President-elect Donald Trump decided to terrify the nation right before Christmas by casually telling Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe that he was fine with engaging in a “nuclear arms race” with the Russian Federation, a day after both Trump and dictator Vladimir Putin announced they would be expanding their nuclear arsenals.
Legendary reporter Dan Rather took to Facebook to offer his take on the appalling comments:
Nuclear weapons are not a game. They are not a toy for the petulant and ill-informed to boast about on off-handed tweets. They are not gaudy hotels and apartment buildings to line up to make yourself feel stronger and more important. They are a direct shortcut to the very end of life on earth as we know it.
I suspect Donald Trump knows very little about our nuclear posture, its history, and the delicate balance our presidents have been walking since the early days of the Cold War. This was a man who in a primary debate didn’t seem to understand our nuclear triad. And that’s “Nukes for Dummies” level. Now recent tweets and comments suggest he’s thinking of a new arms race. When Mr. Trump suggested that countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons during the campaign his apologists told those of us who were worried, he didn’t really mean it. Where are those voices now? Because whether he means what he says, or even knows what he means, really doesn’t matter at this point. Just by Trump saying it, the world order that we have known is at risk.
He’s not even president yet and he’s plunging us into a potential crisis that no one really thought would come. Surely there are many Republican Senators and foreign policy experts who understand the dangers of his rhetoric. Because the stakes with nuclear weapons are so high, that even slight changes in their status are cause for great concern. What Donald Trump is suggesting is at a level that would have us return to one of the most dangerous chapters in history.
Rather is absolutely on point. The threat of nuclear war hasn’t been this high since the 1960s. A recent incident puts into sharp perspective just how dangerous misinformation and casual threats on Twitter can be. Khawaja Asif, the defense minister for Pakistan, read a fake news story that was titled “Israeli Defense Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops into Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack.”
A furious Asif responded like this:
His response is a barely concealed threat to a nation with whom they have no diplomatic relations. This incident proves that all the concerns we have over an irrational and easily provoked Trump with the nuclear codes and a Twitter account are very real; he is a clear and present danger to this country. Now we will see if the Republican Party has any real care for the American people or whether they will fiddle as Rome burns, discarding decades of militant hyperpatriotism for a chance to gut the social safety net and usher in the hypercapitalist dystopia that the monied elites dream of?
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.