The National (American) Interest and ‘realism’

I don’t know anything about ‘realism’ as far as foreign policy goes, but The National Interest promotes it for the United States.

It is about American interests. It is guided by the belief that nothing will enhance those interests as effectively as the approach to foreign affairs commonly known as realism—a school of thought traditionally associated with such thinkers and statesmen as Disraeli, Bismarck, and Henry Kissinger. Though the shape of international politics has changed considerably in the past few decades, the magazine’s fundamental tenets have not. Instead, they have proven enduring and, indeed, appear to be enjoying something of a popular renaissance.

Until recently, however, liberal hawks and neoconservatives have successfully attempted to stifle debate by arguing that prudence about the use of American power abroad was imprudent—by, in short, disparaging realism as a moribund doctrine that is wholly inimical to American idealism. This has been disastrous.

After the Bush administration’s failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it became abundantly clear that the lack of a debate in Washington was part and parcel of a larger foreign policy failing, which was the refusal to ponder the larger implications and consequences of the promiscuous use of American power abroad. A reflexive substitution of military might for diplomacy, of bellicose rhetoric for attainable aspirations, dramatically weakened rather than strengthened America’s standing around the globe.

But today, as Russia, China, and Iran assess and act upon their own perceived national interests, Washington must attempt to understand those nations as they understand themselves.

I’m not sure that the US has been very good at understanding other nations, apart from how they can be influenced and manipulated too serve US interests.

What actually constitutes true realism is, of course, an appropriate source of controversy.

I don’t get that.

And so, on both its web site and in its print edition, The National Interest seeks to promote, as far as possible, a fresh debate about the course of American foreign policy by featuring a variety of leading authors from government, journalism, and academia, many of whom may at times disagree with each other.

The National Interest editorial:  Standing Up For Realism

The Center for the National Interest, which was founded by Richard M. Nixon in 1994, is being criticized for its embrace of realist principles, including outreach to Russia based on a combination of diplomatic and military strength.

Realism, long associated with authoritarian European statesmen such as Otto von Bismarck and Klemens von Metternich, has been consistently portrayed as antithetical to American democratic traditions. During the Cold War, statesmen such as Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski were depicted as amoral or even harboring, in the case of the latter, loyalties to Poland rather than America.

But in one form or another, no matter what the detractors may claim, realism is at the very heart of American foreign policy. It is what helped America to emerge as the dominant power after World War II and during the Cold War.

The realist approach served as a bipartisan foundation for Washington’s approach to the world, providing a common framework for identifying threats and defending American interests abroad. Everyone from Harry Truman and Dean Acheson to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger to George H.W. Bush and James Baker espoused a strategic realism that played a decisive role in ending the Cold War on American terms. Even Ronald Reagan, who talked about battling an evil empire, ended up signing sweeping arms control treaties with the Kremlin and consigning the Cold War to the dustbin of history.

These statesmen helped to establish a stable balance of international power that safeguarded Western prosperity and freedom while allowing for the peaceful internal transformation of the Soviet bloc.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, realism fell into disrepute. Headier doctrines that amounted to old wine in new bottles now found favor. The United States found itself alone at the top of the international pyramid and became convinced that its security could be based on transforming non-Western nations in America’s image.

The two major strands of American foreign policy that dominated during the post-Cold War period—neo-conservatism and liberal internationalism—may have disputed the appropriate mix of force and diplomatic persuasion, but they were united in pursuing a missionary foreign policy.

This approach has failed. It has led to debilitating wars in the Middle East that have sapped America’s treasury. It has helped turn competitors into enemies. Regions that once enjoyed the strategic benefits of a balance of power have been thrown into disorder and disarray. The world order that prevailed in 1989 is now in shambles.

I don’t think the ‘world order’ that prevailed in 1989 was very flash either.

The Center for the National Interest has consistently challenged liberal international and neocon thinking to advocate a foreign policy based on a prudent combination of diplomacy, economic and military strength to defend American national interests.

Realism is asserting US power by any means available?

Who got it right? The answer seems self-evident. But at the very moment that realist doctrines should be ascendant, a media backlash is taking place that is directly targeting the Center, principally for its pursuit of a dialogue with Russia. The idea seems to be that it is illegitimate, even unpatriotic, to advocate anything that defies foreign policy conventional wisdom.

Dialogue amongst major powers is important. The US should talk to Russia to try to work out how to co-exist peacefully and prosperously.

