Once, Mao Zedong said: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” But, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have the most destructive weapons, atomic bombs, which form the source of their power. And, the destructive weapons allow these two statesmen to play with the world.

The North Korean leader recently threatened to use the weapon against the US, saying that Hwasong-15 – the newly test-fired intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can carry a “super-large heavy warhead” – is very much capable of striking the entire mainland of America. In reply, President Trump said that the US, too, was ready to destroy the North Korean regime. It seems that the two leaders have no plan to sit together and to resolve the crisis through negotiation. As a result, the fear is rising. The fear of destruction.

The root of this fear lies in the consequences of nuclear explosions. The world has experienced the use of this weapon only once. America was the only country that had nuclear weapons in 1945. Since the first test of a nuclear bomb on July 16, 1945, nine more countries have developed (or possessed) nuclear weapons and have created dangers that were unprecedented before August 1945 when the US became the first (and only) country to actually use them for wartime purposes, with the bombings of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9). It was not only the history of destruction and fear, but also the history of political balance (read the balance of power).

According to the ‘Encyclopedia of the New American Nation’, “It was well recognised that the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union were in direct and unique competition. The appalling consequences of nuclear war introduced a new kind of stability. The so-called balance of terror or balance of deterrence ensured that each nuclear power was anxious not to give the other power any sort of signal that would justify an attack, and was also anxious not to identify such a signal.”

Although both the US and the Soviet had nuclear weapons, they didn’t use them during the Cold War. Many people feared the world was on the brink of a nuclear war in October 1962, when leaders of the two countries engaged in a tense 13-day political and military stand-off over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba. However, Soviet and American leaders found a way out of the impasse and resolved the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ through peaceful negotiation.

This experience gave birth to a new theory – (nuclear) deterrence. Deterrence is basically a strategy “intended to dissuade an adversary from taking an action not yet started, or to prevent them from doing something that another state desires”. In his ‘Dictionary of Modern Strategy and Tactics’, Michael Keane defines deterrence as “the prevention or inhibition of action brought about by fear of the consequences”. Keane says: “Deterrence is a state of mind brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction. It assumes and requires rational decision makers. A credible nuclear deterrent must be always at the ready, yet never used.” This theory has so far been successful, as nuclear weapons were not used for a third time after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, we can’t say that, which has not happened, will never happen. The global geopolitics has changed. The main condition of deterrence theory is certainty or assurance. Now, ‘uncertainty’ rules the world affairs. It is impossible to predict what Kim Jong-un will do in any particular situation. It’s not a matter of his personal character, but it depends on the overall global political situation. We have to realise the ‘reality’ and accordingly, strive to resolve the crisis through diplomacy.

But, President Trump is often touted to be the one lacking diplomatic skills. People even went to the extent of mentioning that he does not possess the understanding of the meaning of diplomacy, at all. In fact, some of his moves have made North Korea so dangerous. It may be said that the world is thrashed to the brink of a nuclear war due to these two ‘learned’ statesmen.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]