Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Has Trump Brought Peace to the Korean Peninsula?

Compared with James Comey’s prattle about golden showers and porn star Stormy Daniels’ heartfelt complaints about how people don’t respect her, the possibility of an end to the conflict on the Korean peninsula seems, to the television pundits, like a triviality. The New York Times, to its credit, gave the story major space on page 1,

But, the news is momentous and deserves some note. Don Surber’s blog (via Maggie’s Farm) quotes the CNBC report:

"North and South Korea are in talks to announce a permanent end to the officially declared military conflict between the two countries, daily newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed South Korean official," CNBC reported.

"Ahead of a summit next week between North Korean premier Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, lawmakers from the neighboring states were thought to be negotiating the details of a joint statement that could outline an end to the confrontation.

"Kim and Moon could also discuss returning the heavily fortified demilitarized zone separating them to its original state, the newspaper said.

We recall the times that media commentators were gnashing their teeth in terminal anguish over the nuclear war that was about to erupt over the Korean peninsula. We recall the insults directed at Donald Trump when he spoke to the South Korean parliament. And we know that he will receive very little credit for what is currently taking place:

Remember when he addressed the South Korean parliament in November? The American press said Trump used it to promote his golf course. I read the speech. He told parliament in not so many words that all was right, and that a peaceful end was near.

As noted on this blog, the man who, along with Trump, is most responsible for this turn of events is Chinese president Xi Jinping. We recall that Trump said that he had developed a good relationship with President Xi. And we recall that Kim Jong-un was recently welcomed in Beijing with all due pomp and ceremony. The Chinese government was giving him face and was probably guaranteeing his survival. The American president had done the same when he agreed to meet with Kim face-to-face. The meeting between Kim and Mike Pompeo over the Easter weekend moved the negotiations forward.

One notes that Pompeo, surely the smartest and most capable member of the Trump foreign policy team was entrusted with the task of negotiating with the North Korean leader. One also notes, with chagrin, that a couple of Republican twerps have declared that they cannot vote for him for Secretary of State.

Be that as it may, Roger Simon takes the measure of the Trump foreign policy this morning and compares it with the Obama foreign policy. As you know, there is no comparison.

It is good to examine the record… all the while understanding that Trump has only been in office for fifteen months.

Simon first summarizes the Obama record:

Obama's foreign policy was a disaster, beginning with the peculiar apology tour that mystified much of its Middle Eastern audience, through the yet more peculiar (misspelled) reset button with Russia that further mystified Sergei Lavrov, on to Obama's overheard whisper to Medvedev telling Putin he would be more accommodating on missile defense after the election (imagine the apoplectic reaction of our media if Trump did that!) to the Libyan war leading to the assassination of Qaddafi (the only Arab leader to voluntarily denuclearize) that created a failed state and a raft of refugees to Italy and elsewhere, and, of course, the rapid exit from Iraq that gave rise to ISIS.

And this omits the equally egregious examples - the failure to enforce the red line on Assad's use of chemical weapons, about which he naively believed Putin, and the never-signed, never published Iran Deal itself, which has done nothing but enrich the mullahs who wreak havoc from Venezuela to Yemen.  This duplicitous and unverifiable non-agreement prolonged the monstrous Syrian civil war, causing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II and changing the character of Europe possibly forever.

The Trump record is a work in progress, but here are a few highlights:

To begin with, there's the near-annihilation of ISIS.  Then there's the renewed alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States without, miracle of miracles, the ostracism of Israel.  Indeed, while announcing the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem (with little protest by ME standards), the Israeli-Saudi alliance has flourished.

And also:

And then there is the North Korea situation.  Not one American president made a dent in it.  There are no guarantees, but Trump seems to be on the brink of.... something. It's exciting to watch because there is actually a possibility of real peace in a part of the world that has not seen it in well over half a century.  Trump, the peacemaker, balancing North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan?  Who would have thought it?  Not our media.  They hate him so much if he cured cancer they would think it was a trick - or a clever way to sabotage Obamacare.

And then there’s the threat of a trade war. Every sensible commentator has opposed the Trump approach to tariffs. And yet, Simon offers a counterargument:

Our media and some of our business people and the knee-jerk political opposition went into paroxysms when Trump threatened tariffs with China.  But how else could a rebalancing of our trade with our greatest competitor ever be effectuated?  Certainly not by the jawing of stodgy trade officials who have been at it for decades with no results and little incentive to have any.  Now it looks as if it may succeed. (What's surprising is that our media didn't get what Trump was up to in the first place, negotiating.  Scratch that.  They probably did.  They just couldn't stand it because it was Donald doing it.   That's how stunted they are.)

Simon believes that the tariffs were a negotiating strategy, gamesmanship more than a declaration of war. We shall see.

Simon suggests that Obama’s idealism, his inability to engage in balance-of-powers diplomacy for a nation he believed to be corrupt, made it impossible for him to be an effective world leader.

On the contrary, Simon believes that Trump is not just pragmatic in terms of trying to find out what works, but that he has managed to develop good personal relationships with world leaders while also playing hardball in the arena. The salient point, as I see it, is that Trump understands that with good relationships, with Xi and even with Putin, he runs less of a risk that his opponents will misinterpret American strength as an invitation to war:

This partly explains Trump's two-tiered approach - criticizing a country's actions while seemingly being softer or even too soft on their leaders (Putin, Xi).  The president wants to get things done and realizes, from business, that is the effective way. You might insult the leader for a while, as he did with Kim, but eventually you stop in order to get your way.  You don't alienate the boss who has to make the final decision or it won't get made - unless you want to completely annihilate him, but Trump, despite what his critics says, has not indicated that he does.  In fact, the reverse is true. Consequently, Trump, as he has demonstrated, has little use for ideology or even consistency. In a constantly changing world, he may be right. Those who are looking for some sort of Trump Doctrine may be looking for something that is actually outmoded. So far he is being more successful than Obama and all the neo-Marxist works of Marcuse, Gramsci, etc. combined.


art.the.nerd said...

With all due respect, Stuart, I will wait for results at the negotiating table before I applaud Mr. Trump's diplomatic coup.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam L. said...

Has he brought peace to Korea? Not yet, but it looks likely to come.
"Simon suggests that Obama’s idealism..." Idealism? Obama was convinced he was more intelligent than anyone else. He was wrong.

Ares Olympus said...
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Anonymous said...

Schneiderman, keep up with the DELETE trend. Refreshing. And it makes your blog eminently more readable, sans AO.

Censorship? HA! Unless you believe it’s acceptable to ruin a good thing by allowing pedestrian, juvenile and trollish thinking to flourish.

AO’s been yelling “FIRE!!!” around here for far too long.

Ares Olympus said...

Anon, congratulations!