To be sure, previous foreign policy debates, whether over Vietnam or the second Iraq War, have been marked by fierce vitriol. But those debates took place within a commonly agreed framework of seeking to advance American interests. Today, the debates have curdled into vitriol and character assassination, pure and simple.

That’s where US politics has seemed to have evolved to. It doesn’t help that the President repeatedly sets an example using vitriol and character assassination, but he seems to have avoided that with Russia, instead heaping praise on Putin  – or at least his talks with Putin. Actually he has just had a phone conversation with Putin.

Reuters also quote him as saying “Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia. As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing”.

It is a good thing if the US gets along with Russia and China, and peace seems to be working fairly well, except in Afghanistan where the Taliban is increasing it’s influence, and in Syria where Russian influence increases as the US tries to work it’s way out of the complications there.

Reuters:  Trump says he, Putin discussed new nuclear pact possibly including China

U.S. President Donald Trump said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed on Friday the possibility of a new accord limiting nuclear arms that could eventually include China in what would be a major deal between the globe’s top three atomic powers.

Trump, speaking to reporters as he met in the Oval Office with Peter Pellegrini, prime minister of the Slovak Republic, also said he and Putin discussed efforts to persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, the political discord in Venezuela, and Ukraine during a call that stretched over an hour.

Trump cited the expense of keeping up the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a motivating factor behind wanting to limit how many weapons are deployed.

“We’re talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less and they make less and maybe where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now,” he said.

Trump said China during trade talks had “felt very strongly” about joining the United States and Russia in limiting nuclear weapons.

“So I think we’re going to probably start up something very shortly between Russia and ourselves maybe to start off, and I think China will be added down the road. We’ll be talking about non-proliferation, we’ll be talking about a nuclear deal of some kind, and I think it’ll be a very comprehensive one,” he said.

The Kremlin said the call was initiated by Washington. It said the two leaders agreed to maintain contacts on different levels and expressed satisfaction with the “businesslike and constructive nature” of the conversation.

But the the reality is, it’s not simple:

The two leaders discussed Ukraine. Trump canceled a summit meeting with Putin late last year after Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships on Nov. 25 and arrested 24 sailors. Putin also told Trump that the new leadership in Ukraine should take steps to solve the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin said.

With the United States concerned about a Russian military presence in Venezuela at a time when Washington wants Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to leave power, Trump told Putin “the United States stands with the people of Venezuela” and stressed he wanted to get relief supplies into the country, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Putin told Trump that any external interference in Venezuela’s internal business undermines the prospects of a political end to the crisis, the Kremlin said.

Trump also raised with Putin the issue of getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Trump has met twice with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but Kim has yet to agree to a disarmament deal.

Putin has just had talks with Kim Yong Un. NY Times: After Meeting Kim Jong-un, Putin Supports North Korea on Nuclear Disarmament

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia made a public show of support for North Korea on nuclear disarmament, seeming to undermine President Trump’s approach to nuclear diplomacy, as Mr. Putin and Kim Jong-un on Thursday wrapped up their first summit meeting.

Russian officials have long insisted they wanted to support Mr. Trump’s efforts at one-on-one nuclear negotiations with Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader. But speaking to reporters after the meeting in Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific Ocean coast, Mr. Putin said that North Korea needs security guarantees from more nations than just the United States before abandoning its nuclear arsenal.

At talks in February in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, Mr. Trump had proposed a “big deal” to lift punishing economic sanctions in return for a quick and complete elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Mr. Kim offered, instead, only a partial dismantling of nuclear facilities — while keeping his arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles — in exchange for relief from the most harmful sanctions.

After the breakdown in talks in Hanoi, North Korea vented its frustration with a weapons test and accusations that Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, were sabotaging negotiations.

But since then (Reuters):  North Korea fires ‘projectiles’, South Korea says stop raising tensions

North Korea fired several “unidentified short-range projectiles” into the sea off its east coast on Saturday, prompting South Korea to call on its communist neighbor to “stop acts that escalate military tension on the Korean Peninsula”.

Analysts suspected the flurry of military activity by Pyongyang was an attempt to exert pressure on the United States to give ground in negotiations to end the North’s nuclear program after a summit in February ended in failure.

I’m not sure where Realism fits in here.

 

 

 

North Korea restoring missile site, threats of further sanctions from US

The meeting in Vietnam last wee between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un ended abruptly last week, with a luncheon and signing ceremony cancelled.

Now relations between North Korea and US seem to be deteriorating.

