February 26, 2019

North Korea Summit

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“U.S. President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for an initial one-on-one meeting on Wednesday evening in Vietnam… Follow-up meetings with Kim will take place on Thursday.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left is pessimistic, due to Trump’s unpredictable negotiation style and disregard for expert opinion.

“There are two basic problems heading into the summit. First, the president is either misleading the public or is dangerously mistakenabout North Korea, falsely promising that its nuclear program is constrained and that the threat has receded. Second, and relatedly, the president’s repeated claims to be in ‘no rush’ to reach a deal reflect a serious analytical error, since, despite a pause in nuclear and missile tests, North Korea’s nuclear program is in fact advancing by the day…

“A recent expert report estimated that in 2018, North Korea developed enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to build an additional 5-7 nuclear weapons, and that the regime continued to advance ‘all phases’ of its weapons program… Given North Korea’s history of proliferation, every additional nuclear weapon in the country’s arsenal adds to the risk.”
Tom Donilon, Politico

“What we want to do is, at a minimum, come out of this dialogue with a sense that the environment is safer and that the risk of catastrophic conflict is diminished as we continue to work towards goals of denuclearization. My concern is that everybody getting along and sending letters back and forth doesn’t meaningfully do that. Perhaps further looking at how you posture troops along the demilitarized zone might do that, or how moving artillery further out of range might do that… establishing important crisis-communication mechanisms might do that. There are ways that we could create a situation that, while far from ideal, is slightly more stable.”
Rebecca Hersman, Vox

“What can't be denied is that we have seen a sea-change in US relations with North Korea over the last 18 months: tensions have indeed been reduced. Yet why were we ‘at the brink’ in 2017? Arguably because Trump had ratcheted up the tension by trading insults and threatening ‘little rocket man’ with ‘fire and fury.’ This is a president who likes to turn a problem into a drama so he can later take credit for resolving it.”
David Reynolds, CNN

“Trump’s approach of ‘I alone can fix it’... has undercut his diplomats and technocrats by signaling to North Korea that he is the man to make a deal with. Trump’s negotiators have thus been left in a bind: The only way to make major progress under such circumstances is to get the U.S. and North Korean leaders in a room, but they can’t get them in a room without taking a high-risk gamble.”
Uri Friedman, The Atlantic

Many are mindful that North Korea’s “human rights record at home is abysmal. The United Nations estimates that the regime holds between 80,000 and 120,000 people in its gulags, called kwanliso… in these prisons, the North Korean regime has carried out 10 of the 11 crimes against humanity enumerated in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Diplomacy does not become a bad idea because North Korea is a bad actor. But a diplomatic failure becomes more likely if we lose sight of the type of regime we are dealing with.”
Thomas Wright, Politico

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “insisted the president couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong because, in the end, Ukraine got its money without committing to any investigations. This point of view has radical implications for America’s system of justice and overcrowded prisons, if Mr. Jordan in fact truly believes that all inmates convicted of attempted crimes are innocent of wrongdoing… Perhaps the most telling remark was offered by a Republican staff lawyer, Stephen Castor, who suggested that while the president’s behavior may have been highly irregular, ‘it’s not as outlandish as it could be.’ Here’s a tip: When ‘not as outlandish as itcould be’ is your strongest defense, it’s time to rethink your position.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

From the Right

The right is cautiously optimistic, and argues in favor of a formal peace deal between North and South Korea.

From the Right

The right is cautiously optimistic, and argues in favor of a formal peace deal between North and South Korea.

Many posit that “as bad as it is for North Korea to have nukes and ICBMs, we also shouldn’t entirely ignore the progress that’s been made in other areas. By all accounts, North and South Korea are on the verge of officially ending the Korean War. They’ve been slowly opening up their borders and allowing more travel between the two countries. They may not be heading for reunification… but if they can forge some sort of lasting peace out of this mess than that will certainly be a worthy accomplishment.”
Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

This old denuclearization-for-peace paradigm has resulted in neither denuclearization nor peace. Three decades later, North Korea remains a vexing challenge. Yet with an American president more than happy to color outside the lines imposed by the Washington establishment, the old paradigm may finally be breaking down… nothing is more beneficial to America’s national security interests and those of our allies in East Asia than a Korean Peninsula no longer at constant risk of confrontation, up to and including nuclear war… peace on the Korean Peninsula should be the ultimate American foreign policy objective in northeast Asia.”
Daniel DePetris, The American Conservative

“We have tried carrots, sticks, so-called ‘strategic patience’ and nothing has reduced tensions or the potential threat coming from Pyongyang. A peace declaration might just do that… If America is going to have any hope in convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons—which is America’s top priority for the summit—Washington needs to find a way to convince Pyongyang that it is serious about forging a new relationship and that decades of tension can finally end.”
Harry Kazianis, The National Interest

Some, however, remain skeptical. “North Korea's leaders have a way of luring well-meaning diplomats deep into talks, only to walk away and return to its warlike posture. Trump must be wary not to hand credibility to Kim and get nothing in return. He will have failed if he does not move Kim on nukes, and he must not let talk of peace overshadow that goal.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“Give some credit to President Trump. His leap into the unknown of personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un broke all convention, but it has created an opening to reduce the risk of nuclear war. The question as Mr. Trump prepares for his second summit with the North Korean is whether that mutual bonhomie can translate into tangible measures that actually reduce that risk.…

“Ronald Reagan had the fortitude to walk away from the Reykjavik summit in 1986 when Mikhail Gorbachev demanded an end to U.S. missile defenses. The Gipper was widely criticized, but the Soviets returned to the table because they knew they were losing the Cold War. Mr. Trump is clearly eager for a foreign-policy triumph heading into 2020. But a deal for its own sake will be a defeat unless Mr. Kim shows a far more tangible commitment to becoming nuclear free than he has to date.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.