Is Trump experienced or expert enough to stuff things up more?

President Donald Trump is having some successes and some things are going his way, but he also looks like an incompetent disaster waiting to happen. But despite his obvious inexperience and lack of expertise, is their much risk of him stuffing things up any more than past US administrations?

The US has made a mess of many things over the last half century and more – the Korean war was in the 1950s and still isn’t resolved. Cuba, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Russia…

Mathew J. Petersen at Intellectual Takeout: Thank God Trump Isn’t a Foreign Policy Expert


What Trump Lacks
In fact, many on the Right and Left over the past two years have suggested their main worry about Donald Trump is the fact he now represents America to the rest of the world and will cause a devastating disaster, nuclear or otherwise.

I propose some simple, evaluative questions and a thought experiment to set the minds of the nation at ease the morning after the most significant moment of the Trump presidency.

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to give away as much to North Korea as the American foreign-policy establishment, with all its experience, top-shelf degrees, and stratospheric test scores, has given away in the past 30 years?

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to keep the hostile stalemate the American foreign-policy establishment created and fostered with North Korea since America first waged the Korean War?

For that matter, does Trump even have the experience and caste of mind to start a war, say, in the Middle East, that costs trillions of dollars and disrupts and inflames the region as President Bush and his entourage did? Does he even know how?

Does Trump have the expertise to take over the wreckage of such a war and support jihadist rebels, help create ISIS and a global refugee crisis, and give Russia the most power it’s had in the region since the peak of the Cold War, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did?

The truth may alarm you. Trump has never even started a war before—not even a little one.

Trump is such an ignoramus, forget war—for decades the uniparty American foreign policy establishment’s most basic solution to problems overseas has been to supply the gift of training and weapons to people in other countries who then end up becoming terrorists or some other version of our worst nightmare. That’s an inside the beltway American tradition, for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Does Trump even know this?

Departing from “the Norm”

There’s sure as hell no way Trump knows yet how to meet with a foreign dictator like Kim Jong-un and come to an agreement that ultimately doesn’t change anything or makes things worse, like all our sane and competent leaders have been doing since the Cold War ended. Thus, we should indeed all consider the possibility that Trump might somehow be different.

Assuming North Korea has some desire to reform itself—admittedly, the very assumption we are now testing—the biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean Peninsula is the disastrous legacy of Hillary-Obama foreign policy, which mimics decades of earlier, similar American failures.

Regardless of the spin on both sides, remember: whatever the ultimate result of the Singapore summit, it will not be determined, as it has been in the past, by the slow-moving, Byzantine maneuvers of the foreign-policy expert class, the members of which Michael Anton aptly calls “priests” in “America and the Liberal International Order.” This priest class has tried to make a science of “international relations” that somehow abstracts from prudence and the plain old study of human nature, history, and politics.

Trump upended their order. What matters now is the result of two men in a room, representing their respective people, sizing each other up, and speaking directly to one another.


There is no guarantee this will work any better (or less worse) than past military and diplomatic attempts, and there will almost certainly be some negatives to the inexpert bluster of Trump, but he doesn’t need to achieve much to improve on past efforts.

Ok, there is a risk that Trump will blunder bigly and something really crappy will happen in Korea, the Middle East or with Russia, or somewhere else the US has been involved or decides to interfere, but those risks were there under past presidents too.

In shaking the old norms up Trump may create chaos, but out of that we may end up with a better world. May.

Trump follows up summit with pledge to end military exercises

Donald Trump has followed up a promising but fairly sparse statement from his summit with Kim Yong Un – see Joint statement of Trump and Kim – ‘work toward complete denuclearization’ – with an offer to end military exercises in South Korea.

Reuters: Trump offers to end Korea war games after historic Kim summit

Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a largely symbolic summit on Tuesday, and the U.S. president offered an unexpected concession to the North, saying he would halt joint military exercises with South Korea.

The two men smiled and shook hands before pledging at their historic summit to work toward the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. The United States promised its Cold War foe security guarantees.

The meeting in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was in stark contrast to a flurry of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and angry exchanges of insults between Trump and Kim last year that fueled global worries about war.

But in a joint statement afterward, the two men offered few specifics about the relationship would evolve.

