While everyone is obsessing about airplane groping and how devastated Michelle Obama is over something Donald Trump said, there’s increasingly talk about, uh, nuclear war. That’s right — specifically, there has been an uptick in Russian state-owned TV reports about preparations for nuclear war and general warhead-rattling. And, as The Post’s David Ignatius starkly lays out, Russia is not our only nuclear threat. He writes that South Korean and U.S. officials are increasingly worried that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “is racing through the warning lights to gain nuclear weapons and missile capabilities to attack his neighbors, and also the United States.” We should be very concerned, especially because, as Ignatius notes in his column, “the next U.S. president will have to decide what to do about it.”
So what can we expect? First, it’s worth nothing that our current president isn’t credible when it comes to deterrence — to the point where he isn’t even credible in suggesting there is any kind of “red line” that can’t be crossed. How sure are we that Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks an attack on the United States would be suicidal? What would happen if, God forbid, two U.S. cities were suddenly vaporized by missiles fired from a submarine lurking in the Atlantic? Is it incomprehensible that Putin might decide to dramatically shape history? Should the possibility be completely ignored? What would President Obama do in that situation? You like to think there is a foolproof plan in place, but remember, this is the same White House that couldn’t properly roll out the Obamacare website.
And second, there is little evidence that our would-be presidents are prepared to deal with the prospect of nuclear war. Trump probably doesn’t understand what nuclear deterrence is, and Hillary Clinton still thinks her failed Russian “reset” was a success. And, look at how the Russians continue to disrespect Clinton and the United States today, shamelessly hacking our political institutions in the aid of their preferred candidate. The Russians don’t seem particularly afraid of Clinton, and I doubt Kim Jong Un is either.
It’s obviously irresponsible to talk about nuclear war in any kind of cavalier or threatening way, particularly for the purpose of political gain, but Americans deserve to have a sense of what our country’s plan and policy would be if faced with a true nuclear threat. It’s a low-probability but high-consequence scenario. For any nuclear threats — however improbable — to be completely overshadowed in this campaign speaks to how damaged the 2016 campaign process has become. It is certain that the chances of a nuclear attack are greater today than at any time in the past 25 years.
The candidates are not only avoiding talking about issues that matter to the American people, but they’re also actually smothering news that every American should know and care about.