By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
In his speech to the UN General Assembly last Tuesday, President Trump issued a pretty blunt threat. If the United States is forced to, he said, “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." It was not out of step with his previous rhetoric on the subject, including his comment a couple of weeks earlier that the rogue regime would be met with "fire and fury," but it was jarring to many based simply on the context. From the lectern of the organization created to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," the commander of the world's largest military just threatened to kill 25 million people. Some see this, of course, as characteristic of Mr. Trump's typical approach. As observers of Trump's style have noted, on matters large and small, he likes to sell himself as a no-nonsense tough guy, and to constantly reinforce the message that if you come after him, he is going to come after you.
The question is whether it is a strategy or just a habit. The tough-guy hardball talk is beloved by his base, and there is good reason to believe that this was the primary target even for a speech delivered to the world's leaders. But even if the message helps to bolster Trump's approval ratings among his supporters, internationally it is easy to see the threat magnifying and not alleviating the nuclear weapons crisis on the Korean peninsula. Now, for example, in the face of a highly-visible threat to destroy the country, some will see North Korea of having more reasons to keep and to develop its nuclear arsenal. Outside the world of international relations, litigation is another arena where tough talk is frequent, and frequently counterproductive. Particularly at the dispute-resolution phase of litigation where common interests can provide a genuine foundation for a mutually beneficial settlement, it is easy to see how hardening one's rhetorical stances can do real damage. In this post, I'll share some thoughts on why some attorneys will persist with the tough talk anyway, and why that's likely to backfire in many cases.