God’s sake , he’s a businessman, with businesses in multiple countries. Also, he has kids and grandkids. I think he’s smarter and more cunning than people give him credit for. Certainly his actions towards Russia have been less warlike than Obama, who stationed troops in Poland and the Baltic states!

  4. larrydunbar Says:

    Really, “blow up the world?” I mean, I think there were many people who were not comfortable with Reagan having the launch codes, but I don’t remember it as a “Goldwater” thing.

    I mean for me, Reagan was going to blow up the world by privatizing all critical services that real people relied on to survive, and Reagan would press the wrong button, when trying to change stations with the TV remote.

    I am OK with Trump having his hand on the launch codes, as long as his empire is not in jeopardy. If he starts losing money in his new gig, then all bets are off.

    In the meantime, keep him on twitter and keep him on the campaign trail. His administration will be over in a few years.

  5. Grurray Says:

    Before he assumed office, President Obama sat for two decades in a church whose pastor condemned America as deserving of attack and who damned the country in the name of God. Obama freely associated with people who advocated in the past and present for the destruction of the United States.
    However, we were supposed to ignore all those obvious associations and trust the man because he was attractive.
    Now we have President Trump who is adversarial to people who used their privileged positions in the media to campaign against him.
    We are supposed to ignore a perfectly rational response because the man is rude.

  6. David Ronfeldt Says:

    Good point to raise, Charles. Linguist George Lakoff’s writings about the election campaign discuss difficulties the mind has in adhering to centrist middle-of-the-road positions that involve alternating between frames.
    I am reminded of the old question about “why did the chicken cross the road”. Well, if there is no middle of the road, then the chicken can’t cross the road. It gets stuck on either the right or left side. Tribalists of the right and the left are the ones who most want to deny or even get rid of the middle.

  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    Quoth Tim:

    But sometimes one side is just wrong -– and in this case, hysterical. And it’s not the conservative/GOP side.

    Part of my problem (koan) is that I have issues with both sides. I regularly ignore almost anything Juan Cole writes these days, because he seems to me to slant left (where “slant” means bias rather than tendency) and have similar reactions to much that I see on the right. But then as a piece in the New Yorker said today:

    Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.That cuts both ways..

    Cf Why More Democrats Are Now Embracing Conspiracy Theories:

    Even as Democrats decry the false claims streaming regularly from the White House, they appear to have become more vulnerable to unsupported claims and conspiracy theories that flatter their own political prejudices. The reason isn’t just that a Republican now occupies the White House. Political psychology research suggests that losing political control can make people more vulnerable to misinformation and conspiracy theories.

  8. Grurray Says:

    The author mentions Truman twice as someone who projected normalcy to make Americans comfortable with the president’s nuclear power.
    This is the same Truman who, a few months after announcing to the world we were commencing the hydrogen bomb program, wrote this letter threatening a critic of his daughter:
    “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”
    While he was busy picking this fight, the Chinese were invading Korea, and Truman had to declare a state of emergency the next week.

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