Donald Trump’s skill with Twitter helped him land the Republican presidential nomination and then the White House. But the social-media platform may not be especially well suited to tasks such as managing relations with unpredictable rogue nations like North Korea, armed with nuclear weapons, experts have warned.
Trump’s social-media activity is in the spotlight again, following his tweet in response to North Korea’s threat to explode a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. He glowered after an address to the U.N. by the North Korean foreign minister that the regime “won’t be around much longer” if it persists with its current policies.
The isolated Stalinist regime replied in typically histrionic fashion. A statement alleged that Trump’s tweet represented a declaration of war, even though it included no such statement.
This is not an unknown gambit, as North Korea has occasionally deemed previous statements or actions to be de facto declarations of war. It is also true that during the Korean War, the opposing sides agreed on an armistice but never a formal peace treaty; that means the conflict is still technically open.
However future historians identify this, along with Trump’s related tweets belittling Kim Jong Un as “little Rocket Man,” Twitter has became a tool (or weapon) in the practice of public diplomacy. This remarkable development raises a number of obvious concerns, including the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse and related procedural questions.
For one thing, is it realistic to expect that openly insulting the stature and ambitions of a totalitarian monster, demeaning and humiliating him in front of the entire world, will somehow prompt him to move in the direction of compromise and reconciliation?
If we accept that this is an extremely unlikely outcome, what possible use can there be for such taunts? Why goad a tetchy psychopath?
Even supposing confrontation somehow led to negotiation, is the 140-character limit really suited to hammering out the technical details of phased nuclear disarmament?
Second, supposing the President really did want to declare war via Twitter, how would that work? Does Congress retweet to indicate assent? Should future declarations of war also be live streamed on Facebook?
Finally, how is the presidential Twitter account security being managed? Lots of people are in and out of the White House with their own computers and email, it seems, and not everyone remembers to log out when they’re done. Look at what happened with Ted Cruz and that porn tweet. It would be 10X as embarrassing to inadvertently start a nuclear war.