Wall Street Journal –  North Korean Launch Site Is Being Built Back Up Again

Disclosure comes in the wake of failed U.S.-North Korean summit in Hanoi last week

North Korea is restoring a missile launch site it previously claimed to be dismantling as an overture to the U.S., according to newly released commercial satellite photos and people briefed on South Korean intelligence.

The move has sparked concerns that North Korea may be wavering on some of the gestures it made to demonstrate its willingness to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Reuters – U.S. will look at ramping up sanctions if North Korea does not denuclearize: Bolton

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said on Tuesday that the United States would look at ramping up sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang did not scrap its nuclear weapons program.

Bolton told Fox Business Network that following the Hanoi summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Washington would see whether Pyongyang was committed to giving up its “nuclear weapons program and everything associated with it.”

“If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear … they’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact,” said Bolton, a hardliner who has advocated a tough approach to North Korea in the past.

His comments came days after the Feb. 27-28 denuclearization summit between Trump and Kim broke down over differences on how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of U.S. willingness to ease sanctions.

Earlier on Tuesday, two U.S. think tanks and South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that North Korea had restored part of a missile launch site it began to dismantle after pledging to do so in the first summit with Trump last year.

Yonhap quoted lawmakers briefed by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) as saying that the work was taking place at the Tongchang-ri launch site and involved replacing a roof and a door at the facility.

Satellite images seen by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, showed that structures on the launch pad had been rebuilt sometime between Feb. 16 and March 2, Jenny Town, managing editor at the project and an analyst at the Stimson Center think tank, told Reuters.

That alleged rebuilding was taking place in the lead up to the meeting between Trump and Kim in Hanoi.

It looks like peace in Korea may be more difficult to achieve that Trump anticipated, but North Korea’s history suggests it was always going to be difficult.

Trump and Kim predict success in Vietnam, media excluded

It’s hard to know what will actually come out of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Young Un in Vietnam. It will take time to see what progress is made.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose before their meeting during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

An odd looking pair – photo from Reuters

Reuters:  Trump and North Korea’s Kim predict success in high-stakes nuclear summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Vietnam on Wednesday for a second summit that the United States hopes will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of peace and development.

Kim and Trump shook hands and smiled briefly in front of a row of their national flags at the Metropole before heading to dinner together.

Trump told reporters he thought the talks would be very successful, and when asked if he was “walking back” on denuclearization demands, said “no”.

Kim said they had overcome obstacles to hold the second summit and praised Trump for his “courageous decision” to begin a dialogue.

“Now that we’re meeting here again like this, I’m confident that there will be an excellent outcome that everyone welcomes, and I’ll do my best to make it happen,” Kim said.

Trump and Kim held a 20-minute, one-on-one chat before sitting down to dinner with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy, Kim Yong Chol, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Reuters:  White House excludes reporters from Trump-Kim dinner after they asked questions

The White House barred reporters from Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg from covering a dinner between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday after two of them asked Trump questions during his initial interactions with Kim.

The pool was present when Trump and Kim first met and shook hands. During that short initial meeting, while cameras were rolling, Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason asked Trump what he wanted to achieve at the summit and whether he had backed away from his demand for North Korea’s denuclearization.

Reporters in the pool regularly shout out questions to leaders and on Wednesday they asked Trump about the summit and the testimony in Congress of his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, in two separate opportunities known as “pool sprays.”

The reporters were later excluded from covering the dinner because of what White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said were “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays,” the Washington Post reported.

It’s unlikely media will get much from answers from Trump and Kim, but this looks petty from the White House. And it iis an attack on the freedom of the press and their essential role in reporting and holding to account.

Reuters said it was “deeply troubled” by the exclusion of Mason and other reporters from covering the dinner.

“We believe it is essential that government provide access to – and the ability to ask questions of – officials and hold them to account,” Reuters said in a statement.

The Associated Press said it opposed White House efforts to restrict access to the president.

“It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad,” said AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton.

While Trump appears to be working on peace with North Korea he looks a long way from making peace with US media.

Second Trump-Kim Yong Un summit announced, North Korea “will become a great economic powerhouse”

After the location for a second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un was announced (It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 and 28) Trump tweeted that “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Yong Un, will become a great economic powerhouse”.

NY Times: Trump says North Korea talks productive, summit will be in Hanoi

President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S. diplomats had a “very productive meeting” with North Korean officials, and he announced his summit later this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be held in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.

“My representatives have just left North Korea after a very productive meeting and an agreed upon time and date for the second Summit with Kim Jong Un. It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 & 28,” Trump said on Twitter.

“I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!” he said.

Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, held three days of talks in Pyongyang to prepare for the summit, the State Department said on Friday.

In their talks in Pyongyang, from Wednesday to Friday, Biegun and Kim Hyok Chol “discussed advancing President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming U.S.-DPRK relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the State Department said.Its statement, which referred to North Korea by the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave no indication of any progress in the talks.

While in the U.S. view North Korea has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons, it complains that Washington has done little to reciprocate for its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some facilities.

North Korea has repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees.

Trump, eager for a foreign policy win to distract from domestic troubles, has been keen for a second summit despite a lack of significant moves by North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. He and Biegun have stressed the economic benefits to North Korea if it does so.

One can only wonder what thoughts are behind this tweet.

Trump accuses China of sabotaging North Korea ‘deal’

Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un made a fairly vague agreement in Singapore a month ago.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just visited North Korea and the outcome of that meeting looks shaky, despite Pompeo’s positive report:

“We had many hours of productive conversations. These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”

See North Korean denuclearisation talks with US Secretary of State – “regrettable”. It has also been reported that North Korea accused Pompeo of acting like a gangster.

Since then Trump has tried to blame China, and added trade to the mix of rhetoric.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has also accused China of interfering: China Sabotaging North Korea Nuclear Talks Over Tariff Trade War

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I see China’s hands all over this. We are in a fight with China. We buy $500 billion worth of goods from the Chinese. They buy $100 billion from us. They cheat and President Trump wants to change the economic relationship with China.

So, if I were President Trump, I would not let China use North Korea to back me off of the trade dispute. We’ve got more bullets than they do when it comes to trade. We sell them $100 billion, they sell is $500 billion, we can hurt them more than they will hurt us. And all we’re looking for is for them to stop cheating when it comes to trade.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the Chinese pulling a North Koreans back. And to our North Korean friends, can’t say the word friend yet. You asked Pompeo, did he sleep well? If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn’t sleep very well.

Threatening words from Graham on top of Trump’s Twitter bombast.

China and North Korea border each other and have been closely connected politically for a long time. China supported the north in the Korean war in the 1950s.

Kim visited China before his summit with Trump, and he has been back to China since.

So of course China has some sort of influence in North Korea. Are they “exerting negative pressure”? I guess that depends what side of the political and international fence you are on.

Threatening “more bullets” in the escalating trade war with China and threatening “If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn’t sleep very well” could be  interpreted as a bit of negative pressure too.

I just hope trade and military relations don’t go into a negative spiral that ends up in a crash and burn.

North Korean denuclearisation talks with US Secretary of State – “regrettable”

After a meeting in North Korea with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commitments for denuclearisation look shaky.

Reuters:  North Korea says resolve for denuclearisation may falter after talks with U.S.

North Korea said on Saturday its “firm, steadfast” resolve to give up its nuclear programs may falter after the United States demanded unilateral denuclearisation during two days of talks in Pyongyang, state media said.

The North’s official KCNA news agency said the result of talks with the delegation headed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was “extremely troubling,” accusing it of insisting on complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

Fox News: North Korea says denuclearization talks with Pompeo ‘regrettable’:

North Korea on Saturday accused the U.S. of undermining the spirit of last month’s summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un after what it says were “regrettable” talks with a delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry, accusing the U.S. of trying to unilaterally pressure the country into abandoning its nuclear weapons, came shortly after Pompeo’s delegation left the country.

“We had expected that the U.S. side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders’ summit … we were also thinking about providing reciprocal measures,” Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

“However, the attitude and stance the United States showed in the first high-level meeting (between the countries) was no doubt regrettable,” the spokesman said.

Pompeo seemed to think things had gone well, or at least that’s what he claimed.

Pompeo had struck a different tone, telling reporters as he left that the talks with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol had been “productive.”

“We had many hours of productive conversations,” he said. “These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”

I doubt that many people will be surprised with difficulties in progress towards Korean denuclearisation.

It looks like more negotiation  will be required, if not more threats and bluster.

US officials claim North Korea increasing nuclear production

Lost in translation?

Despite apparent assurances by Kim Yong Un at the Singapore summit, and confidence expressed by Donald Trump that North Korea will denuclearize, US officials claim that North Korea has been improving secret nuclear facilities and  increasing it’s production of nuclear fuel.

The Hill: Satellite images raise alarms about North Korean nukes

Satellite images showing North Korea making substantial improvements to one of its nuclear research facilities are raising alarms that the government has little interest in actually giving up its nuclear arsenal.

