Tag Archives: diplomacy

The Rocket Man Versus The Dotard

Yesterday the South Koreans announced that the leaders of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un and the United States, Donald Trump, will meet sometime this Spring.

This is a truly amazing event in modern history. Two nations that have technically been at war for almost 70 years finally getting it together. A step in the right drection. Talking is always better than a nuclear holocaust. On most days.

Both Kim and Trump shoud be congratulated for agreeing to meet. Even though nothing substantive will probably emerge, the meeting itself is a giant step toward lowering tensions and should be welcomed by all.

In any meeting each side wants something and must give up something. What does Kim want? Well, for over 30 years the leaders of North Korea have tried to engage the US in one -on-one meetings of this sort. All previous presidents have declined. Kim gets to stand next to the most powerful man on Earth (other than Putin). He gets the prestige of dealing with the US as an equal.

From Kim’s point of view, his nuclear gambt has worked. By rapidly developing long range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads he has forced the US to recognize North Korea as a world power. It matters not that his missiles may not work. Or may not reach the US. Or that his warheads might be defective. The propaganda is all good.

This meeting helps Kim promote himself at home as the great leader who forced the US to the negotiating table. A big win.

What does Trump get? He stands alone as the only US president with the determination to meet North Korea in the name of ending tensions. He can claim that his get tough policy has frightened Kim into meeting. He made Kim cry “uncle” (If Kim has any uncles left he has not murdered). It matters not that Kim refuses to give up his military force. The propaganda is all good.

This meeting helps Trump promote himself as the great dealmaker even if no deal is made at the end of the day. A big win.

Of course, a lot could still happen to derail the meeting before it takes place. There are political forces in each country that do not want to see a cessation of hostilities. Preparation for war is still the biggest business on Earth. Money to be made.

If Trump and Kim control their inner child it is possible for some good to come of this. But, just for fun, let’s say they don’t control their impulses. The following dialogue (based on actual statements each has made or each government has made about the other) could go like this. (Italicized words are things they have actually said about each other).

Kim: Greetings, Dotard. How is your senility today?

Trump: Shove it, Rocket Man. I may be old but I have the biggest nuclear button.

Kim: Listen, you old lunatic, no one believes a word you say.

Trump: Once a madman, always a madman, hey Little Kim?

Kim: Why do you constantly spout rubbish instead of thinking about what you say?

Trump: Watch your mouth or you will suffer fire and fury like the world has never seen before.

Kim: You are bereft of reason and a destroyer of world peace.

Trump: I am tall but you are short and fat. Go on a diet, already.

So, maybe they will put aside their insults for a good photo op, maybe not. When the meeting (if it ever does take place) is done, here is what Sarah Huckabee Sanders will say:

“The president and the dictator had a very productive meeting in which they agreed to plan another meeting  in which they can meet for the purposes of a closer dialogue and mutual understanding concerning the preliminary junction of three cans of tomatoes and I cannot answer that so I refer you to any lawyesr you can find…….

And the next morning President Trump tweets: I kicked little Kim’s ass all over the place ! MAGA!

http://time.com/4953283/kim-jong-un-donald-trump-insults/

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Time to Do Nothing

In 1949 Mao Zedong and the communists took over China. They instituted communist policies . In response the US cut off all relations with the People’s Republic of China for many years. Mao was a dictator. Harsh. Ruthless. The US would have nothing to do with him. He was an enemy.

Then, in 1972 , Richard Nixon did what was necessary. Mao did what his subordinates did not want him to do. Nixon visited China, met with Mao and started the opening up of trade and cultural relationships. The rightwing in China and the US were outraged by this betrayal of ideals. They wanted conflict, not reproachment.

The world did not end. The US was not defeated. In fact, over time, China has become a major world player and dominant economic force. A major trading partner with the US.

In 1986 the Russian leader, Gorbachev, met with the US leader, Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev had opened up Russia and the Russian people to the possibilities of democracy. Perestroika and glasnost . Reagan, a fervent anti-communists, saw an opportunity to cooperate on arms control. Both men signed the arms reduction deal which helped defuse the 40 years of hostility and tension between the two superpowers. Both men were criticized as “weak” by hardliners at home.

While Russia has fallen back into a dictatorship, the arms deals have held. Billions that could have been wasted by both nations on military spending has been saved. Not to say that both countries still spend way too much on the military. More than either needs for its defense. It was a bold, unpopular move for Reagan and Gorbachev to make.

