We’ve all seen the memes and tweets about North Korea, China, or Russia and the United States somehow getting into nuclear war—ending the world as we know it. Is this something you and I should be very worried about? Honestly, no.
There may be many complex military, and diplomatic issues around the world, including the situation in North Korea, but the world has many institutions in place to diffuse these issues. The United Nations is one of these institutions. While it may be limited in the actions it can take, it can still open a dialogue and make talks happen. In addition, we have to take into consideration the concept of “rational actors.”
Back in 2012, Fareed Zakaria from CNN described a “rational actor” as “somebody who is concerned about their survival, prosperity or strength and is making calculations on the basis of these concerns. It describes someone who calculates costs and benefits.” North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jon-un is considered a rational actor. Donald Trump is considered a rational actor. Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi are also rational actors. Regardless of their rhetoric, none will push the big red button for no reason because it results in annihilation. Kim Jong-un and his father have lashed out at the international community and defied international norms repeatedly but have not gone off the brink. This same concept should also erase the fear of war of any kind with Russia or China—nuclear or conventional warfare will only result in mutual annihilation.
In addition to all the involved leaders being rational actors, we must understand that North Korea might not even have the capability to launch a nuclear warhead that would reach the United States. Of course, they probably already have the capability to hit South Korea or Japan, but with the agreements we have with those allies, that may as well be considered an attack on the United States. BBC quoted Professor Hecker of Stanford University, saying last year that “Pyongyang's ability to field an intercontinental ballistic missile fitted with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the US was ‘still a long way off - perhaps 5 to 10 years, but likely doable if the programme is unconstrained’.” Just on Easter Sunday, North Korea’s latest missile launch failed again.
Is it likely that North Korea can directly hit the United States with nukes? Not very likely, no. Is it likely that we get into World War 3 with any of the aforementioned countries? Again, not very likely, no.
Feel free to share your memes and post about your fears, but don’t drive yourself crazy.