Monday, June 11, 2018

Give Peace a Chance


It was tons of fun mocking New York Times's Mark Landler for his silly piece announcing that Emperor Trump has "thought long" about the North Korea issue and "been preparing for it all his adult life" by going to military school and retailing mythical tales about General MacArthur, but in today's reality-based reporting from Singapore, the very same Mark Landler does some really good service detailing the progression in which Trump is surrendering to Kim Jong-un in the hope of getting to a place where he can declare victory:
The statement is likely to have three sections — dealing with denuclearization, security guarantees for the North and steps to be taken by both sides — according to a person briefed on the talks. But it was not clear that the Americans would succeed in extracting a more detailed commitment to disarming than North Korea has already offered.
If anything, the White House moved closer to Pyongyang’s language, saying it sought complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization “on the Korean Peninsula” — a clause that North Korea interprets as potentially requiring the United States to scale back troop deployments there or to shrink its nuclear umbrella over two East Asian allies, South Korea and Japan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted the administration’s policy had not changed. But he confirmed that the United States would offer security assurances that were different from what Washington had offered North Korea in negotiations under Presidents George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. He declined to outline them.

Mr. Trump’s harsh words about the nation’s closest allies stood in stark contrast with his expression of sunny feelings toward Mr. Kim, a brutal dictator who, only a few months ago, threatened the United States with a nuclear attack and traded bitterly personal insults with Mr. Trump.
What remained unclear is whether that statement would include timelines for North Korea to give up its weapons, a detailed accounting of the scale of the North’s nuclear program or a reference to sanctions, which Pyongyang wants lifted. Among the other steps that could be taken is an American commitment to open a diplomatic outpost in Pyongyang.
People briefed on the meetings said American negotiators found it difficult to make significant headway with the North Koreans, in part because the White House did not back them up in taking a hard line.
If you know what I mean. Or if you don't, it's that Trump is negotiating with his negotiators on Kim's behalf, begging them to make concessions so he can get that deal. I feel pretty good about these, really, given that the meeting itself fulfills so much of what Kim longs for, and the implied recognition in "on the Korean peninsula" that the US also has some serious denuclearizing to do. The Pyongyang presence would also be a very big deal that wouldn't cost Trump a lot. It's hard to imagine what kind of guarantee Trump can offer of lifting sanctions, on the other hand, or actual build-down of US military presence in the south as opposed to "in principle". The words "peace treaty", or "negotiate an end to the war", which I've heard bandied around a lot among people (Republicans?) who ought to know better than to expect such a thing after a brief sitdown, appear nowhere in this article.

The thing is, however, that after Trump's disgraceful meltdown in Quebec and on the Twitter afterwards, his need to look successful has exponentially increased and Kim's leverage has increased with it—by the very fact that he has already achieved his biggest goal, of getting Trump to show up and elevate him into the ranks of the great. If he were to leave without signing a piece of paper, he'd still have accomplished something huge, and it would be Trump who would look like a failure:
Some foreign-policy experts said the breakdown at the Group of 7 meeting would play to North Korea’s advantage, since Mr. Trump can ill afford two failed summit meetings, back to back. The president has consistently predicted success, even as his definition of that has grown foggier.
The unraveling of the gathering in Canada increases the North Korean leader’s incentive to “up his asks and limit his compromises and for Trump to do the opposite,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter, adding, “Hardly the ideal context.
So he will go as far to accommodate Kim as he possibly can, and Republicans in general will eat it up, as they do with everything he gives them, though John Bolton is going to look very cross.

Not me, I'm going to eat it up too, though I'm not going to give Trump any of the credit. More to Trudeau and Macron and May and Merkel, who trolled him so hard over the weekend as if it were their plan to put him in this pickle. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, the most admirable leader of all, is cautioning that this is only the beginning of what may take years, and I take that as a signal that he has achieved his topmost goal too, which is a long-term reduction of tension and of the threat of war. The "two dictators" as whatshername called them on Fox are going to enjoy their image as peacemakers, and if Trump can just sit on his twitter finger for a few hours, it could really happen.

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