Lil' Kim and the Donald's Surrealistic Singapore Trip
Pinch yourself -- the Apprentice guy and the thirtysomething-year-old son of the man who was once the most psychotic despot on the planet have come together to negotiate nuclear arms. Naturally, a lot of people think this is a really cool -- and really strange -- event. It is strange enough that a lot of people seem to literally not understand what is happening.
How can I put this gently? Some among us appear to be confused about the nature of this event. I can't go ten minutes on social media without a Trump supporter telling me that North Korea is on the verge of 'denuclearization', or that there is a perceivable path to genuine peace between North and South Korea (at last!). Some intrepid commentators even discussed sanctions policy with me. As usual, President Trump's lack of preparation and lack of a concrete objective make this possible. His play-it-by-ear approach gives rise to a free-for-all media environment. Nobody at the White House can impose any order onto the discourse, because there is no clarity to be obtained. This Bigly Yuge Historic meeting is entirely open-ended; everything and nothing is on the table, and nothing has been promised by anyone.
Objectively, this meeting is a diplomatic coup for Kim Jung-un, who followed through on his father's ambition of pursuing nuclear weapons. Kim Jung-il reasoned that if North Korea acquired nuclear weapons, the world would have little choice but to accept the Kims as legitimate rulers, and little choice but to deal with North Korea on relatively normal terms. It clearly has worked.
Let us recall, as we did in my earlier piece on North Korea, that in 1994, President Bill Clinton, in America's first crack at treating the slave-drivers like real rulers, crafted the 'Agreed Framework' with Kim Jung-il. That failed 'framework' promised that the Kim regime would never pursue nuclear weapons. At the time, the deal was made with a very pleasing commencement, and the anointed ones -- the realists, the liberal internationalists, the journalists and pundits -- all told us that the deal represented progress toward peace, that nobody should root against it, that the hawks were proven wrong again, that those telling us we are being conned are rooting against peace, that it really is useful to talk to our enemies. The real mystery today, then, is: Why do people think we have never tried simply talking to the Kim regime before? And why are skeptics of this entire endeavor treated as cynics?
Kim Jung-un will have a story to tell to North Koreans about his meeting with President the Donald: "My grandfather, the Eternal and Supreme Leader whose vision guides my own, passed down his political know-how to my father, who pursued this nuclear program to bring the American imperialists to their knees. My father was right. Once I showed the world that North Korea was a nuclear power, the American president came running to talk to me without asking any questions or making any demands first. In fact, he seemed eager to make life easier for me, just for a few assurances. How can anyone now doubt that the Kim regime is legitimate? It has dealt with the American regime and brought it to its knees!"
What does Trump think he -- America -- is getting out of this? What is he going to tell us? I don't think he knows. He has openly said he has not prepared for the meeting. He wants to play it by ear and let the chips fall where they may. As far as particular items go, he has floated the idea of ceasing joint military drills with South Korea. If the Kim regime managed to extract that in the form of a concession in return for nothing but promises of later denuclearization, it would be a massive victory achieved by a small, weak state against a superpower without firing a shot.
As I mentioned in my previous piece on North Korea, we should have heeded the warning of Hillary Clinton in 2008, when she rebuked then-Senator Obama for intending to meet with tyrants without preconditions. She cautioned Obama that he needed to gauge the intentions of these people very carefully before rushing in, lest the office of the presidency be exploited for propaganda purposes. In this case, it is probable that all that will come of this meeting are a lot of priceless images that the Kim regime can use to show the submissiveness of the American imperialists before Dear Leader (who is now armed with nukes). I pray I am wrong. I would be very happy to be wrong. But I don't think I am.