Sunday, July 8, 2018

Mike Pompeo's negotiations with North Korea

So, how are things going as Mike Pompeo attempts to iron out the details of Trump supposedly solving the North Korea problem?  According to North Korea, not well.  "Gangster-like mindset" is the phrase getting the most attention, but the gist of it seems to be that once Pompeo shows up to start working out actual policy, suddenly, Kim Jong Un isn't our bestest buddy ever.  Whodathunkit?

Last month, I wrote, "Trump:  Richard Nixon, Neville Chamberlain, or just some useless idiot?" in response to his predictably triumphant rhetoric after the Kim-Trump summit.  The answer, of course, was "useless idiot."  He didn't give anything real away, the way Neville Chamberlain did, even though his rhetoric was a direct callback to the "peace in our time" speech so often misquoted (it's "peace for our time"), but he clearly hadn't really accomplished anything, the way Nixon did in '72, except maybe undoing some of the damage that he, himself had caused with his own escalating rhetoric because he was too stupid to understand the nature of North Korea's history and why they do what they do.

Then, there was the question of the dangers.  Several months ago, I wrote about the dangers of a Kim-Trump summit, and one of the points I made was that Trump wouldn't be allowed to do anything at the summit.  All of the real work would fall on his "handlers" and the diplomatic corps.  Canceling the military exercises with South Korea was basically nothing.  It didn't give up anything in terms of our national security, nor really South Korea's.  It was a symbolic concession.  A real negotiator could have gotten something, thereby demonstrating what a useless idiot Trump is that he got nothing for it, but we didn't really lose anything.  The point, though, is that Pompeo is now charged with doing the real work.

And it's not going so well.  Why not?  Because it never had a chance of success.  North Korea was never going to denuclearize, and Trump's rhetoric after the summit was always bullshit.  Why the change in rhetoric, then?  First, Pompeo won't kiss Kim's ass.  Trump fetishizes totalitarian dictators because he wants to be one, but Pompeo doesn't.  He's just an old-school conservative, but one with a real resume.  West Point, Harvard Law, Cold War Army service, and that's before politics, which took him through the CIA.  Whatever you think of Pompeo's politics, he is not impressed with Kim Jong Un's dictator shit the way Trump is, and he's not going to fall all over himself trying to impress said dictator.  (At least Trump didn't send John Bolton.  We'd be at war by now.)  And Kim knows how to manipulate Trump.  Just flatter the dumbass!  That's all he really wants.  He doesn't care about anything except being praised.  So, Kim lavished Trump with praise.  Why?  Because Kim is smarter than Trump, which, granted, is not a high bar.  Pompeo?  That wouldn't work on him.  Again whatever you think of a brutal, Cold War-era conservative's politics, that's just not going to work on him.  Pompeo has actual policy goals.  He may be more aggressive than you want, but Kim can't manipulate him.

So, we revert to the basic, underlying disagreement.  The US position is that North Korea should not have nukes.  The North Korean position is that North Korea will have nukes because those nukes are the only things keeping their regime from being toppled.  And that worse than useless idiot, John Bolton, even mentioned Libya.  These are irreconcilable positions.  When it's Kim and Trump, one of two things happens.  Either Trump has to try to show everyone how big his... "button" is with some stupid, pointless escalation that risks the existence of humanity for the sake of his massive yet fragile ego, or Trump lets himself get manipulated by a combination of lavish praise and his obvious affinity for totalitarian dictators.  When it's a normal politician like Pompeo (wow-- when did Pompeo become "normal?"), we revert to a basic standoff.

North Korea won't give up their nukes.  That was never in the cards.  Likelihood of a war?  Right now, it doesn't look significantly more likely than before Trump took office, but it is no lower.  Why?  Because it wasn't high before he took office.  Pompeo's efforts?  They won't amount to anything, but at least he'll keep Trump from handing over the Sudetenland DMZ, and he'll keep Bolton from Svengali-ing Trump into pressing his bigly button.  Trump isn't Chamberlain, and Kim isn't Hitler.  (And Bolton is... never mind).  Did you ever think you'd be grateful for Mike Pompeo?

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