Observations of an ex pat: Trouble at NWS 101

There are serious problems in the playground at Nuclear Weapons School 101. There is a new boy—Kim. Nobody likes him. He is loud, obnoxious and into domestic abuse in a big way.

Kim is especially disliked by Donald who is president of the student council, captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams, number one in his class and popular with all the girls. And he has been at the school less than a year.  Donald also controls a big chunk of what Kim regards as his home turf.  In fact, Donald and his family have been calling the shots at NWS 101 since they threw the first and—so far—the  only knock-out punch against Tojo and Hirohito.

Donald is strong. Very strong, and he backs it up with a frightening array of brass knuckles, baseball bats, knives, axes, swords, clubs, machetes and the biggest,  bestest and most frightening array of guns ever developed by mankind.

Some of the other kids in the playground are a bit envious of Donald. They think he has been throwing his weight around too much. This is especially true of Vladimir and Xi. That is why when Kim started building up his rival arsenal they turned a blind eye. They even smuggled some sweets to him. Perhaps, they thought,  it was time that Donald was taken down a peg or two. Perhaps introducing Kim to the playground could persuade Donald to share the captaincy of one of the sports teams or a girlfriend or two.

They don’t want Donald hurt. They need him and—even though he has occasional problems recognizing it—he needs them too.

Kim doesn’t have such qualms. He is anxious to prove his tough guy credentials and is not in the least concerned about who is hurt in the process. He has built up his own arsenal and even though it is nowhere near the size of Donald’s weapons stock, Kim is threatening to attack Donald on his home turf.

This is clearly unacceptable to Donald. There is a lot at stake here. Not only does he have to protect his family, but he cannot be seen to give in to the new kid on the block. That would be a humiliation that could lead to the loss of all his captaincies and the big prom date.

There is also the issue of deterrence. The knock-out punch thrown by Donald’s great grandfather Harry back in ’45 has kept the peace in the playground ever since.  Except for Vladimir’s big brothers Joe, Nikita and Leonid, no one has seriously challenged the dominance of Donald’s family at NWS 101. But that is because his family has always made it clear—without actually saying it–  that if any of the other kids took a blow at them they would flatten them with “fire and fury”.

Except for a slip when Fidel tried to burst through the school gates in ‘62, no one has ever actually said anything close to this because if you use words like that you may be called to back them up with action. If you don’t, you look extremely silly and your deterrence is totally useless and all that money spent on building up the arsenal is just wasted.

Today’s situation is further complicated  by the complex structure of the current playground politics. Anti-Donald groups are sprouting up around the seesaw, on the swings, down the slide and behind the bike shed. He is not popular.  As bad as Kim is (and is really, really bad), Donald has developed a bit of a reputation and an unpredictable bully, much more so than any previous member of his family at the school.

Then you have to add the the fact that the frightening array of both Kim and Donald’s weapons means that it is quite likely that an exchange of blows could easily flatten the entire playground, the school buildings and—quite possibly– the entire town, the surrounding countryside and over the horizon and beyond.  Playground fights have a bad record for quickly spiralling out of control.

At the moment both Kim and Donald are facing each other toe to toe in the playground hurling insults and threats at each other. “I’ll flatten you,” shouts Kim. “Just try it and you will be met with fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen before,” spits Donald. “That’s a load of nonsense and you are bereft of reason,” retorts Kim who is clearly guilty of the sin of the pot calling the kettle black.

Kim has ordered his gang lieutenants to prepare an attack plan for him to carry out “within days.” Of course, if he doesn’t, the new kid will also look very silly, and his family—who are a bit tired of his domestic abuse—may throw him out of the house.

The rest of the kids at NWS 101 are frankly terrified, and desperately holding back Donald and Kim. XI and Vladimir are so worried that they have agreed to cut off Kim’s sweet supplies –and his luncheon money.  But the two unpredictable bullies continue to shout at each other, and everyone—inside and outside the school gates—are terrified of the consequences of the first blow.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 11th Aug '17 - 9:54am

    Donald is also spending too much time on his new computers and likes to disrupt other people’s sleep with his boasting. But Vladimir has the same kind of toys and can send messages, but Kim’s new toys are liable to break the first time he touches them, which others neither confirm nor deny. Kim has not hurt himself so far, but suppose he did? Something he had been watching on his small screen might affect him for a little while. Would holiday plans for the family be affected?

  • Andrew McCaig 13th Aug '17 - 9:16am

    Hmm, I would not be quite so sanguine about China who remind me a bit of Britain in the early days of the East India Company…. There are many ways to build an Empire..
    However on the immediate issue, I read an interesting article about the way the ruling family has embedded nuclear weapons and missiles, and the always imminent threat of a US attack, into the psyche of the N Korean people. There is not the slightest chance of Kim changing direction as a result of political pressure.
    On the other hand Kim knows that Korea would be wiped out in any war with the USA, so I think he genuinely sees his weapons as an essential deterrent. Other countries like Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons without any pre-emptive action. I think there is a real danger of Trump starting a war with N Korea, and hundreds of thousands in Seoul and elsewhere would likely die. There is a suspicion that Trump like the playground bully depicted in the article really wants to use nuclear weapons, just to see what happens… And he is backing himself into a corner with his own foolish rhetoric… I don’t expect N Korea to be sensible but I do expect that from the USA…
    Make no mistake, any war in Korea, let alone a nuclear one (typically a very distant playground from the USA) would be a disaster not just for that region, but for us all, with the strong position of S Korea in the world economy…

  • Humphrey Hawksley 13th Aug '17 - 12:32pm

    It would be useful if Jo Swinson or Vince Cable suggested an initiative on this. British soldiers died in the as yet unresolved Korean War. Britain is a permanent member of the UNSC. It could at the least suggest a road map for the collapse of the regime; mechanisms to stop wild and scared generals selling of nuclear weapons material to ISIS; how to avoid an Iraq-style de-Baathification that fuelled insurgency etc. Has anyone heard anything original on this from the Lib Dems so far?

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