But Reagan took a step toward an enemy and helped change the world.

Vietnam was a communist nation. The US fought a long war before ultimately admitting defeat. The hatred of many toward the North Vietnamese (and to some extent the South Vietnamese) was overwhelming. They were ruthless. They were despicable. The hatred of Americans by the millions of Vietnamese who had family killed by the “invaders” was also overwhelming.

In 1994, almost 20 years after the US left Vietnam, Bill Clinton lifted the trade embargo. Once again US companies could do business in Vietnam. Vietnam could be brought fully into the world trading system. Trade between the two nations now has reached billions of dollars a year. Former enemies have become trading partners.

Which brings us to Kim Jung -Un. The dictator of North Korea. Yesterday Mr Kim called for talks with his neighbor, South Korea. And South Korea responded positively. Both sides see no reason for increased hostility and increased fear. The president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, has asked the US to postpone joint military operations as a gesture of good will. He wants to open up talks with his enemy to the north.

Would it not be nice if North and South Korea opened up more and more trade relations? Would it not be nice if these two nations could tone down the rhetoric and begin more cultural and economic interactions? Hasn’t history taught us that even the most hated  enemies can, over time, become trading partners? And once nations forge strong trade partnerships they both have a stake in keeping the peace and developing economically.

Nixon taught us that. Reagan taught us that. Clinton taught us that. Have we learned?

Let us hope that the US encourages this new interaction between the 2 Koreas. Or at least does not do anything to undermine the possibility of peace. Then, 20 years from now the people of North and South Korea may be able to freely visit each other and take advantage of increased trade and wealth.

If the US just lets it happen. Sometmes just doing nothing is enough.

 

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The Rocket Man versus The Dotard

For starters. here is a partial exchange of messages sent between John F Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev during the height of the Cold War. When people of each nations saw the other as the most terrible enemy and the world seemed always on the verge of nuclear war.

“…In your speech of inauguration to the office of President, and likewise in the message to Congress of January 30 you, Mr. President, said that you would like for the Soviet Union and the United States of America to unite their efforts in such areas as the struggle against disease, mastering the cosmos, development of culture and trade. Such an approach to these problems impresses us and we welcome these utterances of yours.

We consider that favorable conditions for the most speedy solution of these noble tasks facing humanity would be created through the settlement of the problem of disarmament. And we would like every country to make every effort for the solution of this problem with the establishment of such a strict international control under which no one could arm secretly and commit aggression.

All agree to the fact that the solution of the problem of disarmament depends to a great extent on agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. If we reached such an agreement, it would be a great joy for all people on Earth and a great blessing for all mankind.

N. Khrushchev”
and Kennedy’s reply a week later….

“…I think we should recognize, in honesty to each other, that there are problems on which we may not be able to agree. However, I believe that while recognizing that we do not and, in all probability will not, share a common view on all of these problems, I do believe that the manner in which we approach them and, in particular, the manner in which our disagreements are handled, can be of great importance.

In addition, I believe we should make more use of diplomatic channels for quite informal discussion of these questions, not in the sense of negotiations (since I am sure that we both recognize the interests of other countries are deeply involved in these issues), but rather as a mechanism of communication which should, insofar as is possible, help to eliminate misunderstanding and unnecessary divergencies, however great the basic differences may be….”

John F Kennedy

 

Fast forward to 2017. Here is are the words used in the exchanges between Kim Jung-un and Donald Trump.

Trump: If you don’t do what I tell you I am going to “totally destroy” your country. Totally!

Kim: Ha . “A frightened dog barks the loudest”. I am not worried.

Trump: Oh yeah, “Rocket Man”

Kim: You are obviously “mentally deranged.”

Trump: Well, you are a “total nutjob”.

Kim: Well, I have the “biggest ever hydrogen bomb”. Biggest! Best !

Trump: You are “obviously a madman” I will destroy you.

Kim: I hear a “dog barking” just a “dog barking”.

Trump: “Maniac”

Kim: “Dotard”

Trump: Your mother wears combat boots!

Kim: So’s your old man.

Trump: Gonna make me?

Kim: You stink!

John F Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev must be swirling like tops in their graves.

(Words in quotes were actually used by Trump and Kim or Kim’s representatives.)

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Re-Fighting the Vietnam War

The US lost the war in Vietnam. The USA bombed and napalmed and bombed  some more. And lost. In the end, the US forces left and the North Vietnamese united the country.

