Making a Difference: Game of North Korean-American brinkmanship

Sat, Dec 30th 2017 06:00 am
Social Justice and Peace Columnist

Remember the game of chicken?

It's a foolishly high-stakes challenge in which two drivers, risking death, drive on a collision course towards each other until one of the drivers chooses to swerve away.

This is a very dangerous game - a game now being played between North Korea and the United States.

But in this game of chicken, the high stakes of two possible deaths increases to hundreds of thousands of probable deaths. And if it goes nuclear, the stakes rise to millions dead.  

During the course of this year, North Korea has launched over 20 missiles - some flying over Japan - and according to seismic readings may have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. And if not already, it is getting close to being able to hit the U.S. with one or more nuclear armed missiles.

For its part, the U.S. has deployed in the Pacific three aircraft carrier strike groups. This armada of warships carrying attack aircraft and cruise missiles is capable of launching a massive preemptive attack upon North Korea.

Now add to this perilous saber rattling highly insulting verbal attacks from President Trump on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man" on a "suicide mission," and the counter insults from Kim Jong-un that Trump is a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard," and we have before us a nuclear-armed war game of chicken.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, grow up! This is no time to act like macho, self-centered adolescents. Think of the carnage that will result if you continue on this collision course.

Policy analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, James McKeon, told me that the U.S. and North Korea need to have "talks about talks," that is, conversations with no preconditions, in order to set the stage for formal negotiations.

McKeon added, "No preconditions diplomacy is the only viable option. If the Cold War proved anything, it is that talking to adversaries is not appeasement, it is smart policy that helped avoid nuclear war."

A clear example here of difficult, serious and successful diplomacy took place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis 55 years ago when calmer heads prevailed in avoiding nuclear war.

President Trump, during his U.N. speech, threatened to "totally destroy North Korea." This runs completely against Catholic social teaching.

The world's Catholic bishops, at the Second Vatican Council, solemnly declared: "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation."

Like the world's bishops of Vatican II, every single disciple of the nonviolent Jesus, should condemn this dangerous violent brinkmanship before it's too late.

Please email and call today your two U.S. senators and congressperson (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) and ask them to denounce this path to war and to urge President Trump to immediately pursue a diplomatic and negotiated peaceful settlement (Also, please send the following letters: and  

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings.

Related Articles