February 26, 2019

North Korea Summit

“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 the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

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 Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

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

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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