Ever since the US lost the Vietnam War many American politicians and military men of my generation have been trying to win it. In other parts of the world. In Grenada. In Lebanon. In Libya. In Panama. In Haiti. In Bosnia.  In Kuwait. In Iraq. In Afghanistan.

The idea that a superpower like the USA could be defeated by a small Asian country like Vietnam has stuck in the craw of some in my generation for many years. They simply could not understand it. Or accept it. Many still can’t.

And they have been fighting it over and over again in other parts of the world ever since. The military solution is, in their minds, the only solution.

So now we are on the brink of a war with North Korea. Make no mistake, this is a war of choice. Like Vietnam. Like Iraq. It is a war we are being pulled toward simply because those in power want it. They want to be “tough”. And they want simple solutions. Nothing is more simple than war.

Demonizing leaders of nations before attacking them has become par for the course. Ho Chi Minh, an ally in WW2, was suddenly a devil. Noriega, our man in Panama, became evil overnight. Saddam Hussein, who the US supplied with chemical and other weapons in his war with Iran,  was discovered to be a bad guy! And so it goes.

Which brings us to North Korea. Kim Jung -un is the new Ho. The reincarnation of Saddam. In preparation for war.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Kim is a great guy. He has his political enemies jailed or executed. He has poured vast resources into the military at the expense of other forms of development. By most accounts the North Korean people have an extremely low standard of living compared to their southern neighbors.

Kim is a big mouth, a braggart, a complete narcissist and shows signs of instability. No president of the USA could ever be accused of that! He likes to rattle the sabers.  He is certainly no one I would want to invite to dinner.

And, like Saddam and Ho and Noriega he has never attacked the USA. The only reason to attack Kim, like the attack on Iraq, is some theory of a “pre-emptive” strike. Of course, you cannot have a “pre-emptive” strike without a propaganda campaign to convince folks that war is inevitable.  Major powers using “pre-emptive” strikes are not new. Hitler attack the Poles in 1939 before the Polish cavalry could sweep through Germany. And Tojo attacked Pearl Harbor before Americans could attack Tokyo. Bush attacked Iraq before Saddam could unleash all those WMDs, which were never discovered.

The Trump administration seems intent on going to war. The American media is right there with him. Wars sell air time. Sell newspapers. Sell books. Make careers, in both the military and in journalism. So we see various editorials and proclamations about the “inevitable” conflict.

Of course war is with North Korea is not inevitable. The only outcome would be the deaths of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of North and South Koreans, Japanese and Americans.

The only other “solution” to the North Korea-USA conflict, according to “conventional wisdom”, is to close off North Korea and further isolate Kim. That has not worked and will not work . Especially since China and Russia are not about to stop supporting his regime. Has isolating Cuba led to the downfall of the Castro regime?

Only by opening up trade and cultural exchanges, bringing North Korea into the web of international affairs, will catastrophe be avoided. We have done so with characters less savory even than Kim. Stalin and Mao Zedong come to mind. Vietnam is now a trading partner. The world needs to make sure Kim has “skin in the game”, not further isolate him.

It is sad. Very sad. That a man like Dennis Rodman has shown more diplomatic skill than our current president. Rodman has gone to North Korea and tried to open up the doors of understanding. Instead of anticipating (hoping for?) war, he has tried to bring people together.

From a Newsweek article published today, Rodman, just back from North Korea  says the following:

“I’m not defending him, I’m not defending the fact that what he does as far as his country and his leadership. I think he has been passed a throne from his grandfather and his father. A lot of people say that the grandfather was worse than the father and the father is worse than the marshal today. I’ve got to hope,” he said, adding “I don’t love him. I just want to try to straighten things out for everyone to get along together, that’s it.”

“Things can happen if Donald Trump, if they sit down, have some type of mutual conversation, they don’t have to be like a friendship conversation, just a mutual conversation, saying: ‘Hi, I would love to engage in some words and politics and over the history of your country and my country and just try to start some dialogue,” Rodman said, “I think that’ll open up maybe the door just a little bit.”

What a state of affairs when Dennis Rodman seems to be the sane one in the room! When a tatooed body pierced former athlete makes more substantial diplomatic efforts that the US State Department.

But then again, Dennis was not around when the USA lost the Vietnam War. He sees no need to fight it all over again.

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