I have been somewhat bemused by the comments on this blog lately. Let me explain. First, with regard to North Korea. I am not entirely sure the readers who commented quite understand either what I was saying or the gravity of the situation. Howie B, it is quite true that North Korea would have to develop sophisticated guidance systems to be confident of striking San Francisco [or any other specific target] with a nuclear armed ICBM, but the technology is what is sometimes called “old technology,” it has been around for several generations, and I am fearful that North Korea would be able to develop it.
S. Wallerstein, if North Korea develops nuclear weapons for the purpose of protecting itself against a U. S. attack, that is rational -- not good, not a positive development, not something to be hoped for, just rational, hence predictable. But I am fearful that Kim Jung-un will behave irrationally, self-destructively, and hence in a manner that produces death and destruction on a massive scale in the United States or elsewhere. That is the same fear that grips me when I see that the U. S. has nuclear weapons, or that Great Britain, France, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, and Israel have nuclear weapons. Is North Korea more likely than those countries to behave irrationally, i.e., not in accord with its self-interest? Well, that is hard to say. John F. Kennedy behaved irrationally during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and we were saved by the fact that Nikita Khrushchev behaved rationally. Thus far, India and Pakistan have behaved rationally in their dispute over Kashmir, but who is to say they will continue to do so.
Perhaps even more frightening is the possibility that Kim Jung-un will miscalculate, will think he can threaten nuclear attack as a way of getting the United States to back off and incorrectly estimate how much provocation he can get away with. Is Trump less likely to respond rationally to such provocation than Clinton, Bush 1, Bush 2, or Obama? I don’t know but my impression is that the answer is yes.
Short of an infallible anti-missile defense, which, Ronald Reagan to the contrary notwithstanding, seems not to be technically feasible, we are confronted with a constant threat as great in its magnitude as the threat of global warming. That is what I thought sixty years ago when I agitated for nuclear disarmament, and that is what I think now.
With regard to the reactions to my lengthy post yesterday, let me address the rather odd comments of Robert Shore. Here is what he wrote: “Prof. Wolff, while you are exulting over March 20, 2017, you might want to recall October 28, 2016 as the day James Comey announced that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton's email server and its use. You know what came of that! And April 22, 1954, the day that Senator Joseph McCarthy began his hearing investigating the United States Army as being "soft on Communism" and you know what came of that! I know how much you hate President Trump but you might at least remember that a man is innocent until proven guilty and not go rushing headlong into your own premature judgment about Trump's possible collusion with Putin.”
I am mystified by these remarks. I “exulted,” as Shore put it, over March 20, 2017, because I thought, and still hope, that it would cripple Trump’s presidency, which I view as malign, not benign. [By the way, I was not exulting; I was telling my readers to mark the day because in years to come they might look back on it as having been as consequential as the day Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of a taping system in Nixon’s Oval Office, but let that slide.] I did not “exult” on October 28, 2016, because I was fearful that it would help Trump get elected. I was right about that. As for April 22, 1954, I actually watched some of that on the television set in the Graduate Dorm lounge at Harvard during breaks from studying for my doctoral exams. I had no idea at the time what might become of that event, but as it happens it led directly to the diminution of Joseph McCarthy’s influence, so in retrospect I “exult.”
Robert Shore’s last sentence is fascinating. I would never have known from his previous comments that he was such a prim and proper stickler for the rule of law. But in fact, if you will go back and read what I wrote, I did not rush to judgment. Instead, I laid out four logically discrete alternatives, made it clear I did not know which one was correct, and then engaged in the time-honored right, guaranteed under the U. S. Constitution, to speculate. I am not sitting on the judicial bench in judgment on Trump. I am just one of the spectators in the crowd, and I freely confess that I really hope Trump is found” guilty,” whatever that means, whether he actually is or not. There, I said it, go sue me.
I wonder, as I have before: What on earth is it about me that makes Bob Shore so mad?