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Fire and Fury, Signifying Nothing

The more rational of the current players

In researching Volume 14 and Volume 16, Game Theory and the Nuclear Age, much of my thinking could be distilled into two theses. The first of these has been confirmed by recent events. The second must make us pause and grow concerned for our future.

North Korea has, according to accounts, developed its nuclear capacity at a pace faster than what analysts predicted as recently as one year ago. According to a recent study by the Institute for Science and International Security, North Korea has between 13 and 30 warheads and is adding up to five per year. While they don’t have the capacity (or necessarily the ambition) to develop classical two-stage “H-bombs”, they are likely to have capacity for one-stage fusion bombs in the medium term. We said that prevention via technical difficulty is a losing strategy to prevent proliferation to a nation focused towards such a goal. This evidence for this first thesis thus has a very strong piece of confirmation.

Our second thesis is that, in a nuclear-armed world, we can best prevent nuclear war via encouraging rational behavior in a game theoretic system. The most stable nuclear game theory developed so far is Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. In MAD, both “players” maintain credible second-strike capacity. This involves open and honest disclosure of destructive capacity, clear guidelines as to when nuclear weapons will be used, and certainty that players will follow through on their retaliatory attacks. In other words, MAD requires clarity and credibility; the stability of the world in this game is equal to the extent which players display these qualities.

This brings us to one Donald John Trump. In the United States, nuclear weapon policy is decided by a single person. There is no way to prevent a President from using nuclear weapons if he or she so chooses (there is also no way to force their use). Because of this, in the United States, our dual principles of clarify and credibility are enormously incumbent on one individual.

So, after a recent, provocative act by the North Korean leader, our President had a reaction of the type we have all come, unfortunately, to expect. He said that the first action he took as President was to improve our nuclear weapons capabilities. This was his first lie. The program in question was started by Barack Obama, while Trump began with an executive order destabilizing the healthcare system. He then went on to say that because of his (fictitious) action, our capacities are “far stronger and more powerful than ever before.” This is also a lie. The weapons upgrade program is still near the beginning of a 30-year cycle. We have no more destructive power than we had one year ago or ten years ago.

I know what you are thinking – most Americans know not to believe anything that comes out of the mouth of