The summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un (not to be confused with the summit between President Trump and Kim Kardashian) is now history and the various talking heads are working diligently to be sure their perspective of the meeting is the one that defines history.
In the midst of the various perspectives much of the public is, as usual, being divided into two camps. These conflicting camps have less to do with actual facts on the meeting and more to do with being pro or anti-Trump. It is a symptom of our very irrational age when a meeting that could literally affect issues as significant as nuclear war become a mere talking point for political bickering. The president’s meetings with the North Korean leader, as much as anything, are a demonstration of our social and political dysfunction and hypocrisy.
Consider the following popular talking points featured in various conversations on the subject in the last 48 hours.
President Trump has given away a key incentive by meeting with Kim Jong Un. Allowing the dictator a photo opportunity with the leader of the free world only enhances and legitimizes his image in North Korea and throughout the world.
This is a fair enough point – except for the fact of who is usually making it. The pundits complaining about the President’s careless use of imagery and symbols to enhance and legitimize a dictator are generally those who decry the idea of American exceptionalism. Now, for the sake of disparaging the North Korea meetings they are noting the value of American exceptionalism and how it should be used to lure Kim Jong Un to some concessions. That strategy cannot be qualified as very effective if we look at the record of the last half century with North Korea and American diplomats. What’s wrong with trying something new?
On the flip side of this of course is the MAGA crowed and nearly religious devotees of President Trump. This summit has proven the Donald will keep his promises, drain the swamp, and shake off the stale ineffective ways that have run Washington and global politics for decades. Although their perspective usually includes strong adherence to American exceptionalism the sacrifice of American prestige is worthwhile when we are effectively getting things done. This is true – as long as it relates to President Trump. Nine years ago when former President Obama bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia his opponents were outraged by how he had sold out American prestige and dignity to a foreign monarch. (Not to worry, those outraged by Trump this week were celebrating Obama’s grace in 2009.)
Perhaps this is all a silly issue that no longer matters. What’s done is done and the good news is that the leaders of North Korea and America are talking. This puts us further from war and further from nuclear disaster than when we weren’t talking.
I agree with this perspective. I also agreed with it when it was the foundation for justifying the agreements with Iran. Nations who are talking with one another, who have agreements with one another, are less likely to go to war with one another. It is not impossible for war to break out but open dialogue leaves other outlets open to work out disputes. Unfortunately, President Trump just canceled the Iran agreements.
President Trump opened his dialogue with Kim Jong Un by showing him a theatrical trailer that had been produced to seduce the dictator toward peace and his moment in history. He also mentioned that the beaches where North Korea tests its bombs would be great real estate property for condominium developments. These are not SNL skit ideas. These things and communications literally happened.
It is embarrassing to consider our President might believe these are effective negotiating methods of statecraft but alternatively we have to remember who he is dealing with. Kim Jong Un is a dysfunctional sociopath by almost all accounts who rules over a country where his people believe he is a god-man. Perhaps communicating with and toward an adolescent sense of self grandiosity is just what the doctor ordered.
Many pundits believe President Trump lost out on the negotiations while Kim Jong Un played the President of the United States. After all, the leader of North Korea received legitimacy, publicity and a relaxation of sanctions. The thing he wanted more than anything, we are told, is a relaxation of the “strangling sanctions on North Korea.”
We need to revisit the images of Kim Jong Un.
Sanctions aren’t hurting the tubby leader. They have been ongoing for decades and they aren’t working to change the situation. Sanctions are simply poor excuses for action in the peninsula. The only people who are suffering from sanctions there are the victims of Kim Jong Un’s rule.
In the end, expecting significant advances in the first meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un was unrealistic. These things take time. I personally prefer the two men in a room together talking rather than hurling insults at each other from across the globe. The optimistic perspective is that this could be the beginning of something. After that, most of the remaining perspectives and voices we are hearing in the media are simply partisan numskullery.