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Monday 9 December 2019
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The kid with the AK-47

There is a lot to be said for living in a small place that is not at the forefront of the world in any way.

Quality of life has nothing to do with fast roads, free internet, fancy restaurants and a “city that never sleeps.” What it does have to do with is being able to walk around your neighbourhood in safety and not having to worry too much about your friends and family when they do the same.

To that extent, the quality of life in Tobago is superior to that in many places including Trinidad, even though certain types always want more action in their neck of the woods. A friend of mine back in the Channel Islands once professed a desire to leave the peaceful, comfortable beaches and country lanes of his home island and move to, of all places, Washington, DC. Why? Because he saw it as the centre of the world, the place where decisions were made that would affect everyone on the planet.

And who’s to say he wasn’t right about what the US capital is and symbolises? The Russians might argue, as might the Chinese and, nowadays, the North Koreans. But there lies the down side, the overwhelming counter-argument. World peace has never been in a more delicate state. We joked about Donald Trump and how he would get up the nose of any self-respecting world leader, and now he has done it. He has come up against a man ill-qualified to be in the position he is in but too immature and drunk with power to realise that. And if Kim Jong-un eventually pushes the button on one of his nuclear toys, it is more than likely going to be aimed at Donald Trump’s armchair in the White House.

It’s all very well firing a harmless warning shot into the sea surrounding a remote American territory, as North Korea did with Guam, but that was just a wake-up call. If you’re going to do some actual damage, you don’t just want to rattle cages, you want to destroy or severely weaken any possibility of a response.

Having demonstrated that it has the missiles and, in separate tests, the explosive capability, Kim Jong-un and his staff are now engaged in a bizarre PR offensive designed to try to get the rest of the world on their side or at least show that they are being disrespected and have given warnings of the consequences.

Unfortunately, if typically of the human race as a whole, this is not far removed from a playground dispute, calling the other side names and, whatever they accuse you of, accusing them of the same. It’s the sort of thing that politicians learn the parameters of on their ascent to the top, but in this case we have a US businessman who only became a politician at the last minute because it was the only avenue left in his lust for power, and a North Korean who was born into the role and has faced no real opposition his whole life, except perhaps from the father who put him in his false position in the first place.

The result is that, whatever the two sides might claim about having the interests of others at heart, the rest of the world is just hoping the scientists have got their calculations right, so that the two protagonists can wipe each other out and not take the rest of us with them.

Even if that were to happen – a clean bout with no repercussions outside the two theatres of war – would it end there? Let’s say the USA was removed from the equation, how would Kim view the rest of the world? He would be the kid who walked into the staff room with an AK-47 and annihilated the teachers. So woe betide anyone else who dared assert any authority.

If the reverse were to happen, while the PR would sound different, a man as aggressive and arrogant as Trump is hardly likely to rush to his local Catholic church to confess and spend the rest of his days in obscurity, growing peanuts and helping the needy.

It is a situation the world finds itself in and is powerless to do anything about. Diplomacy can only achieve so much and it would take persuasive talk on an astonishing scale, with an unprecedented groundswell of popular opinion (in the US – it’s hard to see that happening in North Korea) to avert a global disaster.

So, anyone fancy moving to Washington or Pyongyang? Or shall we go to Parlatuvier and enjoy the natural beauties and benefits with which we have been blessed, before it’s too late?

After all, TT is not on the flight path of any missile exchange between these two opponents. Perhaps all we can do is keep our heads down and hope for the best.

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