Friday, May 25, 2018

Trump Cancels North Korean Summit

Did you ever get the impression that you are living in a confederacy of dunces? Did you ever get the feeling that the #GetTrump crowd does not care about success or failure. No matter what Trump does they will always find fault.

Their greatest fear of late has been that Trump might negotiate a deal for North Korean denuclearization. Thus, when Trump pulled out of a June 12 meeting in Singapore, the #GetTrump group was elated.They could not restrain themselves from declaring Trump to be an incompetent negotiator and a general all-around failure.

It was a pathetic spectacle. It signaled an absence of patriotism, a failure to understand that Trump, like him or not, is the president of the United States. Rooting for a president to fail because you believe it gives you political advantage is ignoble. End of story.

One thing we do know, canceling the meeting was a move in a game. We do not know the outcome of the game. We do not know how it will proceed and we certainly do not know how it will end. Thus, all speculation about whether it was right or wrong, good or bad is fatuous. If our own dunces are honorable they will admit that there is more to life than their own propaganda and that, if they do not know the outcome, they should not jump to conclusions.

One other thing we know is that North Korea had not responded to administration efforts to negotiate the framework for a meeting. Secretary of State Pompeo said so yesterday in front of a Senate committee. As opposed to some other administration officials,  Pompeo seems to be in charge of his mouth. In truth, if you cannot reach your prospective negotiating partner, you are receiving a clear signal. And that is: he is more interested in the theatrics of the ceremony than any substantive agreements.

You have no other choice but to postpone the meeting. If Trump had not done so his detractors would have been rushing to the microphones to explain that he had been had.

In addition, you will note that Trump, diplomatically, had been speaking of Kim in very respectful tones. And Trump has expressed great admiration an gratitude for Chinese president Xi Jinping. His rhetoric has been exemplary. 

And yet, National Security Adviser John Bolton declared that he was looking for a Libya-like solution… which brings to mind the fact that after Libya gave up its nuclear weapons, the Obama administration rewarded Col Qaddhafi with a bayonet up his butt. I prefer to think of Bolton as having made a rookie mistake. Trump quickly walked back the remark. But then, Vice President Pence—another rookie?—repeated the same analogy to Libya, apparently not knowing how this would sound to Kim Jong-un.

The North Koreans reacted with insults and invective against Mike Pence… which also made it impossible for Trump to continue. I cannot speculate about Pence's tactics, but he is not covering himself in glory here. If he is speaking for the administration it is, within the White House, incoherent and unnecessarily provocative. A bad move.

And then there is the China angle. Readers of this blog know my theory—namely that Trump and Xi made a deal. By the terms of the deal Xi would corral his ally in North Korea and Trump would reciprocate. We did not know what the precise terms of the quid pro quo would be. We suspected that it had something to do with the American government’s sanctions against Chinese telecom firm, ZTE. When Xi asked Trump to intervene in the matter, Trump instructed his Commerce Department to solve the problem.

But then, Congress got in the act and both Republicans and Democrats decided that it was time to get tough on China. Led by famed grandstander Marco Rubio, the Senate Banking Committee passed a resolution that will make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for Trump to fulfill his end of the bargain.

Some have argued that President Xi never wanted North Korea to be denuclearized anyway. And yet, if we assume that he was pursuing his national interest, he would certainly have wanted to receive signals from the United States that he would receive something in return. If not, the chances are that he will not allow the summit to go on.

An alternate theory would have it that the world was starting to see Kim as Xi’s puppet. This would have caused Kim to lose face. And, to save face he needed to assert himself… to make it appear that he was in charge. As of now, he seems not to have reckoned with the possibility that Trump would withdraw from the summit and has stated that he will meet with Trump anywhere anyhow.


whitney said...

"Did you ever get the feeling that the #GetTrump crowd does not care about success or failure. No matter what Trump does they will always find fault."

Yes, the only thing Trump, or any member of his family, can do to please all those against him is resign or die

Sam L. said...

Come now, Stuart! You know, I know, EVERYONE knows, the #GetTrumpers WANT Trump to fail, and care deeply, VERY DEEPLY, and want that to be soon.

Anonymous said...

They literally can't help themselves.

Ares Olympus said...

Its interesting you can write an entire post about the negotiations with North Korea and not mention South Korea. At least we know who doesn't matter here. If North Korea is Xi's puppet, what is South Korea?

Anonymous said...

AO: Who do you think South Korea is a puppet of?

Shit or get off the pot, Olympian One.

South Korea has a robust 1st world economy, with a 2017 per capita GDP of $25,458, and the USA’s is $52,194. North Korea is a Stalinist, proto-medieval shithole, with a per capita GDP of $1,013 last year, while China’s is $6,152.

Who would you rather have as a friend?

We provide South Korea and Japan most of their military protection. It’s called foreign policy, but one can understand how you’ve lost sight of that after 8 years of Chief Aplogizer Obama.