Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Singapore Summit

If you feel that you are drowning under the waves of commentary around the Trump-Kim meeting, Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution throws you s lifeline today.

You understand that the #GetTrump crowd will do anything to discredit the president. These people pounced on Trump’s statement that he did not need to prepare—as though he was telling the truth. I suspect he was playing them, just to watch them squirm.

As for whether it’s a diplomatic breakthrough for the ages, time will tell.

Cowen makes a number of salient points. Here are a few:

1. There is a secret (and unenforceable) deal beneath what is reported.  You may think this is good or bad, but for heaven’s sake don’t just be judging the press release.

3. I am reading so much yelping about how Trump “legitimized” Kim.  The status quo ex ante simply was terrible, and there is no reason to think this change is for the worse.  Trump’s great “virtue” in this regard was simply to be some mix of ignorant/disrespectful of the prior “expert consensus” and approach the problem afresh with a rather direct transactional and person-centered, personality-centered mentality.

4….The goal is to show the North Korean leadership there is a better way than playing the Nuclear Hermit Kingdom game.  We won’t know for some time whether this has succeeded.  Here is good FT coverage on this point.  There are in fact numerous signs that the North Koreans are considering serious reforms.  Of course those could be a feint, but the probabilities are rising in a favorable direction.  Economic cooperation with South Korea is increasing at an astonishing pace.

8. In expected value terms, this is the biggest triumph of the Trump presidency.  Most of all, however, you should be agnostic.  The negative commentary I am seeing is mostly sour grapes, misplaced frustration, and it is weak in the quality of its argumentation.

Above all else, do not discount the value of a public ceremony showing friendship.


Anonymous said...

One would normally prefer a few fancy hotels and a red carpet to a nuclear war, both in terms of cost and of human sacrifice. Yet some people are having problems defining their priorities.

Ares Olympus said...

It does show the value of not taking things personally. Trump mocked Kim as "Little Rocket Man", and Kim calls Trump a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard" and yet they're now smiling and laughing together as best buddies in private 5 hour conversations, with South Korea excluded.

I agree on being agnostic on outcomes. North Korea loves attention as much as Trump, and it makes promises and reverses easily. So Kim has Trump's promise that we won't do military exercises near North Korea, and North Korea has promised to not do any more nuclear tests under their collapsed mountain. That's something for now I guess.

Ares Olympus said...

This is interesting, 12 promises towards denuclearization under 4 past presidents, most based on various aid agreements. I imagine Kim's primary objective is for the U.S. to remove our military bases from South Korea.
Trump says no "for now".
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2018/05/04/trump-u-s-troop-withdrawal-from-south-korea-is-not-on-the-table-for-now But Trump added that “at some point in the future, I'd like to save the money" that it costs to base 30,000 troops on the peninsula, a security arrangement that has been in place since the Korean War armistice in 1953.

Anonymous said...

No one would ever accuse Ares of being able to see past the nose on his face. The very definition of having just enough education to be dangerous to himself and others. Worse yet when one throws in a rabid case of TDS.

Ares Olympus said...

Anonymous said... AO, your inability to comprehend a business negotiation is pathetic.

Yes, start by calling your business partner offensive names. Perhaps if I came up with a counter-name to your calling me pathetic, and neither of us takes it personally, we can start a beautiful relationship together?

Did you see the WH promotional video shown to Kim? The most dramatic part for me was a moment at 2:36 showing a night satellite video where North Korea finally turns on their lights and joins the rest of the world. Maybe it'll work?