At a news conference later, Trump made a surprise announcement that was sure to rattle South Korea and Japan, which rely on a U.S. security umbrella, saying he would halt the regular military exercises the United States holds with South Korea because they were expensive and “very provocative”. North Korea has long sought an end to the exercises.

That’s a useful concession from Trump, and a promising message that he wants to move forward with resolving tensions in Korea.

But there is still a lot of uncertainty at how this may play out.

The Trump administration said repeatedly before the summit that Washington was seeking steps by North Korea toward complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of a nuclear program that is advanced enough to pose a threat to the United States.

Several experts said the meeting failed to secure any concrete commitments by Pyongyang toward this. The statement also did not refer to human rights in one of the world’s most repressive nations.

It didn’t say anything about human rights in the US, nor in Guantanamo, nor in countries that the US is involved in militarily

Trump said at the news conference he expected the denuclearization process to start “very, very quickly” and it would be verified by “having a lot of people in North Korea”. He said Kim had announced that North Korea was destroying a major missile engine-testing site, but sanctions on North Korea would stay in place for now.

So progress perhaps, but a long way to go.

Another point on all of this – a lot is being made of grand statements like ‘peace in our time’ – but there was no actual war going on in Korea, apart from wars of words and military posturing. There was an uneasy peace, and it may be enhanced by what Trump, Kim (and South Korea and China) are doing, but it is hardly like a cessation of war.

If Trump really wants to earn credit for achieving peace he should try the Middle East – where his moving of the US embassy in Israel did the opposite.

Joint statement of Trump and Kim – ‘work toward complete denuclearization’

Joint statement of President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Yong Un:

It includes:

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Pan Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

 

Trump-Kim summit today

The preliminaries continue leading up to today’s historic summit between Kim Yong-un and Donald Trump in Singapore.

US Secretary of State Mile Pompeo continues to spin a hard line.

Having stated such an absolute objective gives Trump plenty of room to walk away from the talks claiming a lack of agreement was Kim’s fault.

Reuters: Trump upbeat ahead of North Korean summit; Kim visits Singapore sites

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore could “work out very nicely” as officials from both countries sought to narrow differences on how to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.

Officials from the two sides held last-minute talks aimed at laying the groundwork for a meeting that was almost unthinkable just months ago when the two leaders were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.

But after a flurry of diplomatic overtures eased tension in recent months, the two leaders are now headed for a history-making handshake that U.S. officials hope could eventually lead to the dismantling of a North Korean nuclear program that threatens the United States.

Offering a preview to reporters, Pompeo said it could provide “an unprecedented opportunity to change the trajectory of our relationship and bring peace and prosperity” to North Korea.

However, he played down the possibility of a quick breakthrough and said the summit should set the framework for “the hard work that will follow”, insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

North Korea, though, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim’s dynastic rule.

Kim has used his time in Singapore to do some sight seeing, something that will be a novelty for him.

Kim, one of the world’s most reclusive leaders, made an evening tour of sites on Singapore’s waterfront, on the eve of the summit that is due to get underway on Tuesday morning at a nearby resort island.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un waves to the crowd in Singapore, June 11, 2018
in thispicture obtained from social media. JO CHAMERLAIN /via REUTERS

A lot of world attention will be on Singapore today.

 

Trump-Kim pre-meeting (still)

Kim Yong Un and Donald trump have both arrived in Singapore ahead of their meeting scheduled for tomorrow. There’s a lot of interest, not surprisingly, but theirs also a lot of conjecture and speculation, which all seems a bit pointless until the meeting takes place and something comes out of it.

And then the meeting is bound to be over-analysed. There are thousands of journalists in Singapore who will all feel compelled to justify their trip.

I hope something good comes of the meeting, but I think it’s likely any possible progress will take a lot more than a single meeting preceded by presidential posturing.

‘Spur of the moment’ Trump on North Korean meeting

Donald Trump has been all over the place leading up to the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Yong-un in Singapore shortly. He now seems to be playing down expectations, and shows that he seems to be winging it.

Reuters: Any agreement with North Korea will be ‘spur of the moment’: Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday any agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at next week’s summit would be “spur of the moment,” underscoring the uncertain outcome of what he called a “mission of peace.”

“I have a clear objective, but I have to say – it’s going to be something that will always be spur of the moment,” Trump told reporters at a news conference at the G7 summit in Quebec.

That seems like a bit of a contradiction.

“You don’t know. This has not been done before at this level.”

