Remember the nuclear arms race of the 1980s? The United States and the Soviet Union both scrambled to acquire more weapons, increasing the likelihood that the entire world would be blown to bits. Well, Donald Trump thinks another one of those would be great.
“Let it be an arms race, we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump reportedly told Mika Brzezinski, who broke the news this morning on Morning Joe.
Brzezinski was quoting Trump from an off-air discussion, and despite the fact that the president-elect didn’t appear on the show, both she and Joe Scarborough seemed a bit concerned about the brazen call for a new arms race.
Donald Trump got some heat yesterday when he sent out a tweet calling for the US to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” The message was alarming, but it left enough wiggle room that it could have generously been interpreted as modernizing our nuke technology.
And that’s precisely what Trump’s incoming communications director Jason Miller said. Miller insisted that the tweet was about “the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it” and that the message “emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength.”
But all of that appears to be bullshit. Trump is embracing a literal arms race with an unnamed adversary (presumably China or Russia) that would increase nuclear weapons at a time when America’s most dangerous adversaries are non-state actors who can’t be fought with nuclear weapons. If, for instance, ISIS were to acquire and use a nuclear bomb, where would the US retaliate? It simply defies the most basic military logic.
Somewhat ironically, Mika Brzezinski had a walk-on role in one of history’s scariest nuclear close-calls. Her father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security advisor to President Carter, got a terrifying phone call in the early morning hours of November 9, 1979. Officers at NORAD were reporting that the Soviet Union had just launched 250 nuclear missiles at the United States, and they wanted to know how to respond. A second call came moments later to notify him that it was now 2,200 missiles. He didn’t bother to wake up his wife or daughter (Mika) because he figured they’d all be dead soon.
Thankfully, it was a false alarm, and there was no retaliatory strike ordered before they figured it all out. The entire thing was a computer simulation gone wrong—basically some nightmare scenario straight from Hollywood that almost ended the civilized world.
There will no doubt be plenty of mental gymnastics by Trump and his supporters to bend over backward and either say that he never called for a new arms race, or double down and say it’s best for the country. Or both! You never know with this guy.
All we know for sure is that this kind of uncertainty and instability, with the future leader of the free world sending out cryptic tweets for all the world to see and interpret, is not going to end well for any of us.
Update 8:38am: As expected, incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was on the Today Show this morning shortly after the news broke on Morning Joe. Spicer insisted that there wasn’t going to be an arms race. And yet, he followed up his statements with a description that sure sounds like an arms race to me.
“But other countries need to be put on notice that he is not going to sit back and allow them to undermine our safety, our sovereignty. He is going to match other countries and take action,” Spicer told Matt Lauer.
We’re all screwed.