“They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
With provocative rhetoric that evoked the horror of a nuclear exchange, President Donald J. Trump promised at an Aug. 3 press conference to unleash offensives “the likes of which no one has seen” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons tests.
It is difficult for most people to understand what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone who holds, arguably, the most power in the world. But someone like Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” can. Targaryen became the heir of the Targaryen dynasty after her older brother’s death and has steadily gained power throughout the latest episodes of the series.
Targaryen has a powerful weapon: her dragons. In Westeros, the blast of dragon fire parallels the might of nuclear bombs in modern warfare. Both Targaryen and Trump face similar circumstances — pressure to use their weapons against continuous threats from powerful enemies.
Trump’s inflammatory language is understandably terrifying for many people, as the only nuclear exchange in history, the U.S.’s atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, came at a great price. More than 200,000 people were killed directly or indirectly by the bomb’s effects, including burns, radiation sickness and cancer. Under such a volatile president, there is growing apprehension for the future of society and diplomacy. It seems almost impossible that anyone would be willing to work under a boss who diminishes his subordinates, demands flattery and acts out in unpredictable ways.
And yet, there is someone who is eager to work for Trump — former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat.
Carter, the Tyrion Lannister of the U.S., has an approach to international relations different than Trump and his “fire and fury” tactics. Carter has volunteered to spearhead a peace mission to North Korea despite the Trump administration’s failure to endorse the mission. Although Carter’s politics differ extensively from Trump’s, Carter is willing to help Trump for the sake of preventing a possible nuclear exchange — just as Lannister is willing to be Targaryen’ advisor because he knows Targaryen would be a better ruler than his sister. Lannister proves to be a moderating influence and helps Targaryen understand the bigger picture.
Carter knows that restoring a semblance of diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea is vital. In an Oct. 4 Washington Post op-ed, Carter wrote that the face-off between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is “the most serious existing threat to world peace, and it is imperative that Pyongyang and Washington find some way to ease the escalating tension and reach a lasting, peaceful agreement.”
It is important to note how imperative Carter’s statement is here. It shines a jarringly clear light on how the world will be affected if Trump’s statements fly too close to the sun. Carter seems to believe that North Korea, if provoked, would respond to the challenge by attacking the U.S.. But here’s the even scarier part: Although North Korea cannot currently hit the majority of the U.S. with its nukes, it can improve its technology over time — and it will. Imagine the devastating effects were nuclear weapons volleyed back and forth between the U.S. and North Korea. The U.S. must extend an olive branch, if only to ensure its own survival.
Not only is Carter right in attempting to negotiate peace, but he is also the ideal candidate to carry out those negotiations. Carter has successfully deescalated similar situations before. He orchestrated the Camp David Accords, which led to the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty; carried out a peace mission to North Korea in 1994 under former President Bill Clinton; and in 2010 obtained the release of an American citizen who had been sentenced to years of hard labor in North Korea.
As Trump’s strategy is hands-on and aggressive, the saying “cut off the head of a hydra and it grows back two more” hits a little too close to home. If Trump orders an attack on North Korea, he will establish a nuclear arms precedent that can only hurt us in the long run. Even if North Korea’s military was forced into submission, there is no guarantee that lasting peace would follow. As history shows us, many newly instated governments in overtaken countries usually lead to dissent by the people that are used to something far different. From 1864 to 1914, the British government consolidated its hold over Nigeria, governing the country through local Nigerian leaders, which ended in factions protesting for independence and an instability that still exists today. The 1953 Iranian coup d’etat deposed the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and his cabinet, driven by the British and the U.S. governments to propel Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi to power. The replacement of Mossadegh with a handpicked prime minister opened the way for Iran’s relatively weak shah to gain nearly absolute power within Iran’s constitutional monarchy. With strong military and economic backing from Washington, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi took on the role of autocrat until the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Similarly, an overthrow of North Korea’s government would likely prompt mass levels of civil unrest and would not necessarily lead to a peaceful future for the North Korean people. Additionally, other countries may be pulled into the conflict. Then the world would really be a George R. R. Martin-esque mess.
Carter’s proposal for peace could be the first step toward a long-term solution to the U.S. and North Korea’s unstable relationship. But with a president that dabbles dangerously in threats and ultimatums and has repeatedly refused Carter’s suggestions, how safe are we? Trump must learn to temper his rhetoric, else this face-off could quickly become a war of more than just words.
Bijia Wang is a College freshman from Syosset, N.Y.