This week marked the seventy-second anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, events that brought the Second World War to an appropriately horrific conclusion. I have heard many people defend President Truman’s decision to bomb Hiroshima, saying that a full-scale invasion of Japan would cost hundreds of thousands more lives on both sides of the conflict. Be that as it may, I have yet to find anyone who can convince me of the necessity to drop the second bomb a mere three days later on another civilian population center. That just feels to me like an uncalled-for act of brutality that, like the fire-bombing of Dresden, puts the lie to American protestations of moral superiority.
Now, the same week seven decades on, we find ourselves embroiled in an episode of reckless brinksmanship worse than any since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. So far in this tense contest between the leaders of our country and the ironically named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, neither side has blinked.
Far from it, in fact. In the wake of the North Korean regime’s persistence in flouting international law by continuing to develop their nuclear weapons program and test-fire missiles, the UN Security Council finally stood together, voting 15–0 to impose sanctions on that rogue nation. In retaliation, Kim Jong-Un directed another of his rhetorically rabid threats toward the US, suggesting that he was prepared to launch a missile toward the Pacific island of Guam, a US territorial holding. Coupled with reports that North Korea may now have the capacity to arm their missiles with miniaturized nuclear warheads, and that they have designed ICBMs capable of reaching the continental US, it’s getting harder to laugh off the threat they pose.
What a perfect time for cool, level-headed leadership to defuse the situation and take a step back from the brink of Armageddon! Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of leadership in our country.
Instead, we have the presidential equivalent of a playground bully responding to the other kids with counter-threats and cries of, “Oh, yeah?” With his bully’s need to mask his insecurity and appear strong, Donald Trump offered an improvised statement in which he warned Kim that further provocations “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” That was Tuesday. Now we learn from the Washington Post that this afternoon the president decided to spray this bonfire with gasoline. Responding to those who criticized the bellicosity of his “fire and fury” remarks, he said today, “Frankly, the people that [sic] were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn’t tough enough. They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So, if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”
Wow, Don. Thanks for pulling us back from the ledge.
It would be nice to think that this is all the bravado of the moment—“locker room talk,” one might call it—and that President Trump has no real intention to fire nuclear weapons in anger for the first time since 1945, but I feel no such assurance. When a reporter asked if he was considering launching a preemptive strike against North Korea, Trump only replied, “You’ll see. You’ll see.”
Somebody told me just the other day that he likes Trump because he talks tough and because he is “not a politician.” Well, I suppose that’s true, and it’s debatable how much of a virtue that is, but what is not in any doubt is that Trump is not a statesman. He is the opposite of a statesman. Statesmen and women are what we need at this particular juncture, but we will have to look somewhere besides the White House to find them. And that’s scary.
At times like these, I feel compelled to go to the Scriptures for reassurance. So let me close with a few samples to remind us that even in the darkest moments we are held in the gentle and strong arms of a loving God:
From Psalm 121:
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep….
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.
From Matthew 10:
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
From 1 John 4:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
And from John 16 (NIV):
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.