Just two weeks after President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a deal committing the U.S. to security guarantees in exchange for North Korea denuclearizing, satellite images show the country making “rapid” improvements to its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, according to 38 North, which monitors the country.

“There is no way North Korea will ever give up its nuclear weapons — ever,” said Harry Kazianis, director of The Center for the National Interest think tank, in response to the latest news.

He argued that the latest satellite imagery is evidence that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, which it has long seen as key to its survival.

“Since the summit we have learned that North Korea is looking for one thing only from the Trump administration: nuclear acceptance, not disarmament,” Kazianis said.

NBC News: North Korea has increased nuclear production at secret sites, say U.S. officials

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The intelligence assessment, which has not previously been reported, seems to counter the sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted after his historic June 12 summit with Kim that “there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

Analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don’t see it that way, according to more than a dozen American officials who are familiar with their assessments and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration — while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival.

NBC on 12 June 2018: Trump, Kim sign agreement after North Korea summit; war games put on hold

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint statement Tuesday agreeing to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The pact came at the end of a historic half-day round of negotiations that marked the first time a sitting U.S. president had met with his North Korean counterpart.

“From the beginning, we got along,” Trump later told reporters.

The president said the pair had “developed a very special bond,” describing Kim as “a very talented man.”

Trump said his meeting with Kim was “honest, direct and productive.”

Earlier, Trump said the agreement would “absolutely” lead to the denuclearization of North Korea — and “very quickly.”

“We had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind and sign a historic document,” Kim said through a translator. “The world will see a major change.”

North Korea being unreliable is not a change at all.

The seem to have very quickly resumed nuclear production despite the vague agreement made with the US and despite Trump’s optimism.

Image result for cartoon kim trump

 

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.

North Korea denuclearization could take many years

Talks between US and North Korea leaders Donald Trump and Kim Yong-un are currently on again, and may happen next month, but denuclearization could take many years according to an expert who has toured North Korea’s nuclear plants, Siegfried S. Hecker.

NY Times North Korea Nuclear Disarmament Could Take 15 Years, Expert Warns

As the Trump administration races to start talks with North Korea on what it calls “rapid denuclearization,” a top federal government adviser who has repeatedly visited the North’s sprawling atomic complex is warning that the disarmament process could take far longer, up to 15 years.

The adviser, Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, and now a Stanford professor, argues that the best the United States can hope for is a phased denuclearization that goes after the most dangerous parts of the North’s program first.

Dr. Hecker’s time frame stands in stark contrast with what the United States initially demanded, on what could be a key sticking point in any summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

Center for International Security and Cooperation Stanford University:  A technically-informed roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization

– Our history study shows that North Korea’s nuclear development has been deliberate and determined, and not primarily predicated on cycles of provocations, appeasement and reversals. Diplomacy has several times slowed or even reversed the program, but never eliminated it. There has been and continues to be a huge trust deficit between the two sides that will almost certainly compel Pyongyang to hedge its bets in any agreed path forward – as it did multiple times over the past 26 years.

– Our experience in dealing with the North has also taught us that retaining a civilian nuclear program and a peaceful space program are of great importance to the North – both for technical and symbolic reasons. Over the past 17 years, the US has considered such civilian activities as covers for military ambitions and has consistently denied these, fearing that such activities would support the North’s military programs. However, this type of risk avoidance instead of risk management has led to several missed opportunities to halt and/or reverse the military programs.

– …we propose a phased risk management approach to denuclearization…The mosaic is meant to provide an overall sense of what’s manageable and what must be eliminated. The phases constitute what might be possible during the first year, the “halt” stage, in years 2 to 5, the “roll back” stage, and in years 6 to 10, the “eliminate” stage. The details are shown in a subsequent chart. Political development will, of course, determine whether or not that time frame can be shortened or lengthened.

– The approach suggested here is based on our belief that North Korea will not give up its weapons and its weapons program until its security can be assured. Such assurance cannot be achieved simply by an American promise or an agreement on paper, it will require a substantial period of coexistence and interdependence

Trump promises and US agreements on paper under Trump’s leadership are not secure assurances. Trump dumped the TPP Agreement (before the US ratified it), forced a renogotiation of NAFTA, withdrew the US from the Paris climate agreement, and withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear agreement.

And Trump seems to shift his position at whim – this may be the art of his business dealing, but it leaves substantial uncertainty in international affairs.

Trump has set expectations of a an immediate denuclearization if he is to do a deal – a deal that on the surface seems very one sided. He may need to compromise if he is to reach any sort of long term deal.