The main issue for the June 12 summit in Singapore, which he departed for before the end of the G7 meeting, is the U.S. demand for North Korea to abandon a nuclear weapons program that now threatens the United States.

Trump said it would probably take time to reach an agreement with Kim on denuclearization, but at a minimum he believed the summit could produce a “relationship” between the United States and North Korea, which do not have diplomatic ties.

It would be remarkable if Trump and Kim made significant progress at the meeting towards a lasting solution on Korea.

Trump winging it with flip flop flaps

Donald Trump seems to like creating a flap about big issues. He seeks attention  for personal glory and in trying to do the big deals he claims he’s expert at. But it’s a high risk strategy (or more likely lack of strategy). It may only take on serious misunderstanding of where he stands to precipitate a major problem.

And sensible people who may be able to manage things are left flailing around wondering where Trump’s flapping may go next.

Bloomberg: Trump’s Head-Snapping Reversals Shake Allies at Home and Abroad

Donald Trump slapped tariffs on China, then reconsidered. He yanked the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal without a plan B. He ordered U.S. penalties on ZTE Corp. reversed to save Chinese jobs.

And on Thursday he canceled a landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as abruptly as he announced it in March.

Trump has always led from the gut. But the president’s recent head-snapping decisions, made without much consultation with allies overseas or in Congress, suggest a White House that is winging it on almost every major issue.

The president’s activities have grown increasingly frenetic amid two developments: the departure of several top officials regarded as checks on his impulses and the expanding law enforcement investigations into Trump’s campaign and his associates, including lawyer Michael Cohen. Trump has demonstrated a particular obsession with the idea that the Justice Department planted an informant in his campaign, perhaps at the behest of former President Barack Obama — a conspiracy theory for which there is no evidence.

Experienced advisers including former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all exited the administration since February.

Trump’s staff turnover is another problem, creating further uncertainties, and risking a lack of checks on the President’s impulsiveness for fear of getting chucked out.

There’s no clear line between Trump’s staff turmoil, his associates’ legal troubles and his erratic policy making. And his administration contends that major decisions — on North Korea, Iran, trade with China and others — are founded on months-long deliberations. For example, a senior administration official said that Trump pulled out of the Singapore summit after a series of frustrations, including North Korea standing up U.S. negotiators who flew to the Southeast Asia city-state last week for an expected meeting to lay groundwork.

Yet Trump himself conveys the sense that every announcement is spur of the moment.

Less than four hours before the White House released Trump’s letter to Kim canceling the summit, “Fox & Friends” broadcast an interview with the president — taped the day before — in which he said there was a “good chance” the meeting would happen.

The on-off North Korea summit may be on again.

But with two erratic leaders who may be more concerned with their own egos than anything it creates a sense of chaos where the chance of disaster seems increasingly more likely.

And even if a deal is reached I don’t think either Kim or Trump can be trusted much to stick to the deal – North Korea has a long history of non-compliance, and Trump has a short history of dumping on deals he decides he doesn’t like, and creating flaps for self seeking attention or diversion from flip flops.

As long as neither starts winging it with missiles the world may survive them.

Trump scraps summit with North Korea’s Kim

Rancid rhetoric has resumed between the USA and North Korea. Statements between the two countries had put the planned summit between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un on notice, and it didn’t taake loing for Trump warnings to escalate into him withdrawing from plans to have the meeting.

Reuters: Trump scraps North Korea summit, warns Kim that military ready

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called off a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for next month, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility,” and warned that the U.S. military was ready in the event of any reckless acts by North Korea.

Trump wrote a letter to Kim to announce his abrupt withdrawal from what would have been a first-ever meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

North Korea had just symbolically demolished what they said was a nuclear test site.

Trump canceled the summit a few hours after North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its main nuclear test site, which Pyongyang said was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.

A small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition of tunnels at the Punggye-ri site on Thursday.

The apparent destruction of what North Korea said was its only nuclear test site had been widely welcomed as a positive, if largely symbolic, step toward resolving tension over its weapons. Kim has declared his nuclear force complete, amid speculation the site was obsolete anyway.

But they had already threatened to withdraw from the talks.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korea had repeated its threat to pull out of the summit, which was intended to address concerns about its nuclear weapons program, and warned it was prepared for a nuclear showdown with Washington if necessary.

