The folly of fire and fury
EDITORIAL: Remember JFK: "We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth."
Now consider Trump threatening North Korea with "fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before".
Does this sound like political progress to anybody?
Whether or not the dark warnings that are flying between those two nations are intimidating their respective leaders, they are surely alarming the rest of the world, which has scant reason to trust the stability and rationality of either man.
Even horror writer Stephen King sounds more scared than scary.
"Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, currently in a battle to see who is the craziest man on the planet," he writes.
To regard the incendiary comments coming from each of them as just over-the-top rhetoric would be more of a comfort than we can reasonable be entitled to.
You could argue that for three generations of leadership, North Korea has parlayed a threatening posture into aid that it desperately needs.
That this has been essentially brinksmanship to maintain the impression to the onlooking world that pacifying it with goodies is a worthwhile strategy.
But mere illusion does not suffice and there's no getting around it that the hermit kingdom's capacities have been increasing.
For his part, Trump doesn't do brinksmanship. For him, over-the-top is the only pathway that seems to have worked for him. He lacks the self-discipline and capacity for detailed awareness required to step carefully.
These are two personalities entirely capable of hypering each other into an increasingly agitated state.
And neither has surrounded himself with reliably stabilising advisors.
It is no small development that North Korea's missile reach now stretches to North America. The US reaction has included sending bombers on a show of force, while North Korea specified a US base in Guam as a specific target.
The UN Security Council, which so often has been an inept and sluggish presence when it's been needed, has this time been coming up with the goods with consequential sanctions that really will put pressure on the Kim regime.
For this to be consequential it must be managed with enormous care, so the tensions become a compelling force without proving intolerable.
Unhappily, each of these two leaders really do seem capable of agitating the weaknesses of the other.
It makes for scary times indeed.