Death by Nuclear War (Almost)

Trump’s bellicose rhetoric, though problematic, did not solely cause today’s North Korean crisis.

As conflict with North Korea looms over the United States, President Donald Trump continues to spew threatening comments toward North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un. Trump spoke about his intentions to “totally destroy North Korea” while addressing the U.N. on Sept. 19. Following his speech, Trump wrote a tweet deferring the blame of potential nuclear war onto Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Illustration by Katie Heywood

“After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C also), Crooked Hillary now criticizes,” Trump wrote. Although many of Trump’s tweets are outrageous or misinformed, this tweet contains some truth.

North Korea began experimenting with nuclear weapons during the Clinton administration. In response, Clinton crafted the Agreed Framework in 1994. Through this negotiation, the U.S. would give North Korea half a million tons of oil every year if North Korea terminated its use of plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.

However, during the following midterm elections, the House and Senate flipped, which halted the resolution of issues with North Korea. When George W. Bush became president, differing political opinions determined that Bush could not follow the path set by Clinton. The U.S then ceased giving North Korea oil, and in response, North Korea started its plutonium plants back up again. Bush attempted to backtrack and establish punitive sanctions with little success.

“When George W. Bush became president, differing political opinions determined that Bush could not follow the path set by Clinton.”

Issues with North Korea carried over into Barack Obama’s tenure, and he, like his successor, attempted to establish sanctions in order to prevent the testing of nuclear weapons. Obama took a diplomatic route, and hoped to settle conflict with words. North Korea responded by furthering its development of nuclear weapons and launching cyber attacks on American businesses.

Trump’s administration is thus far following a similar path to Obama’s. He is using diplomatic pressure much like Obama did. However, North Korea now has an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the U.S., which makes the threat of nuclear warfare much more realistic and imminent.

In a sense, Trump is not responsible for the increased threat of nuclear war with North Korea. His predecessors may have paved the way for today’s North Korean crisis, but one can still criticize Trump for his utterly inappropriate responses and nonchalance about nuclear warfare.