Bluster, brag and diplomacy

“In the world of diplomacy, some things are better left unsaid.”, Lincoln Chafee

I was glad there was a summit between North Korea’s President Kim Jung-un and Donald Trump.   They signed an agreement to work towards “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.  That’s a positive step forward.   North Korea released 3 American prisoners prior to the summit.  More good news.

Donald Trump went to Grand Falls, Montana fora “Make American Great Again” rally.  Notably absent from Trump’s entourage was Ryan Zinke,  Secretary of the Interior, who served in Congress representing Montana.  Known as Scott Pruitt’s evil twin,  he immediately cosied up to the fossil fuel industry.   Like Pruitt, he is under investigation by the Office of Inspector General for his spending. See link below.

Trump was right on message,  slammed the media in general as being dishonest and fake. (note, last I looked, Trump statements were rated “true” about 5% of the time according to Politico).   He endorse US senator candidate Matt Rosendale,  and bashed his opponent, current Senator Jon Tester.  Tester had discovered that the President’s nominee for the VA Secretary Ronnie Jackson,  was known as the “candy man” for over prescribing medications and there was evidence that Jackson was drinking on the job.   Hearings were postponed and then cancelled as Trump withdrew the nomination.

No mention of Scott Pruitt, who had just moments before, was forced  to resign amid a slew of scandals.  It would explain why Ryan Zinke,  Secretary of Interior,  wasn’t there.

Since Mike Pompeo was in North Korea,  it was time for Trump to start bragging at he got the prisoners free without spending 1.8 billion dollars like Obama had done, and the peace treaty with North Korea.  All bluster and brag – and on top of it untrue.

This  was an old Republican allegation – and a false claim right  from the get-go.  A payment of 400 million dollars was made to Iran.  It wasn’t ransom, but Iran’s money which we had frozen, after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. in 1979.   Iran’s claim was valid, and they were chasing after the US in World Court.   They wanted 10 billion from the US.  We couldn’t really keep holding on to their money. What we did, was make the payment only after Iran had released American prisoners.   There was no bargaining for prisoners, but the timing looked bad. See links below.

Then Trump launched into how the North Korea problem was a slam dunk because he was the man in charge.   It was this very old, muy macho stunt, with the US Space Force, which I guess is supposed to intimidate people around the globe  every time they look up at the sky.

Trump:  “But we signed a wonderful paper saying they’re going to denuclearize their whole thing. It’s going to all happen.”

Per CNN – see link below:  This statement was made yesterday, in a 2020 campaign rally.   Crowds loved it. Trump’s assertion that North Korea has agreed to denuclearize and that “it’s going to all happen” is a massive overstatement of the facts. What Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed in Singapore last month was a sort of outline of an agreement. There was nothing binding in it. And this week we got word that satellites have picked up what looks to be more construction at a ballistic missile site in North Korea. So yeah, this version of the North Korea story via Trump misses some major points.

Then came Mike Pompeo claim that the meetings were “productive.”   The reason why Kim Jong Un signed the agreement with Trump was  because he considers South Korea to be a nuclear power, due to the US bases in South Korea, and that we have nuclear weapons ready to defend South Korea.  Of course, we’re not going to trade our bases for nuclear disarmament in the North.  But of course,  to make the summit look like a success for both leaders, the word “denuclearization”  was left undefined.

North Korea had had enough.   This meeting was not productive.  North Korea charged that the US was pushing a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization”  and called Pompeo’s remarks, “deeply regrettable.”

Politics is one thing,  diplomacy another.   His bragging about how great a negotiator is, may in the end, cause the talks to fail.

 But, if there is one take away from the Grand Falls, Montana rally,  it is that Donald Trump is trying to set some kind of Guinness book of records, for the most lies in less than an hour.  And his only competition is himself.

Stay tuned,
Dave

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/obama-bribed-iran-400-million-to-release-u-s-prisoners/

http://time.com/4441046/400-million-iran-hostage-history/

US-North Korea Summit Cancelation

Trump may uncancel the Summit.   But when he did cancel it, he wanted to make sure to point the blame at North Korea.  At least, that is what President Trump wanted to hear from other world leaders.   And of course, none of them are saying this.

President Moon of South Korea, said the cancellation of the Summit was regrettable.  Others have said leaders in Seoul are perplexed.

It was Churchill’s famous quote,  “To jaw-jaw is always  better than war-war.”  If history has shown us anything, it is that long term enemies can first learn to co-exist, and then become friends.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  Animosity doesn’t have to end in bloodshed.

Nobody really knew how the planned summit was going to turn out.    Many experts on North Korea seemed surprised at Kim Jong Un  sudden  willingness to seek some kind of discussion on nuclear disarmament and reconciliation with South Korea after showing so much hostility and threats mainly to the US.    From their perspective,  they were achieving parity with South Korea, which they consider to be a nuclear power, given the strong military  support from the US.

