OPINION: Button, button; who’s got the button?

Bill Crane's Opinion Piece for Champion newspaper

“Will someone please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works!” Twitter response by President Donald Trump to the Supreme Leader of North Korea (yes, that is his title) Kim Jong Un.

Though we understand the reference and the analogy—thankfully, the Resolute desk in the oval office does not actually feature a big red nuclear button. The historic desk was brought back to the White House from the Smithsonian by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, it was also used by presidents Kennedy, Reagan, George W. Bush, Clinton and Obama. 

 There is an existing nuclear powers treaty between the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. In addition to those five nuclear weapons states, participating in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), eight sovereign states, including India, Pakistan and North Korea, have detonated nuclear weapons since the U.S. detonated the first atomic bombs ending World War II in the Pacific. Other nations, including Israel, are generally believed to possess nuclear weapons but have not publicly tested them. 

Current estimates place the aggregate world arsenal of atomic and hydrogen bombs on missiles and warheads at more than 9,200. The two Strategic Arms Limitations Treaties (S.A.L.T. 1 and 2), begun by President Richard Nixon and continued under Reagan and Bush, reduced the build-up of nuclear arsenals, as well as called for the dismantling of older and aging nuclear weapon systems. 

And although the Cold War has defrosted in many respects, the number of nuclear players and potential accidents has significantly increased. Kim Jong-Un is believed to have roughly 60 weapons and missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.  

South Korea will host the Winter Olympic Games in a few more weeks. Currently, with more than 100 nations scheduled to participate in these games, as well as the worldwide armistice which precede every Olympics, North Korea is currently not on the RSVP list.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In has been communicating with the North, seeking its participation, and discussions were even under way for athletes from North and South Korea to march together in the opening ceremonies of these winter games.

Seoul, South Korea’s capital, a city of 26 million, located just more than 30 miles from the North Korean border, will be connected by high-speed rail to the Winter Games host city Pyeongchang. These games will feature 15 sports in 13 venues and 102 events scheduled from Feb. 9-25.

It would be a major step in the right direction for North Korea to at least temporarily rejoin the world community and participate. North Korea first participated in the Olympics Games in 1972, and the nation’s participation has been sporadic. Olympic Games typically host many heads of state, in addition to each nation’s premier athletes. In addition to the symbolism, and the unstated agreement for armistice, can you think of any better target for inflicting maximum pain than launching a nuclear strike from North Korea aimed just across the border in South Korea, and simultaneously striking more than 100 other nations?

Kim Jong-un is not viewed as the most stable mind or personality. Goading or taunting someone who is potentially mentally ill is at very best ill-advised, and such provocation may cause any number of accidental or unexpected responses. When Nikita Khrushev was threatening to stomp the United States under the heel of the boot of the U.S.S.R., Kennedy responded to the Cuban Missile crisis with resolute diplomacy from behind that Resolute desk. 

When the Cold War reached near epic frigidity, and as the U.S.S.R. began to crumble, with freedom breaking out across Eastern Europe, Reagan spoke frequently of the need to have trust but verify as nuclear weapons systems were being dismantled or removed.

It’s hard to see the benefits of taunting someone about who has the bigger button. And knowing how important facts are to this White House, there is actually a very tiny red button atop the Resolute desk, which Trump is reported to enjoy pressing most every day he is in residence. Each time he does, a White House butler brings him a can of Coca-Cola and a fresh glass of ice. The pause that refreshes. It is possible of course that he has gotten these two buttons confused. It can be hard to fully understand and appreciate the workings of the mind of a stable genius.

Bill Crane also serves as a political analyst and commentator for Channel 2’s Action News, WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and now 95.5 FM, as well as a columnist for The Champion, DeKalb Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can reach him or comment on a column at bill.csicrane@gmail.com.

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