There is an unmissable irony in Donald Trump, President of the United States, addressing the United Nations, set-up after the Second world War to promote global peace and co-operation, with the bluntest of threats to “totally destroy” North Korea.
The only moot point is whether Trump intends to achieve that objective with a military invasion and conventional weapons, or by nuclear strike. If we had to bet, the smart money would be on the latter.
A forum for dialogue and cultural understanding, used as an audience for the delivery of the most incendiary message a world leader could muster. These are deeply worrying times.
Trump, of course, is no admirer of the UN, and has been consistently dismissive of the body since coming to power. Up until now, that criticism has been accepted as the usual bluster we have become accustomed to.
Yesterday, his rhetoric moved to a new level. In vowing to obliterate North Korea, Trump is deliberately provoking Kim Jong-un, and by resorting to the playground tactic of name-calling with his reference to “Rocket man”, Trump is laughing at the North Korean leader.
This sort of approach has worked well for Trump in the New York real estate market, where the winner takes all, and risks can be handsomely rewarded. He seems to believe that the same sort of approach can produce similar results in war games, when the reality is that there would be no winners. A strike on North Korea would almost certainly prompt counter-attacks on every territory within range of Kim Jong-un’s armoury – South Korea, China, Japan, Russia – and that is before account is taken of the secondary effects of fall-out from a nuclear explosion.
Of course, it is possible that trump’s baiting of the North Korean could be enough to spark warfare. If we are unsure of what Trump’s actual strategy is, we have no idea what his counterpart is thinking right now, or how close to the edge he might already be.
The other great irony of yesterday’s war-mongering address is that Trump is looking for backers to endorse his positioning. But a glance around the room would have seen only despair from the assembled delegates.
Trump’s only known way of dealing with conflict is to goad, and growl threats which put every one of us at risk. No-one will back him, but can anyone stop him?