One-Third of Americans Want to Nuke North Korea

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More than a third of Americans would support a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea if that country tested a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, new research has found, even if that preemptive strike killed a million civilians….Most did not want their government to launch a preemptive strike, but a large minority supported such a strike, whether by conventional or nuclear weapons.

What accounts for this? Fear? A board-game view of the world? Or do lots of people not really take poll questions like this seriously?

In 2002 I initially supported the Iraq War, and since then I’ve often wondered why. What I’ve concluded is that until that point I had never really taken war seriously. During my adult lifetime the United States had been involved in various forms of military intervention almost continually: Afghanistan, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and so on. Some of these were real wars while others were proxies of one kind or another, but they were always around. It just seemed like part of life. Deciding whether you were “for” or “against” any particular military action was like deciding if you supported some particular version of welfare reform or national health care. It was just everyday politics.

It was only when I started blogging that I was forced to think more closely about it. And when I did, I eventually turned against the Iraq War. But that doesn’t happen to very many people. The vast majority of us, whether pro- or anti-war, are never forced to think very hard about it. It’s just background noise, and our positions are part of the tribal loyalties that control our lives.

In that sense, then, it’s not surprising that a third of Americans think it would be a great idea to nuke Pyongyang. They aren’t thinking about a million dead, or the millions more that might die in a counterstrike. They’re all thousands of miles across the ocean anyway.¹ It’s just another US military action, and saying you’re for it isn’t much more than acknowledging that you’re a conservative and accept the conservative line on the military. That’s why 50 percent of Trump supporters approve of a nuclear strike while only 20 percent of non-supporters do.

But I still wonder: how many of these people would actually press the button if they were the ones who had to do it? Not a third or a half, surely. But a tenth?

¹In fact, the poll makes this obvious. In one scenario, 15,000 North Korean deaths are expected. In another scenario, it’s 1.1 million. Support for a nuclear strike is exactly the same regardless.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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