TBS Likes...

For/Against: Should we fear nuclear war with North Korea?

It seems that we’re dangerously close to nuclear war. But should we fear the possibilities of annihilation, or are we actually fine? We found two voices on opposite sides of the issue.



Once more in our time, we seem to be living an uncertain existence. Once again we are cast around the geopolitical maelstrom, powerless to be heard over two increasingly impulsive, and seemingly insane leaders. But, as we slowly seem to be bringing back the 1960’s kitschy fad of nuclear annihilation, should we start building that bomb shelter in the back yard? We asked two widely differing voices, one a child of the Cold War and the other a child of foresight (read: know it all millennial), to present their cases on whether we should fear atomic war started in Pyongyang (or Washington). Or not.


For – Ingeborg van Teeseling

During WWII, my father spent almost four years enjoying the hospitality of a German weapons manufacturer, working 14-hour days and sleeping on the floor under his machine. So, the start of the Cold War did not make him happy. It was his experience that little people like us were too much at the mercy of the powers-that-be and having a bunch of nutcases at the top often robbed him of an already limited supply of peaceful sleep. I remember him listening to the radio (yes, Millennials, we were just like you: no television), wondering if he would have a bottle of whiskey or build an underground shelter to hide his family, in preparation for when things would inevitably go pear-shaped. This was a little bit after the Russian leader, Nikita Khrushchev, started banging his shoe during a meeting of the UN General Assembly in 1960. We had also already enjoyed the spectacle of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which his counterpart, Kennedy, had almost plunged the world into WWIII over some bloody island in the Caribbean.

All these antics did not fill him with faith in the balanced maturity of the world’s leaders.

Over the next few years, some things happened that really got on his nerves. Literally. First Kennedy was shot, and his replacement started the Vietnam war. Or the American War, as my father rightfully called it. He was a big fan of the Americans, seeing that they had liberated our country during WWII. But he had never forgotten the ‘accidental’ bombing of the city where his family lived, and the non-excuses the Americans had uttered afterwards. A few months after Vietnam started, though, his focus was suddenly on China, which was testing atomic bombs, like North Korea is doing now. Suddenly the nightmares were there more frequently and more violently, and we children had to adhere to more limitations. Never close the toilet door, always come home straight from school, do not go home with children whose parents have not been vetted. It wasn’t so much the well-thought out actions of the world leaders that had made him jumpy, but the fact that what they did seemed random and not particularly rational.

If my father was alive today, he would be scared again. Not just about the North Korean nuclear testings, but about the fact that their leader is a megalomaniac who stripped his uncle naked and threw him in a cage, to be eaten alive by 120 hungry dogs. And Kim Jong Un is not the only person to be wary of. Next door to North Korea is Japan, which has a Prime Minister who thinks that the thousands of women who were raped by Japanese troops during WWII have nothing to complain about. Of course, the big players are a bit creepy too: China, that executes more people than any other country on the planet, Russia, that sends warships to parade in front of the British coast, and America…let me count the ways.

So, to answer the question if the North Korean tests are alarming me, I would like to end with the advice given by Bert the Turtle in 1951: duck and cover.


Against – Brenton Moore

I don’t believe so, and I’ll tell you why. Because neither of them are crazy enough. Yes, while it’s easy to steel yourself with the denial that nuclear war won’t happen because it’s never happened, therein lies the lesson. History is cyclical, and often a guide. Numerous times in the past we’ve stepped toward the abyss, even dangling a foot over, but it gave us the willies, so we retracted that foot, senses screaming danger. Even in the darkest of times, and the most crucial of seconds, the Patronus of our humanity (and indeed logic) has shone through the darkness. When the reviled Berlin Wall was built in the dawn of the 1960s, Kennedy’s not very nice solution, it melted the first snowflakes of our nuclear winter, and even at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is about as close to the last chapter we’d want to read. Even then, we were bailed out. Perhaps we got lucky.

However, the comparison of that to this is atomised apples and irradiated oranges. Simply, there’s no real reason to do it, to unleash, as Donald verbally shat ‘destruction never seen before’. The Cold War was a clash of ideologies, friends eventually turned foe, where the possibility of nuclear war was a bargaining chip, and perhaps a tactic to bankrupt either side. An entire generation was subject to the fear of possibilities. Not that I blame them, the constant chance of being vaporised would make you paranoid. However, then is not now. The bombing of North Korea, or mainland America makes no sense. Let’s look at the facts. Yesterday, Donald made stupid threats, Kim made stupid threats in return, considering bombing Guam, ostensibly US territory. If I’m being honest, Guam is a floating WWII museum with a US embassy on it.

So, the equation seems to be, at the worst calculations, Kim bombs Guam. The next move is a klaxon of payback which would see North Korea consigned to the pages of history by the expanse of America’s nuclear back catalogue. Apparently, Kim’s nuclear range walks to the fringe of Alaska, so that’s them out regarding meaningful targets. Even China, their greatest ally, has asked them to cease the penis measuring contest. So, I severely doubt it China standing up shouting a nuclear epitaph for the same reason – the military concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. Tritely put: if it kicks off, we’re all fucked.

What we should see it as then, as for what it is. Talk. Both are spewing the same angry nuclear platitudes for the same reason. For themselves. As Trump placates the right wing media, Kim is placating his base. No-one wants to look weak, but also, no-one wants to be wiped off the face of the earth, and that’s why one hasn’t been dropped in anger since Nagasaki.

TBS Likes...

TBS Likes is a strange place where anything goes. Like International Waters, or Christmas morning after the shine has worn off and the booze has kicked in. May the ugliness commence.