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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 24, 2018

 
So much losing

by digby




As much as I loathe Trump I was still hopeful that somehow, by accident, he would be able to strike a deal to keep North Korea moving toward some kind of rapprochement with South Korea and a more peaceful, engaged relationship with the world. There are people living there. Nuclear war is unthinkable. Even temporary time outs are better than escalation.

But I can't say that I'm surprised it fell apart. Trump is in over his head that he can't really think about anything but Hannity and Nunes anyway. His team is unprepared and not cohesive. He refused to prepare and only cared about the pageantry. And all this talk about the Libya solution was just daft ...

This piece by Fred Kaplan in Slate sums up how it went down:

By canceling his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump has proved his lack of skill as a negotiator, handed the world’s most brutal dictator a win, and further isolated the United States as a world power.

In a letter to Kim, released at the same time as Western reporters were witnessing the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear test site, Trump wrote that proceeding with a summit would be “inappropriate,” given the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim’s recent statements. He thus revealed how little he knows about the history of diplomacy with Pyongyang—a true expert could have told him that fiery rhetoric is par for the course—and about Kim’s long-standing position on the issues that were to be discussed.

The statements that threw Trump for a loop—issued by North Korea’s vice minister for foreign affairs, who has been its top negotiator for more than a decade—were, in substance, no different from Kim’s public position since the idea of a summit came up months ago: that the goal should be “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” (not just of North Korea), achieved, if at all, through “phased and synchronous measures” (not all at once).

Trump’s pullout is puzzling, in that, at his press conference this week with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, he said that, while he would prefer instant disarmament by Pyongyang (the position pushed by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), a phased approach might be acceptable.

Trump may think that Kim will now come crawling back to the table, but this is a dubious proposition. First, Kim’s negotiator had already threatened to pull out, saying that there was no point talking if Trump endorsed Bolton’s public comparison of North Korea to Libya, a country whose voluntary surrender of its nuclear program led to a Western-backed ouster of its leader, followed by his brutal murder.

Second, Kim doesn’t need this summit. He has already, deceptively or not, cultivated the image of a peace-seeker, through a charm offensive that began with his New Year’s Day message and continued through the Winter Olympics, his own summits in China and South Korea (the first meetings with those countries’ leaders on their territory), his offer to meet with Trump, his suspension of nuclear and missile tests (though only after announcing that he now had a viable nuclear arsenal), and proposing “denuclearization” (though with a vague timetable and the usual caveats).

Imagine if Trump had gone ahead with the summit, which was scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, and Kim hadn’t shown up, still protesting Bolton’s remarks. Trump could have touted himself as the real peace-seeker. He could have invited the leaders of South Korea, Japan, and perhaps China to come along and, in lieu of the scheduled summit, held a security conference, to discuss further steps to contain and isolate Kim’s regime. It would have been a double win for Trump.

No doubt Bolton and Pompeo are relieved, and may have prompted, Trump’s cancellation. They never wanted a summit to begin with. Bolton had said, as a guest on Fox News before he was hired by Trump, that he hoped the summit would end badly and quickly, so Washington could proceed with ousting Kim’s regime by force if necessary. Bolton had also written op-eds arguing that a preventive strike against North Korea was legal and necessary.

Trump’s big mistake was accepting Kim’s invitation to a summit without first discussing its potential risks and opportunities with people who know something about these things. His second, bigger mistake was hyping expectations, tweeting that a peace treaty was on the horizon and that he should win the Nobel Peace Prize simply for agreeing to meet. These absurd remarks only heightened his own stake in the summit’s success—and Kim’s leverage in the negotiations.

There's more at the link. He ends with this:

What is Trump’s Plan B? As usual, he doesn’t have one.

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