The news these days is anything but fun to read. From earthquakes and fires, to tsunamis, hurricanes and floods, just the weather can be enough to cause serious anxiety and sadness.
But there’s another natural disaster that’s wreaking havoc around the world that a lot of us have written off as a sideshow, a distraction, a joke when the truth is, it’s anything but: United States President, Donald Trump.
It might be easy to laugh when he tweets, or share Saturday Night Live’s latest Alec-Baldwin-helmed take down, but the truth is Trump is in charge of a nuclear superpower, and he seems to have little to no concern about what that really means.
Overnight Trump announced the American embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem, effectively recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is a big deal. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and it is highly significant to Jewish, Muslim and Christian people.
It’s also disputed territory, claimed by both Israel and Palestine since Israeli forces invaded East Jerusalem in 1967. In short, the politics of just deciding to recognise Israel’s claim to the entirety of Jerusalem are really fraught. Really complicated and really dangerous.
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As if the Middle East wasn’t already on edge, Trump just upends decades of diplomatic policy to please donors and supporters he promised things to during the election campaign. It’s easy to shrug this off, think the people and places involved are so far around the world it doesn’t matter. But of course it does.
Any decisions Trump makes that build instability in places like the Middle East affects the rest of the world. These decisions embolden terrorist organisations, they force powerful nations in the Middle East to take sides where before they may have stayed silent. When the US sneezes, the world pays attention.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room, North Korea, which Trump has mocked and ridiculed since taking the oath of office in a series of tweets that are both ridiculous and terrifying. Ridiculous because this is how the President of the United States conducts crucial international diplomacy and terrifying because this is how the President of the United States conducts crucial international diplomacy.
This is his response to an inflammatory comment by Kim Jong-un that made fun of Trump’s age:
Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2017
Are you kidding me? Is this the President of the United States or Regina George? Trump, who is possibly the only world leader vainer than Kim Jong-un also refers to Jong-un as the “little rocket man”, a provocation that is simply completely unnecessary when you’re dealing with a guy who has launched three nuclear rocket tests in under a year.
North Korea enjoys the backing of China. South Korea is a long-time protectorate of the USA. We don’t want China and the United States on opposite sides of a nuclear dispute, do we? No. No, we do not.
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Since 1947 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have maintained a “doomsday clock” a way of measuring just how close the world is to a new nuclear disaster. It measures the danger of nuclear annihilation in “minutes to midnight”. The closest to midnight we’ve gotten since World War II is two. That was in 1953, when the US and Russia were openly pursing hydrogen bombs.
Now, the clock is at two and a half minutes to midnight. The closest it’s been since the 50s. The clock typically moves or stays fixed for the year, in January, and so it moved in the days after Trump took office.
This was what the Bulletin had to say about the new president and his impact on the clock:
“In short, even though he has just now taken office, the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse.”
Unfortunately time has not proved that statement wrong. Rather, the comments seem depressingly prescient.
All of this stuff sucks. None of it makes anyone feel good. It would be easier to laugh Trump off, say don’t worry, that’ll never happen, but that’s what a lot of people did during the US election. And look where we are now.
It might be time to start taking Trump more seriously as the real threat to the rest of the world that he is.