I’m no fan of President Trump. In fact I would call myself a Never Trumper. I think he has proven his unsuitability for the job many times over.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognise that some of his achievements are good, It doesn’t mean I think overall he has been successful. Far from it. But let’s look at North Korea in context.
A few months ago there was a very real possibility of armed conflict. North Korea has a long history of threatening behaviour and language and people were very worried about military action. The chance of conflict might not have been high, say 5%, but it would have been devastating with hundreds of thousands wounded in the first day.
The talks with Kim have led to a massive de-escalation. There is no realistic chance of armed conflict in the short and possible even medium term. This is a very good thing and worth celebrating.
The second piece of context is that North Korea gained nuclear weapons thanks to the failure of all previous US Presidents. All the different policies of “strategic patience” were miserable failures as North Korea developed a nuclear inter-continental capability under them.
Now it is quite correct that the agreement with Kim is very general, and in fact much the same as what North Korea has agreed to in the past. It may well not lead to them getting rid of their nuclear weapons. It is the beginning of a process, definitely not an end.
When dealing with rogue states, you always need a mixture of carrot and stick. Trump’s strategy seems to have been to talk up the stick big time, and then swap to the carrots. He gave Kim what he wanted – a big summit, US and NK flags together, respectability etc. Now maybe he gave away too much, but he has given NK an incentive that if they behave and co-operate there will be more of this. All the previous approaches of with-holding this stuff has failed, so I’m prepared to give this approach a go.
The print media have been almost universally critical of Trump, while if it had been Obama doing this they’d be nominating him for another Nobel Peace Prize.
They say that Trump didn’t lecture Kim on human rights and have that in the agreement. Well the Iran agreement didn’t have much on human rights also.
The reality is that you often have to deal with countries that do horrible things to their own citizens, or others. They are not going to turn into nice OECD members overnight or even in decades. But what counts is whether an agreement with them heads them in the right direction. It is the direction that counts. Perfect is the enemy of good.
This is why I supported the Obama agreement with Iran. Not perfect, but definitely gave incentives to Iran to move in the right direction and engage in the global economy more. So does the Trump agreement with NK. It is hypocrisy of Trump to oppose Iran but do a NK agreement, but hey that is Trump. It doesn’t mean the NK agreement isn’t a significant step in the right direction.
As I said I am no Trump fan. But I’ve been almost appalled by how carping the media coverage has been. It is no wonder that Trump sees the media as the enemy, when they behave like it. And no I don’t think they are the enemy. But I do think on this one they have their coverage wrong.