Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Hey: We are edging closer to nuclear war!

Why is President Harry S. Truman on President Donald Trump’s mind this week?

Hardtack_II_Socorro_test

Why is President Harry S. Truman on President Donald Trump’s mind this week? (If you didn’t notice, Trump invoked Truman twice in his U.N. speech yesterday.) Well, one reason may be that Truman is the only president to have authorized the use of nuclear weapons. Twice.

If the allusions to Truman left any doubt, Trump’s remarks on North Korea didn’t. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Why is President Harry S. Truman on President Donald Trump’s mind this week? (If you didn’t notice, Trump invoked Truman twice in his U.N. speech yesterday.) Well, one reason may be that Truman is the only president to have authorized the use of nuclear weapons. Twice.

If the allusions to Truman left any doubt, Trump’s remarks on North Korea didn’t. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Taking that along with Defense Secretary James Mattis’s remarks about tactical nuclear weapons earlier this week, brings me to the conclusion that we are edging closer to nuclear war. This is extreme deterrence — something the United States has not engaged in for many decades. And we have an amateur in the driver’s seat.

Photo credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

coronavirus-vaccine-predictions-2021-foreign-policy-global-thinkers-brian-stauffer-illustration

The World After the Coronavirus

We asked 12 leading thinkers to predict what happens in 2021 and beyond.

Protesters prepare to burn an effigy of Chinese President Xi Jinping during an anti-China protest in Siliguri, India, on June 17, 2020.

Why Attempts to Build a New Anti-China Alliance Will Fail

The big strategic game in Asia isn’t military but economic.

china-bhutan-settlement-village-security-outpost-border-dispute

China Is Building Entire Villages in Another Country’s Territory

Since 2015, a previously unnoticed network of roads, buildings, and military outposts has been constructed deep in a sacred valley in Bhutan.