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'World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones'

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So where did it all go wrong for humanity that it came to this, a nuclear showdown between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un? Last week, Trump told Kim his "armada" was on its way. In fact, it was heading in the opposite direction. He either didn't know or didn't care. Does it matter any more?

How is it that the fate of the world came to be in the hands of two men so ill-equipped for the task? Kim's worst excesses wildly exceed Trump's, but the two men are alike in their grandiosity and bad haircuts. Kim's makes him look like a strangely indulged five-year-old. My brother Richard reckons Kim's barber is the John Clarke of totalitarian humour.

Kim represents the failure of the old Left which promised dictatorships of the proletariat but only managed to deliver the dictatorship part of it. Trump, the so-called champion of the free world, has a fascination with dictators – or, as they are becoming known, "strong men". This week, he rang to congratulate Turkey's President Erdogan on winning a referendum that will gut parliamentary democracy in that nation.

"Strong men" relate easily to other "strong men" – until they fall out. During the US presidential election, while describing Kim Jong-Un as a maniac you don't play games with, Trump said you had to give him "credit". " How many young guys he was like 26 or 25 when his father died – take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden – you know, it's pretty amazing when you think of it … How does he do that? … he goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss. It's incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one." How does he do it? Like the Mafia do it.

Trump was always going to lead us in the direction of war. Putin's popularity in Russia has repeatedly been restored by war. Big Brother's slogan in George Orwell's novel "1984" is "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength". Here is the slogan for an Orwellian novel titled "2017": "War is Peace, Parliamentary Democracy is Slavery, Fake News is Strength."

So how did it come to this? Well, the planet is overcrowded, millions of people are on the move as refugees. The people in western democracies have been sold a notion of growth economics which is not sustainable and is leading to increasingly reckless measures like fracking. The combination of mass migration and economic stagnation has opened a fault line in democracies that they are struggling to bridge. The new Left, meantime, has retreated into gender and identity politics which have marginal interest for the larger electorate.

Trump promised to Make America Great Again. In fact, he is a Third World leader and the question is whether four years of his government will succeed in making America a Third World nation and drag us down with it.

The Washington Post reported this week that Kim Jong-Un's nuclear arsenal is outnumbered by the US's and, in the words of one commentator, Kim knows that if he "goes", he has to "go" first. The Post quoted another commentator saying there are now voices in Trump's circle saying he should "go" first. This could be the prelude to what Albert Einstein called World War III.

My favourite saying of Einstein's is, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Einstein played a part in the creation of the atomic bomb during World War II, a decision he came to regret. Here is something he said which is so simple even children can get it: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."