Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Deep State Tries to Undermine Trump's North Korea Diplomacy

For three decades William Arkin was a military analyst at NBC. Recently, he resigned from the network because he believed that their coverage of foreign policy and military matters was only serving the interests of a coterie of so-called experts. For now, he is a columnist at The Guardian. It think it fair to say that he does not belong to the vast right wing conspiracy.

As always, we on this blog seek out sane, sensible rational voices on political issues. In the time of Trump this has become increasingly rare. The race to the intellectual bottom, accompanied by boundless bias against Trump has seriously muted such voices.

We also note that more than a few members of Congress are doing their best to undermine American foreign policy. Today, as Trump negotiates with Kim, Congressional Democrats are putting on a committee circus, bringing convicted perjurer Michael Cohen before the public in order to trash talk Trump and to undermine his authority. We have already explained how Congressional whining, from the left and the right, is damaging Trump administration Middle East policy.

Now, as President Trump is meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, we offer William Arkin’s analysis of the current state of play in the American-North Korean negotiations. It appeared in The Guardian (via Maggie’s Farm). Strangely, Arkin finds much to praise in the Trump approach. He reserves his greatest contempt for the foreign policy and military experts who have been disparaging every move Trump has made.

Arkin begins by calling out those who have been reflexively attacking Trump, for no reason other than their own bias.

And yet, ever since the president announced last year that he would pursue “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”, jeering has been the near universal response. It’s come from almost every imaginable American quarter: Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, expert and amateur.

The national security establishment—a deep state group if ever there was one-- is selling a caricature of Trump policy, and not just in North Korea. Arkin continues:

… the picture painted is of an unmanageable patriarch who desires to give away the family fortune. That family fortune of course is in the possession of the national security establishment. On North Korea, but not only with regard to Korea – look also at Syria and Afghanistan – expert Washington is the master at adhering to their own preferred solutions. Their passive-aggressive ways – whether applied to Trump on Korea or Obama on issues like Guantánamo and general nuclear disarmament – perpetuate stagnancy, any real change stymied through the imposition of conditions that are never quite achievable.

Trump is not doing things as these deep state actors would want. Thus, he is actively discrediting their approach and diminishing their authority. Among the worst, Arkin notes, is former CIA director John Brennan:

Former president Barack Obama’s CIA director John Brennan has been the most vociferous, saying that a president “prone to flattery” and oblivious to North Korea’s “agile feint” has taken Kim’s “bait”, canceling exercises and contemplating reductions of forces. Meanwhile, the news media is filled with leaks and speculation that North Korea clandestinely continues to manufacture nuclear materials and work on long-range missiles. Ahead of the meeting, US officials promise that troop withdrawals from the Korean peninsula won’t happen, more of a hope as to the actual agenda, given the portrayal of Trump as a dangerous wildcard.

What is the Trump record on North Korea:

North Korea conducted one nuclear test during the Trump administration in September 2017 and has backed off even since then. Five underground tests were held in the two previous administrations. After a flurry of longer and longer range missile activity in the first months of Trump’s rule, the North also hasn’t conducted a long-range missile test since November 2017. Provocations and incidents of other types have also noticeably declined.

No one quite knows why Pyongyang slowed its public and overt testing, nor why Trump’s bluntness and boasting that his nuclear button was bigger seems to have worked. But consider this: Trump largely inherited practices initiated in the Obama years, military moves that were meant to threaten and coerce North Korea in light of its diplomatic failures.

As for why North Korea reacted as it did, we ought to consider the important influence of the man who is pulling the strings, Chinese president Xi Jinping. Not to be overly repetitious but I suspect that Pres. Xi promised Kim security guarantees, while telling him that he had the chance to do for Korea what Deng Xiaoping had done for China. Today, free enterprise is beginning to break out in the Hermit Kingdom.

At first, Arkin continues, Trump seemed to be blundering his way into conflict. Threats and counterthreats filled the airways. The usual band of Chicken Littles in the media declared solemnly that the sky would soon be falling and that we were all going to be incinerated.

And yet, Arkin notes:

Into this near autonomous skid towards conflict blundered Trump. It did look grim for a few months, the two threatening strikes on each other, missiles flying, and speculation even emerging that the United States might move nuclear weapons back onto South Korean soil.

But then a different course emerged, the denuclearization dream vetoing the national security establishment’s “tried and true” practices. Much of the American activity stopped or slowed at the end of 2017. The navy pulled back and submarines were sent home. B-1 bombers flew elsewhere. After the first summit meeting, some war games in South Korea were canceled. There was even a gap between rotating army units coming from the United States.

But then, mirabile dictu, the situation calmed down and things started moving in a more constructive direction.

Meanwhile, a new leader in South Korea made significant overtures to the North and the two sides increased their talks and meetings, ratcheting down tensions and creating far better conditions for serious negotiations. And slowly, though this could change on the whims of the illustrators of doom, the ominous maps also pulled back. You know the ones I’m talking about. First Guam and then Hawaii in range of the North’s missiles, then Alaska and California, all culminating with the mushroom cloud and the dotted line moving closer to Washington DC itself.

Naturally, establishment figures are disparaging whatever is going on. They do not see the glass half-empty. They see it as empty. And if it isn’t empty they are doing their best to sabotage the ongoing diplomacy:

With this second summit, the same cast of characters wants you to know that North Korea is refusing to provide an inventory of its nuclear program, that it is secretly building missiles and preparing this and that new base, that it is modernizing its military, that it is trying to break sanctions, that it is a cyber and even terrorist threat. And most important, that it is fooling the president.

Most of the leaks come from active saboteurs but some also just believe they are protecting America. They want you to believe that doofus Trump will willy-nilly agree to withdraw the near 30,000 American troops from the peninsula, at the same time closing the nuclear umbrella over South Korea and Japan. And, if he is successful, they want you to know that he might divert attention from Robert Mueller and the border wall debacle and all of what else might be more important to Washington.

Arkin concludes on an optimistic note:

Say what you will about Trump, but after some very bad years of active nuclear testing and missile shooting, disarmament on the Korean peninsula has already occurred. Things are quieter and two leaders who previously weren’t talking – ever – now are. Sure the United States should remain vigilant, but much of the penis-wagging and button-pushing is over. To say no success has occurred is factually incorrect. Just getting rid of the war cry is enough to cheer over.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

‘Penis-wagging.” So high-brow. As for the Deep State, their decades of “deep understanding” of international diplomacy produced no results on the Korean Peninsula. OrangeManBad is taking a different approach. You know... Think Different. Tough to do in D.C., where everyone is so smart and all think the same.

Sam L. said...

What Trump is doing, is "breaking the rice bowls" of the deep-staters, which is one of the reasons they hate him. Then there's "breaking the status quo", which just burns their butts.

Sam L. said...

The Grauniad will never be thought to be "right-wing". I suspect they'd rise in righteous fury if someone did.