INDIANAPOLIS – Several years ago I was attending a meeting of Asia-Pacific community leaders in Melaka, Malaysia. People had gathered there from all over the region, including South Korea and Guam, but also Taiwan, and even Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Australia, Tahiti and a number of other countries.  
Together, we witnessed the reporting on the tsunami that hit Japan, including the terrifying images of coastal cities completely devastated, homes, personal property and loved ones sucked out to sea, never to be heard from again. And if that was not enough, the struggle of the nuclear meltdown of Fukushima, all while our friends and colleagues from Japan could only watch the reports with us, unable to communicate with family back home.
    
The kinship that these people from all over the region felt for one another was palpable and as heartwarming as it could be under the circumstances and uncertainty. People understood that they all faced that common enemy, Mother Nature, and that she could wreak havoc any place, any time, and that many of these nations were particularly vulnerable.  
    
Today, there may be a run on Ambien in the Pacific Rim. This escalation of rhetoric and posturing regarding North Korean aggression is unprecedented, and our regional military exposure is more vulnerable than in the past 30 or more years. President Trump’s toughguy talk to Pyonyang sounds awfully similar to his colleague from the Philippines, President Dutarte, and what the Asia Times describes as his “shock and awe diplomacy.”
    
The people of Japan, of Guam, of Taiwan, of South Korea all have been watching the balance of power shift for decades now as the U.S. has somewhat disinvested from our commitments to patrol the South China Sea, and as the People’s Republic has controversially begun to fill that vacuum by building up atolls with operative military bases of their own.  
    
Still, it seemed so far to be in everyone’s regional economic best interest to rebuild a high tech, beyond-modern silk road for the next smarter, more efficient version of global trade. It is just so rational and smart. China is very assertive and enthusiastic in their preparations to hyper-invest and double down on its drive to superpower status and global economic dominance.
    
In fact, just last year Chinese economists claimed at the ASAE Great Ideas conference in Hong Kong that they were not at all concerned about trade deals and the markets to the West as they were developing such a strong regional consumer class.
    
That is, until and unless something crazy happens. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can regain significant control over preventable drama and the rhetoric of escalation that could lead toward massive civilian and military casualties in Asia.
    
It was beyond disconcerting to see Indianapolis news channel WRTV-6 post a story about how to prepare yourself and your family for nuclear attack. It gave me flashbacks to the 1980’s when we still had drills in elementary school preparing us for the big one by hiding under desks with textbooks to shield our brains. It was beyond disconcerting to take my son’s call from California this week asking how we should plan to reunite if and when something awful happens on a scale that the United States has not yet seen.  
    
Not many people are sleeping well in the Pacific Rim these days. Our president and his administration need to calm themselves and signal to their supporters and the world that now is the time for diplomacy.  
    
Tim Swarens of the IndyStar noted that a Central Indiana pastor he follows recently took to Twitter to proclaim: “N Korea can’t say they were not warned. One misstep, and we’re going to light them up! Thank you, @POTUS.” He went on to note that President Trump’s own evangelical advisor Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said that “God is OK with bombing North Korea.”
    
Perhaps God will be OK with it, but will we? Time will tell. Yet I am sure that my friends in the region have a clear idea how much is at stake for everyone in the region, and I am sure that they are yearning for increased leadership from the United States. We all need to sleep better at night.  

Hale is CEO of Leadership Indy and the 2016 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee.