Time for the politicians to once again learn the difference between what they perceive as reality and how the rest of us see it. Two examples are the hearings before the House Oversight Committee with Michael Cohen and the end of the Trump-Kim summit.
I will not waste a lot of time on the Cohen hearings since it was just a political circus not meant to archive anything other then to push forward an agenda. Nothing new was learned from a full day of statements and political attacks from both side. What we were told is what we knew: Donald Trump spent his life as a real estate developer and had for years attempted to build a hotel in Moscow. It never happened and other then Trump associates saying they tried to get it done is a nothing. Donald Trumps attorney facilitated payments to two blackmailers in order for their stories, true or false, not to tarnish the image of Trump. Since according to Cohen, Trumps personnel money was used this is again a nothing. The rest of the time was spent on rumors and innuendo as well as personnel attacks by the members on Cohen and each other. Paying hush money is not a crime and if it was to enhance the election possibility then it might be a crime except for the fact that it was Trumps personnel money of which there is no limit on use in his own campaign. The only facts that are evident in the hearing are that Cohen is going to jail for perjury and tax evasion. What was gained by this stunt is negligible, those that like Trump, still like him. Those that hate Trump, still hate him, and most everyone else was not tuned in and was not fooled by this Congressional circus.
The other story, one that was buried by the news and through manipulating the timing of the Cohen hearing, was the Trump-Kim summit. It is only front page today because of its perceived failure. This is the story that points out the greater difference and lack of understanding between politicians and the real world. While hoping to achieve the next stage of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula the negotiations ended early because the North Korean leader wanted more then the US was willing to give. The fact that the US then ended the negotiations and left must have come as a shock for Kim who, like the rest of the world, was trained to understand that the West would give into anything just to get a deal. Welcome to true negotiations Mr. Kim. I could make that welcome to most of the politicians and diplomats who have lived in a bubble for years.
Negotiations between people, companies or nations required certain elements. Among these are a give and take with known parameters, a set understanding of the end state and realistic expectations. In this case the North Koreans came with unrealistic expectations of complete sanctions relief while giving only limited movement toward the goal of denuclearization.
The world however has seen in recent years that the US, when negotiating, will accept almost any end state just to have an agreement. The most notable of these is the Joint Comprehensive Plain Of Action, or the Iran Deal. The Iran Deal saw the west give Iran everything it wanted and receiving nothing but empty promises in return. This was apparently the Norths expectation, leaving when it became obvious that there would be no true negotiated end, the US left.
The main stream media immediately called this a diplomatic failure showing Trumps lack of negotiating skill or knowledge of international relationships. Those of us who have been in business, or just life, understand this as reality. When you realize that the negotiation is going no where or that the demands of the person on the other side of the table are more then you are willing to give, you end the negotiation. This is standard when any two people or companies sit down to talk, this is however a sea change in government and diplomatic circles.
This is all part of what Donald Trump has brought to Washington, part of the drain the swamp movement. I fear however, like so many other reform movements, this will run into the wall that is Washington. Conservatives and progressives alike are very resistant to true change. If this change is going to be effective almost all who are a part must be removed, which is highly unlikely.
When I read “Art of the Deal” years ago I was impressed by the pragmatism but did see some parts that to me as a young man starting out in business did not make sense. I have continued to read Trumps books, “Art of the Comeback” etc., and they now make sense. I also remember a scene in the movie “Patton” in which, after defeating Rommel, Patton yells out “ I read your book.” Today we don’t read books but get our information from TV or the web, at least that’s how it appears listening to politicians and pundits. If you see Trump as an enemy I suggest you follow Sun Tzu and “Know your enemy as you know yourself,” read his books and study his back ground.
The most recent political blowback on Trump has been his pulling out of negotiations with North Korea, with the talking heads and opposition politicians trumpeting how Kim has played us and that it was never going to work etc. Many of those who are saying these things went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard or got there degree in political science from Georgetown and so forth. Had they gone to Harvard Business School or Wharton they may understand how Trump will handle negotiations. It would also have helped if any of them had bothered to read his books.
What we are seeing, playing out in the open is the give and take of true negotiations. These types of negotiations used to go on in government and between governments after the lights went out, at cocktail parties and behind closed doors. Today there are no negotiations just posturing for the cameras and picking positions based on ideology and the latest poll. Little thought is given today on the impact of decisions for the future if that future goes beyond the next news cycle. Business cannot run that way and neither should government. A politicians legacy should not be decided on just getting a deal but getting the right deal.
The other difference here is that Trump is use to moving fast while government moves glacially, if at all. There will be a summit with North Korea, just don’t know when. The stage has been set and Trump maneuvered China to our side which has blocked North Korea. This is a beginning and will play out. It will take time and more back and forth, but it will end. Its time for those who report the news and work in government to catch up with the new paradigm or get out of the way. The cost of failure is to great and should not be the subject of a sound bit.
With the announcement that John Bolton is going to replace H.R. McMaster as the National Security Advisor a rash of reporting has come out condemning the former UN Ambassador as a hot head and a war monger. His early rejection of the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) as bad for the world and his pronouncement that the US has a legitimate right to attack North Korean to end its ability to threaten the world with nuclear war. In an article in the Atlantic his statement on North Korea was called a radical idea and that it risks the “most destructive war in living memory.” These types of melodramatic declarations do nothing to help an informed decision. I would say the most destructive war in living memory was World War II. It must be pointed out that WWII began because democracies failed to confront dictatorships in a timely manner.
When the Obama administration was making its argument for the Iran deal the president told the nation there were two options, diplomacy or war. There of course many options in any scenario, and presenting only the extremes is a treacherous path to take. Let us look at a potential third alternative, diplomacy with the threat of war. We have tried diplomacy with North Korea for over 25 years we no success. If Kim Jung-un is of the opinion that it will always be diplomacy followed by sanction relief, followed by jettisoning what ever agreement you came to and carrying on your nuclear program until next time, diplomacy will not work.
In the case of Iran we negotiated away all leverage and financed Iran’s terrorist proxies. Kim can see the results of the JCPOA and how toothless the enforcement provisions are. Why then should North Korea negotiate in earnest? Presently the answer is John Bolton. With Bolton advising the president and Mike Pompeo at State, both hawks, the North Korean calculus must change. Hawk by the way does not mean go to war over everything but stand firm on principles and work for the best but never shy away from a credible threat of war. This is what Bolton brings to the table, not a crazy man but a firm man. If he can bring fear to the other side so be it. I suggest reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps Bolton can chair EXCOMM.
The recent advances made by North Korean nuclear capabilities force the thought that they may have had advanced help. The one nation they have been dealing with is Iran. It is known that Iranian ballistic missiles have shown a close similarity to North Korea’s. What is the relationship then between the two countries nuclear development. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran Deal, Iran was to end its research and development of nuclear weapons for 15 years. There is by treaty and understanding to be any outside research, but have the Iranian found a way around this.
North Korea has been cut off from the rest of the world for many years, regardless of economic support from China and Russia. The speed at which it has advanced from a small nuclear detonation to position of a probable thermos-nuclear device is astounding. If in fact they have also managed to miniaturize it to be a warhead on an ICBM is of even greater concern. Based on the speed of advancement it is not unlikely that they had outside help.
While several countries could advise North Korea, such as China, Russia, India, or even Pakistan, these countries have no reason to do so. In fact, the opposite is true and none would be safe with a nuclear North Korea. Iran on the other hand has every reason to covertly aid the North Korean regime. It would have all the research it needs whenever it wishes to end the Iran deal and move toward development and deployment of a weapon. The current belief is that it would take Iran over a year to reach a breakout point but this assumes that they would start from the point they had been at the signing of the accord.
This is a major problem that must be confronted. While all attention is directed at North Korea, which it should be, Iran is setting the stage to become a nuclear threat in the Middle East. German Chancellor Merkel has said that the JCPOA could act as a guide to denuclearizing Korea the opposite is true. Iran has taken every opportunity to evade the spirit of the Iran deal and it should only be followed as a cautionary tale.
As we move forward attempting to handle a crisis with diplomacy we are edging the world closer to nuclear war. Repeatedly in history mankind has refused to see danger and ignored the signs that a major problem was on the horizon, until it is too late, and millions die. Decisive action can stop North Korea and Iran and must be taken for the sake of peace.
Yesterday North Korea launched a missile that was capable of carrying a nuclear war head that flew over Japan. This is not the first time NK has violated Japanese sovereignty but it is potentially the most dangerous. To be certain this was not a test but a message. The message is that NK can and will attack its enemies with nuclear weapons. The world is outraged and terrified, except apparently Russia, which has said it was US and South Korean actions that forced NK to launch this missile. This of course was some of the same logic that certain parties used in the past to explain the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US made them do it.
We are moving down a path that the world has seen before, and has never learned from. Kim Jung-Un is a ruthless dictator with no moral compass or sense of the world. He is testing the US and regional powers to see how far he can go. He will continue to push until he is convinced of his invincibility. At this point the world will pay a terrible price for its restraint. It is just a question as to which country he will fire a nuke.
We have seen this with Hitler and Stalin and more recently with Kaddafi, Saddam Hussain, and Assad. In each case the world waited until the need for force was required to end aggression and millions died. The argument has always been the same, use diplomacy, use sanctions and wait them out, use of force will only beget force and war. The reality is that the longer you wait to stop someone like Kim the more devastating the war will be, and war is his aim. He has deluding himself into believing the world will always back down and he will always get whatever he wants. There is no one to tell him differently and his life to date has shown he will always get what he wants.
War is terrible, and nuclear war devastating. I do not want war but the way we are going I don’t see a way out of it short of a preemptive strike and the removal of this dictator. In the end, it will be the least deadly path. History however has shown that we will not take that path and there will be another devastating war that could have been avoided.
With the North Korean launch of an ICBM with the capability to reach the US, the specter of war has crept into the news media. Of course, much discussion revolves around President Trump and the fear that he invokes in a large segment of the left. What history teaches us however is that the direction Trump is taking us is one in which the potential for war should be reduced. I will add one caveat, what history has taught was based on interactions between rational actors, Kim Jong-Un may not fit that profile.
Much has been written about the ideals of continuing diplomatic avenues or increasing sanctions against North Korea, these have been the responses since the Clinton administration, and have resulted in various degrees of failure. I have read that there are no real options other than containment and sanctions. Many analysts insist that there is no viable military option because that will lead to a war where millions are killed. Kim Jong-Un, they say, is only developing nuclear weapons to protect his regime and will not use them since he must know it is suicide.
I must respectfully disagree with many of these analyst, the North Korean military exist, in the mind of the leadership, for one reason and one reason only, to reunite the Korean peninsula under Pyongyang. This has been true since the beginning under Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. In the third generation of the Kim dynasty the desire is strong to fulfill that pledge. North Korea does not however have a leader with a world view and whose only true military experience has come from an obsession with playing video games. In other words, he does not see using his military or nuclear weapons as a problem. It is a means to an end and will bring him glory and victory.
Ending the existence of nuclear weapons, or at least restricting the number of countries that possess them has been the desire of most of the world since 1945. This desire has failed and resulted in several countries joining the nuclear club. In no case has any country that desired a nuclear weapon been stopped from achieving that aim through diplomacy. What has been effective was stopping the use of these weapons through a concept known as Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. Once a nuclear exchange was initiated the response would be immediate and total. What made this effective was not the possibility of a destructive response but its assurance.
In recent history, especially in the last eight years, this assurance has been missing and it is causing the Trump administration to face the facts that not just the threat of war but military action is likely to be needed with North Korea. The world is facing the return of a peace through strength doctrine. When President Obama took the military option off the table or severely limited its use it sent a message to the world that anti-American actions would not always be followed by military actions and that diplomatic punishment was of little consequence.
In the last 5 months Trump has responded to a Syrian Chemical attack with a missile attack on the airfield that launched it, shot down a Syrian plan that had attacked our allies, run freedom of navigation drills through the south china sea and moved more military equipment to South Korea. The question remains if these and other activity are sufficient to convince the other side that US doctrine has changed. North Korea will never be convinced since their leadership lives in a bubble, assured of their invincibility. The countries that must be convinced are South Korea and Japan who will face the most devastation in the event of war, and China and Russia who have the most to lose in the event of North Korea being defeated and absorbed into a single Korea under Seoul.
This can be done given enough time and support from the American people and the international community. The center of this new doctrine comes not from old political thinking but from the infusion of business and nontraditional thinkers. This is not the first-time new ways of addressing old problems has come from nontraditional sources. Returning to the concept of MAD it was best explained in mid 1960s works by Dr. Thomas Schelling, an economics professor from Harvard and Yale. In his book Arms and Influence Dr. Schelling showed that in the realm of international diplomacy there is always a military component, unlike traditional belief that the use of military was diplomacy by other means we now learned that there is a coercive part. This last was referred to as the diplomacy if violence. The existence of a strong military by itself was sufficient to bring a just resolution to a problem. The only drawback to this is that the other side must have no doubt you will in fact use your military if needed. This is the part that has been a blockage to effective diplomacy for the US in recent years, there was a lot of doubt and in some cases absolute belief that no military action would take place.
President Trump is now caught in a period of changing doctrine and getting the world to accept and understand there is a change. In the case of North Korea, we don’t know how much time we have where the threat of military force to coerce a decision will be effective, or will we get to a point that we must compel an end. If forced to use the military many will die, Seoul will be devastated as will Tokyo, and China will be forced to move to stop a unified Korea to avoid a democratic western nation on its border.
The world is a dangerous place, made more dangerous when indecisive ideologs are running foreign policy. With a President who is less experienced in diplomacy and more in standing up for principles we have a chance of making the world safer by making war a probable outcome of the bullying tactics that have unfortunately been successful in the recent past.