Hello Alexander, and thanks for writing again. It was my pleasure to respond to your comment, as I enjoy engaging with thoughtful people of all political opinions. As a nation, our inability to do that is a great loss that has slowly poisoned the political conversation over the past twenty years, and the last three especially.

Just a few points:

I don’t agree about the value of smiles and handshakes and the DPRK “feeling comfortable with America.” Kim was smiling b/c he suckered Trump into giving him a priceless propaganda coup in exchange for nothing. And nothing about the summit fundamentally changed anything about the way Pyongyang feels about the US, except that now they know they have pulled one over our ostensible leader. Surely they will continue to try to manipulate him going forward, as it seems rather easy.

Re military exercises, I don’t agree that they degrade relations with anyone. As I said, they are a form of deterrence and political maneuvering. Military exercises are not “getting us nowhere.” South Korea lives under constant threat of aggression from the North, and the presence of US forces in the ROK — and attendant training exercises — is part of what keeps them secure. Not in and of itself, but as part of a broader, multi-pronged strategy. Do they occasionally cause the PRC and DPRK to “threaten” us? Maybe. That is their maneuvering, and shows how effective the exercises are in that role. Unilaterally giving them up (again: in exchange for exactly zero concessions by the other side) only rewarded Beijing and Pyongyang for their threats and will encourage them to use such tactics again.

I do agree that economic sanctions are an important lever. But in my book, Trump deserves no credit for keeping in place sanctions that previous administrations levied. That is the baseline behavior for the US government. The summit had nothing to do with any of that and no effect on it.

In short, as I said last time, I do think we conceded a lot and got nothing in return. (Worse than nothing: we damaged US influence and leverage in the region.) The only thing that can credibly be said is that tensions are lower and the threat of war is less….a benefit I do not for a moment minimize. But that is not b/c of the summit, and could have easily been accomplished without any of these concessions. Trump even more than Kim ratcheted up tensions and took us to the terrifying brink of nuclear war; now he demands praise for pulling back. Please.

Anyway, like you, I am merely expressing my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth, but I hope you will consider it.

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Writer, filmmaker, and veteran — blogging at The King’s Necktie @TheKingsNecktie

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