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

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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

Regarding Pelosi, “[her] talents have always lain in the less glamorous, less public side of politics: she is good at whipping up votes in her caucus and she is good at disciplining dissenters. She is good at offering incentives and punishments to get Democratic members of Congress to do what she wants them to do… To rip up the speech on television was a bit of theatricality, sure – a ploy designed to get attention. It also worked. The day after Trump made a long speech full of misinformation that tried to make a case for his re-election, no one is talking about him. Instead we are talking about the speaker of the House. That, too, is a skill, one that Pelosi seems to be honing.”
Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

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

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

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