Certainly,  much of the credit for bringing North Korea  leader to the summit goes to  the  newly elected South Korean President Moon Joe-in.    The invitation by President Moon to the Olympic games was the first real diplomatic outreach.   This was followed by the inter-Korean summit, in April 27, 2018, which was the first summit in eleven years, and the first time President Moon and Chairman Kim have met in person.

The cancellation seems outright weird and dumb.   Weird is the right word, because it has to do with an exchange of words between Vice President Pence that North Korea could end up like Libya (North Korea could follow the Libyan model)  really made no sense.    This weird Libyan comment started with John Bolton, then Donald Trump and then Pence said the same thing.    The leader of Libya was killed in 2011 by his own people in the city of Sirte,  during the Libyan civil war.   However, there was covert aerial support by NATO including the US  in spotting the convoy that Qaddafi was in.

The actions taken by the US and our European allies, in support of the Libyan civil war, have nothing in common with nuclear disarmament.    Qaddafi had already given up his nuclear program and dismantled terrorist training sites in 2003.  The Bush administration took Libya off of the list of  state sponsored supporters of terrorism.   This was an enormous help to the Qaddafi regime.  Many (including myself) believe Qaddafi did this for economic reasons.    I also believed he was becoming more worried about unrest in eastern part of the country, centered around Benghazi, as a potential future threat.  Benghazi is where the first hostilities broke out in 2011.

The intervention in Libya occurred after UN Resolution 1973 (17-Mar-2011) during the Obama administration, was presumably to protect civilian lives.  At the time, it was highly likely that Qaddafi would have bombed Benghazi and other cities which were rebelling against his authority.   If he had bombed Benghazi, a city with a population of over 600,000 inhabitants, the death toll would have been enormous.  Putin and others were highly critical of the US implementation of the Resolution, as we used it as a rationale to bomb Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, late in 2011.

Many consider Hillary Clinton’s support of the intervention in Libya, and demonstrations against Putin in Moscow 2011 as the reason for Russia’s interference in US elections in 2016.   The Arab Spring uprisings were against many autocratic regimes, including the Russian government.

The aftermath of the civil war and  Libya’s “Arab Spring” rebellion, is a long drawn out disaster, and none of relates to North Korea.   I think the only fair take away message from Libya, is that the outcome of intervention, can be very unpredictable.

Perhaps what is so obvious to the North Korean regime, is the “Iran Model”  where the US unilaterally pulled out of a nuclear disarmament deal, even though Iran was in compliance.

The day the talks were cancelled, the New York Times printed a story, about how China would likely be the greatest beneficiary as more acceptance of North Korea with other countries, is not in their game plan.

Diplomacy requires careful driving, and a clear focus on acceptable outcomes.   Mike Pence following John Bolton’s inflammatory rhetoric is the quickest way to veer off the road and slam into a telephone pole.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

North Korea: Running on Themes

 

Yes. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are scary.   This has been a problem passed from Clinton to Bush to Obama and now to Trump.   Problem is any easy solution, like direct military action, is only likely to make things a lot worse.    Imagine a solution that everyone  in the area, South Korea, Japan and China, to name a few, are  strongly opposed to, and that South Korea is the likely target of retaliatory strikes.  Trump ran a campaign of full of themes.  Now the reality sets in.   North Korea is not solved by tweets.

Kim Jong Un’s regime takes paranoia to extreme levels, maybe because their leader believes in an eventual war with the US or because it works.  I believe it is the latter,  because it distracts from the collapsing economy.   Trump, much more than other presidents are playing right into the regime’s game of paranoia and nationalism.

Diplomacy has to be a back door, quiet process of compromise, to lift sanctions.

Washington Post contributer, Fareed Zakaria got it right:

Trump’s bluster and bravado on North Korea will only make the U.S. look weak

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Don’t you worry ’bout a thing

Stevie Wonder,  released 1973.

I talked to someone about Trump, and he tells me we are in good hands.  He listens to Fox News and plays golf 3 times a week.   Not a bad life.

There are some real tough questioning coming up on Trump’s cabinet positions.   I guess the most troublesome is our future relations with China.  We can not have a trade war with China, and expect their help in stopping North Korea’s nuclear plans.

I would think there is nothing more urgent than a united front against North Korea.  Trump would be wise to remember that a majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, whose campaign slogan was “stronger together.”

There was a great discussion on Fareed Zakaria show (GPS)  with James Baker, saying that what previous republican presidents (Reagan & HW Bush) have favored was free trade agreements, and Trump’s new cabinet tends more towards protectionism.   Baker said Trump as candidate, or now president-elect is not the same as when he actually moves into the White House with the staff making recommendations.

Baker may be right.  He’s not yet our president.  However, the more Trump goes after Mexico stealing our jobs  and their citizens pouring over the border, the more I worry that it’s the same old Trump,  always playing politics with an incoherent foreign policy strategy.