Trump had also been making threats of withdrawal, and Vice President Mike Pence had stirred things up an already messy lead up to the summit.

Washington Post: How Kim-Trump tensions escalated: The more the U.S. said ‘Libya,’ the angrier North Korea got

“As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice foreign minister, had said hours earlier.

The remarks came after Pence brought up Libya as an example of North Korea’s possible fate in a Fox News interview Monday, even though similar comments by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and Trump himself had previously drawn ire in Pyongyang.

“As the president made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence told Fox News. Using almost the same words, Trump stressed last week that the example of Libya showed “what will take place if we don’t make a deal.”

One could almost think that the US was deliberately provoking North Korea on an ongoing basis. Did trump want olut of the meeting, but wanted to blame the breakdown in peace talks on North Korea?

Both were referring to the capture and killing of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi by rebel forces in 2011. The references were apparently meant as a warning to North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

But a closer look at history reveals that Libya may be the worst example Pence or Trump could have chosen — and could have contributed to the renewed escalation of tensions in recent days. The North African nation chose to voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and to comply with Western conditions — but the United States and Europe later helped topple the Gaddafi regime anyway.

So Libya was a very stupid threat to keep making.

Trump may have slipped out of contention for a Nobel Peace prize. He has just said that the US is ready for any military action – Reuters:

In a statement at the White House, Trump said he was still open to dialogue but had spoken to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and warned North Korea against any “reckless act.” He said the U.S. military was the most powerful in the word and was ready if necessary.

Trump is acting at least as recklessly. Threatening nuclear war is a particularly stupid risk.

North Korea far from a done deal

The celebrations about peace and harmony in Korea was a bit premature.

On May 9th, Trump was asked if he thought that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize because of his North Korea diplomacy. “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it”.

North and South Korea have been working together despite Trump’s undiplomatic approach, although the US has contributed through the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was trying to set up the May meeting between Trump and Kim Yong Un.

But Kim may have thrown a spanner in the works. Nobel may have to put their considerations on hold.

New Yorker: Just How Fragile Is Trump’s North Korea Diplomacy?

The new diplomacy is still fragile. In a surprise announcement, North Korea indefinitely suspended the second round of talks between senior officials from the two Koreas—due to be held at the D.M.Z. on Wednesday. It blamed joint military exercises between South Korean and U.S. military forces. Pyongyang viewed the operation as “a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” North Korea’s state-run Central News Agency reported.

The Trump Administration was totally blindsided by the move, just five days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned from his second round of talks with Kim to prepare for the Trump summit. Kim had even told Pompeo that he understood the “need and utility” of continued exercises between two countries with which North Korea is still technically at war, the State Department told reporters. The White House scrambled to clarify and respond.

The impending summit was technically designed to discuss “denuclearization”—a term first used, in 1992, to get around talk of “disarmament,” which North Korea feared would make it sound more vulnerable in a volatile neighborhood. Over the weekend, however, the Trump Administration declared that more than North Korea’s nuclear arsenal will be negotiated in Singapore.

“Denuclearization is absolutely at the core of it, and it means not just the nuclear weapons,” the national-security adviser, John Bolton, told ABC on Sunday. “North Korea’s previously agreed, several times, in fact, to give up its uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing capabilities. We’ve got the ballistic-missile issues on the table. We’ve got to look at chemical and biological weapons.”

After their meeting last week, Pompeo said that Kim fully understood that the U.S. goal is complete denuclearization. In public, however, North Korea has been ambiguous, at best.

South Koreans know that the Singapore summit is the riskiest U.S. initiative ever undertaken.

And premature celebrations and accolades added to the risks.

In Seoul and along the D.M.Z., South Koreans—both supporters and skeptics of the new diplomacy—told me that they don’t care much about Trump’s motive, as long as it refocusses his energies through the rest of his Presidency. Just six months ago, inflammatory rhetoric threatened to end a truce that has been in place since 1953.

The noisy belligerence produced drastic predictions of a conflagration far costlier than the first Korean War. It could easily produce a quarter-million deaths in Seoul—a city of ten million people just ninety minutes from the D.M.Z.—and a million casualties in all of South Korea, military experts told me. North Korea would almost certainly be harder hit.

The risks of it all turning to custard must still be high, especially if the US pushes too hard and keeps making tough talk public statements.

