Protected as we are by the vast expanses of the Great Plains, it’s easy for Kansans to shrug off North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM ambitions. Easy, but wrong.

Kim Jong-Un is the third of the Kim family to rule the not-so-failed state of North Korea. He is short, pudgy and sports a hilarious hair-do. One almost expects to spot him clutching a lollipop. But he is neither insane nor suicidal.

Kim’s putatively communist ideology plays a subservient role to his amoral pragmatism. He’s ruthlessly Machiavellian, raised from childhood in a dynastic culture of court intrigues and lethal power games. He has orchestrated the murder of potential competitors within his own family.

Though impoverished by Kim’s policies and his diversion of capital to a large, well-equipped military, the population of North Korea still worships him as their lord and savior; blame American imperialists for the poverty. Intensive domestic propaganda fuels Kim’s nuclear advances.

Kim doesn’t aspire to rule the world. His goal is to safeguard North Korea’s independence — under his dictatorship. He resents his afterthought status among the world’s powers. Better to be a powerful pariah.

Trump’s juvenile name-calling underscores his own helplessness and ignorance. Calling Kim a “little rocket man” is not effective foreign policy. Kim responds by calling Trump a “dotard,” well aware that Trump’s Pee-Wee Hermanoid retorts will stall until his staff looks up “dotard” and tries to explain it to him.

In an early briefing session, President Trump reportedly asked three times: “What good are nukes if you don’t use them?” (Sad.)

Kim answers that question. Despite layers of “sanctions,” this whole conversation emerges from North Korea’s own possession of nukes and missiles, upon which it relies for deterrence against outright military intervention in its affairs. Kim understands deterrence; Trump does not, which makes him all the more dangerous to world stability.

Here are some facts Americans need to understand while Trump is thumbing his nose instead of curbing his tongue.

The liabilities of modern nuclear warfare extend to the whole globe, even if a bomb never hits U.S. territory. Korean bombs’ yield is a thousand times greater than those used on Japan in 1945.

Depending on the type and number of bombs, the explosion location and attendant weather conditions, radioactive fallout can be carried high into the atmosphere and dispersed by winds, eventually precipitating out to contaminate distant countries. Like ours.

An actual strike on U.S. territory would disrupt communications, transportation and supply capacity, with medical systems and power grids thrown into turmoil. Many deaths unrelated to direct radiation exposure would occur, including disease epidemics and starvation among civilian populations.

Consider post-Maria Puerto Rico’s ongoing tragedy. Imagine salvaging a devastated metropolis where radioactive contamination has permeated the soil and regional water sources, and survivors are sick from radiation, infection and thermal burns.

There are ways for Kim to maximize his bombs’ lethality. He could simply incorporate ordinary cobalt into a bomb casing. When the bomb detonates, it turns the cobalt into its radioactive isotope, cobalt-60. The result is higher levels of long-lasting radioactive contamination. Conventional nukes can leave the target area uninhabitable for weeks to months, but cobalt bombs could extend that period to a century or more. A major port city, out-of-bounds for a century?

The bombs of 1945 burst high above the ground. Blast, thermal and direct radiation injuries were severe, but the effects didn’t spread far. Detonate that same bomb on the surface of the ground and the local effects will be less than those of an airburst, but fallout will affect a much larger downwind area.

It’s not even necessary to bomb a city to cause chaos. Ionizing radiation from a bomb detonated high in the atmosphere can alter the ionosphere, disrupting communications. But the enormous electromagnetic pulse (EMP) of the explosion can degrade or destroy sophisticated electronic hardware. Modern warfare since Desert Storm has relied heavily on GPS guidance from satellites, not to mention computerized systems. Unless they’re heavily “hardened” against an EMP, they’re toast.

High-altitude bursts are even more effective if the bomb contains an “enhanced radiation” warhead, as does the neutron bomb. The percentage of energy dissipated as blast and heat is reduced, redirected into a massive increase in radiation.

If Trump decides to employ a preemptive first strike, the rationale would be preventing Korean nuclear first strikes, as well as subsequent retaliation. To succeed, we’d have to destroy all North Korean nukes, but we simply don’t know where many of their 60-or-so bombs are located. They would not even have to be downsized for missile delivery — just put one in a boat and chug into a Japanese port.

It’s not just North Korea’s nukes to consider. Their conventional forces command thousands of artillery pieces, many poised to inundate Seoul on a moment’s notice. Millions of our allies, and thousands of our own troops, could die. Treaty and commercial commitments with Japan and South Korea are very important to our own security, not to mention our economy. An existential threat to them is a threat to us.

Trump’s Mussolinian posturing, his lack of impulse control, his inability to think things through — these make him more dangerous to Americans than Kim Jong-Un himself. Kim is clever and calculating. Trump is neither.

Trump’s flatulent utterances only accelerate a deadly trajectory toward a war we can’t win.

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired

family physician who grew up in Stockton and lives outside Hays.

hauxwell@ruraltel.net