February 26, 2019

North Korea Summit

We're officially on Insta! Did I throw on a blazer at 5 am for all you lovely people? You bet I did!

“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

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

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

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

Counterpoint: “after the War of 1812, President Madison… enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked. Tariffs [also] financed Mr. Lincoln’s War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer ‘has no right or claim to equality with our own… He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties’… [A tariff’s] purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.”
Patrick J. Buchanan, The American Conservative

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

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