Hours after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un claimed that he had a nuclear button at his desk and that his country’s nuclear arsenal was a reality that the world would have to deal with, President Donald Trump had a message of his own, sent via Twitter. Social media was consumed by a firestorm of nuclear proportions.

Fear of nuclear war consumes the Internet

Whatever message Trump meant to give Kim about the dangers of rattling the nuclear saber, a considerable number of people on Twitter expressed shock and fear unheard since the depths of the Cold War.

Some expressed the fear that Trump had threatened nuclear war against North Korea and left the impression that a first strike was imminent. Others demanded that Twitter take away the president’s privileges on the theory that threatening nuclear war violates that platform’s terms of service.

The reaction was similar to what happened over 30 years ago when President Ronald Reagan joked, at the beginning of a radio broadcast, that, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I have signed legislation to outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” The media firestorm was similar to the one confronting President Trump and turned out to be just as overwrought.

Trump gives a lesson in nuclear deterrence

A careful reading of the president’s tweet suggests that he was not so much threatening nuclear war but was trying to impress upon Kim the reality of nuclear deterrence in the 21st Century. Simply put, if North Korea were to carry out a threat and launch a nuclear attack against the American homeland or that of any ally of the United States that country would cease to exist as a result of a retaliatory strike.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union understood that principle during the Cold War which is why the world was not destroyed in a nuclear exchange.

It’s all Obama’s fault

In a way, Trump was obliged to remind Kim of what playing with nuclear weapons can entail, thus frightening his enemies to death on social media, because of the policies of his predecessor.

President Obama cut back the development of missile defense systems, with the result that the United States Military cannot now guarantee that a nuclear launch against the United States or an ally could be stopped. The United States military is rapidly attempting to close that gap and ensure that the world is protected from North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, just as President Reagan sought to upend the balance of terror with the SDI program. However, for the time being, Trump is only imparting an inconvenient truth.