Once again, the world watches and waits as America and North Korea approach yet another showdown, in an escalating war of words that could potentially result in an outcome far different than before.
As tensions rise with each passing day, one question on the minds of many is what the outcome of this latest confrontation will be, and where it could lead the rest of the world. Although this is not the first time American and North Korean relations have reached a boiling point, a situation now exists that might finally tip the countries over the edge and into real conflict.
As with all bullies, eventually, someone bigger and tougher arrives on the scene to challenge them. It now appears North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un’s time has finally come — in the form of Donald Trump — and this time, it’s personal.
Of all the previous presidents, Trump’s stance on North Korea appears to toe the hardest of the hardlines. While past U.S. leaders have either calmly dismissed North Korea, given in to their distinctive brand of extortion, or diplomatically rebuked it, Trump seems to have taken a very personal issue with Kim Jong-un and his secretive nation. This is the first time an American president has openly threatened to rain destruction on the rogue country if it continues its belligerent ways.
While threats alone do not always guarantee they will be acted upon, the character of those making the threats must also be considered. The character of Donald Trump certainly brings up the specter of war with North Korea. For more confirmation of this, one need only look at Trump’s track record thus far.
For all the criticism Trump has garnered over his policies, the one thing that has been consistent is his dogged determination to implement them. Whether it is building a border wall or dismantling Obamacare, Trump has displayed incredible tunnel vision.
In fact, the only thing preventing Trump from making good on these promises, so far, is Congress. Even then, the president has sought to make end-runs around it to achieve his goals. It is safe to say if Trump had the power to carry out these things alone, the wall would be under construction and Obamacare would be a pile of crumpled papers, stuffed into the waste bin.
When these things are considered, it is not a stretch to imagine Trump ordering a first strike on North Korea, but things go even deeper than a strong determination with this man. There is also a deep-seated compulsion within Trump that forces him to react toward his perceived enemies.
From lashing out at the media, launching a personal attack against someone who crosses him, or making threats against North Korea, Trump has proven that if you take a jab at him, he will hit back even harder. It is this penchant that calls for concern from his friends and caution from his foes. It does not take a psychologist to understand that inside of Trump lies the potential will to destroy his enemies completely and utterly.
Conversely, Kim Jong-un also shows a certain amount of machismo, at least as far as someone who enjoys unchallenged, absolute power, that is. So, what would the outcome be when two personalities like Trump and Kim collide? In truth, the answer might be as banal as it could be devastating.
There is the possibility that Trump and Kim are just two faces of the same coin and neither truly has any intention of starting World War III. Of all the possibilities, this is preferable because it shows rationality beneath all the bluster.
Another possibility is that one or the other will fold at the last moment. However, this could have terrible consequences for Trump and Kim. For Kim, the appearance of weakness in a regime like North Korea could lead to his ouster by an emboldened opponent. While there is no danger of such a thing happening to Trump, it could cause his base to sour on him if he comes off as weak in the face of a challenge.
Finally, the worst of all possibilities is that both leaders refuse to back down. Such a high-stakes game of “chicken” would most certainly end in catastrophe. While there is little doubt America would prevail in such a confrontation, tens of thousands of North Korean lives would be lost unless the U.S. conducted very precise, surgical strikes.
The most frightening part of this whole scenario is if North Korea is indeed in possession of nuclear-capable missiles and managed to launch them in a final strike. There is no doubt that South Korea, Guam, Japan, and the U.S. are already programmed into the guidance systems of these weapons if they exist.
The question then would be if the U.S. could intercept them before they hit their targets. It is likely that at least one would get through, despite advanced American technology. Of course, all it takes is one to kill thousands or even millions.
The final question is whether Trump or Kim Jong-un would really take the risk. For better or worse, that answer is just ahead.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]