Another complication is the US walking out of the Iran deal. North Korea would be justified in being sceptical of the strength of any deal with the US – and with Trump, who has dumped on other US deals as well, like the TPPA and NAFTA.

For now, all’s quiet on the northern front. My first stop near the D.M.Z. was an amusement park at the edge of the restricted area that offered kiddie rides. A small shopping mall had a Popeyes and a Sam’s Bagels as well as Korean food outlets. South Korean families were out enjoying the spring sunshine and the tentative peace. At souvenir shops, I bought kitsch D.M.Z. T-shirts and framed pieces of barbed wire cut from the frontier, reminiscent of scraps once sold of the Berlin Wall.

One of my final stops was at the observation post near Paju, where some of the fiercest battles of the Korean War raged. I peered through big binoculars, grounded on posts, at spooky Peace Village, on the other side of the D.M.Z. It’s often referred to as Propaganda Village. It appeared modern, with concrete apartment blocks and buildings and roads. But it is reportedly a shell that provides an illusion of life—largely motionless, like the nearby statue of the country’s first leader.

The sign atop the observation post declared “End of Separation, Beginning of Unification.”

As I left, I thought how it will take big and bold and tangible diplomacy by the American and Korean leaders—a lot more than turning off the propaganda loudspeakers or blowing up a tunnel of doubtful use—to really insure that the D.M.Z. is permanently silent.

It may also take a rethink of Trump/US diplomacy, or lack thereof.

As well as a rethink of what may be worth of a Nobel Peace prize.

 

Will Trump help or hinder Korean peace deal?

The North and South Korean leaders have had an historic meeting, and the prospects of an official peace agreement and de-nuclearisation looking promising.

US President Donald Trump has been typically brash and bold in public statements, ahead of a planned meeting with Kim Yong-un next month. Will he help or hinder game changing agreements in Korea? Who knows?

While the situation looks markedly improved remember that Trump played a prominent and provocative role in recent escalations, raising risks substantially. One bad decision could have had horrendous results – Trump threatened to destroy North Korea.

RNZ (ABC): Trump factor could hinder not help Korean deal

The two sides will work towards signing a peace treaty formally ending the Korean war, sixty five years after the armistice was signed.

Both Koreas will work towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

The tone and language spoke of, “one nation, one language, one blood”.

“We can make a better future with our hands together,” Kim Jong-un said.

This could be the turning point where North Korea sees a new future beyond just the military – a future where the shattered economy could take precedence over the production and testing of ever greater means of mass murder.

Or it could be more of the same. A shonky regime buying time to further perfect its weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The never shy Donald Trump has claimed credit for getting the North and South together, citing the pressure exerted by his sanctions, his military, and his strategic genius.

But now it’s his turn to make good his self-described talent as the greatest of dealmakers.

Now Mr Trump and Mr Kim will have to size one another up, test the handshake, rattle and roll the alpha cage and see who comes out on top – and who is the loser.

For Mr Trump the salesman’s view of winners and losers could have dangerous consequences.

Both men need to walk away from their talks due in the next six weeks or so able to claim a victory. Humiliation will not work for either party.

They have both tried reciprocal public humiliation, but the tone has changed somewhat, especially in Korea, as it must if a lasting solution is going to be agreed on.

Mr Trump has already warned he would walk out of the talks if he doesn’t like what he’s hearing – and that’s assuming we even get to a face-to-face meeting of such unlike minds.

As with anything Trump it’s bit of a lottery – and it will mostly depend on the resolve of the Korean leaders, either with Trump’s help or despite his involvement.

Will Mr Trump take an America-first view of these talks or look after the interests of South Korea, Japan and even China – and how will any agreement be enforced?

It may come down to whether Trump approaches it as a win for him, or a win for the world. If the Korean situation is successfully defused, with both North and South Korea benefiting without humiliation, then Trump will get some of the credit. There is a risk he will try to get too much for himself.

It is too soon to talk about Nobel prizes, as some have suggested – and if any are eventually dished out over Korea there would have to be joint credit.

Yes, only time will tell, and Trump’s unpredictability and narcissism means that  anything could happen. He may tone down his public bluster and help do an historic deal. The Koreas, China and Japan will be the biggest beneficiaries, and if Trump earns bragging rights then good on him.

Trump may end up hindering, or helping. or both.