When I was picking up my son from school the other day, his teacher informed me that he and this other kid called Bob Carlsson had become hostile towards one another. They called each other names, threw stuff at each other and had even started a fist fight during the lunch break that day.
I did what every responsible parent would do and told Bob I would turn his life into a living hell. I publicly announced on social media that I would kill him and his whole family, burning their house to the ground. They would be slaughtered like no other family before them. I also pointed out that my duck is bigger than Bob’s.
As one could imagine, it all turned out very well. Bob and my son quit the fighting and started to play video games instead. The principal thanked me for my wise conflict-management skills and promised me a diploma for elegantly resolving the dispute. The local paper here in Uppsala wrote an article headlined: “Pastor Smoothly Solves Conflict by Promising to Kill Entire Family”.
Now, before you call the police, let me point out that I don’t have a son and that the account above is a parable for how many people view Trump’s conflict management skills regarding North Korea (NK).
We all know the story: Kim Jong-Un increased NK’s nuclear bombing capabilities, Trump threatened NK with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”, Kim threatened to attack the US, Trump said – in front of the UN – that he would “totally destroy” NK, Kim teased that his nuclear button is always ready on his desk, whereas Trump responded that his button is bigger.
Some time passes, and we read in the papers that Kim Jong-Un all of a sudden wants to meet Trump and discuss denuclearization with him. NK has even started to demolish a nuclear test site, it seems. Kim’s historic meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae-in appeared successful and optimism has returned to the Korean peninsula.
Many have attributed this development to Trump’s violent threats of fire, fury and genocide. The idea is that Kim got so scared hearing this, that he shifted from war-mongering to peace-seeking diplomacy. As a result, many have claimed that we should thank Trump for the more peaceful situation. As he put it himself, “everybody thinks” he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
Of course, this presupposes that Trump is a rational decision-maker who aimed to establish peace with NK in the first place. We have a lot of reasons to doubt this. I have previously written on the irrationality and inconsistency of Trump. What caused the NK switch from hostility to cooperation was in large parts the diplomatic efforts of former secretary of state Rex Tillerson. These were efforts that Trump tried to stop. That’s right, while the POTUS was threatening to exterminate the North Korean population, he didn’t want to talk with Kim diplomatically. This alone shows that the shift to peace talks happened in spite of Trump’s actions, not because of them.
As Mike Pence continued to use the “bold and angry” threatening rhetoric even after Kim and Trump had agreed to meet each other, saying that NK will end up like Libya if they don’t get rid of the nukes, NK didn’t want to meet any more. Trump said the same thing, and dropped out of the talks. Now, he’s changed his mind and they are supposed to meet June 12th.
This is not how a wise, calculating leader establishes peace. Even if peace is achieved in the end, Trump’s efforts would be like an elephant stumbling into a china shop with a broom in its trunk and somehow managing to clean it up without destroying too much.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, showed us 2,000 years ago how to be peacemakers. Love your enemies, he said (Mt 5:44), do good to those who hate you and do to them as you would have them do to you (7:12). Saying that you will destroy an entire nation is not part of that plan. There is no mechanism in “fire and fury” that establishes peace. Such rhetoric escalates conflicts. What we need in the world today, is de-escalation.
Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!