Thanks for your thoughtful response, Alexander. I must say that I disagree that the summit was a success — let alone resounding — or even a good idea at all. I laid out most of my reasons in the essay, but to address your points:
Seeing Trump and Kim shaking hands is precisely NOT what we want. While I prefer cordiality to a hostile exchange on insults on Twitter and heightened tensions that put us on the precipice of nuclear war, just meeting with Kim was a massive concession by Trump, reversing decades of US policy and giving the DPRK a chip it had long sought: a meeting with a US president and the priceless propaganda coup of placing the two leaders side by side on an equal footing. No one thought a summit with North Korea was “an impossible task,” as you say: every previous US administration had rejected the DPRK’s request for one b/c they understood that it played into Pyongyang’s hands.
And what did we get in return for that concession? Not a single thing. That’s just bad negotiating….and this from a president who brags that he is a master of the art.
Once in the room, conceding the military exercises was another mistake, IMHO. Like the summit itself, Pyongyang has been demanding a halt to those annual exercises for decades, so it was a big deal for Trump to agree. And again, we made this enormous concession in exchange for nothing.
You say that the exercises were doing more harm than good by “throwing away millions of dollars.” I beg to differ. That money was hardly ”thrown away.” On the contrary: training exercises of that kind are essential to any military force, especially joint exercises with an ally with whom we intend to cooperate in a mutual defense pact. By your logic, all money spent on military training is “thrown away.“ The fact that the exercises made North Korea and China “really mad at us” (as you describe it) is irrelevant. Making policy based on the hurt feelings of a foe is a poor strategy. Another way to look at it is that making the PRC and DPRK “mad” was precisely the point: as a reminder to them of our ability and willingness to defend our South Korea ally and interests, by way of a deterrent effect. In other words, Beijing and Pyongyang weren’t ever really “mad’; as rational state actors, they simply understood why we were doing what we were doing, which was against their interests and in favor of our own.
Ah, but you might say we did get something from our concessions, on military exercises and on having the summit full stop: we got a pledge from North Korea to denuclearize. But that pledge is less than worthless. First of all, their definition of the term includes the US leaving the region, not just that they will give up their own arsenal. That is not at all what Washington means by “denuclearization,” or how the American public understands it. Moreover, Pyongyang has made this promise many times in the past and never fulfilled it, and once again we now see them following the pattern: since Singapore, they have taken no steps to meet this pledge. (See again the article about Mr. Bolton’s statement.) So I don’t understand why you say, “It is good to hear them pledge to denuclearize.” Why is it good to hear a proven liar repeat the same old lie yet again? In reality, hearing it again makes even worse.
Lastly, as I previously wrote, it is unconscionable and terrifying that Trump went into this meeting so woefully ill-prepared and unread (indeed proudly ignorant of the history of US/DPRK relations and all the nuances thereof), and had no advisors of any kind in the room, or even an honest broker who could provide us notes about what was discussed. That he came out of it crowing about a “historic success” when in reality he had been badly suckered by a brutal dictator and the government of a horrific police state speaks to his ignorance and ineptness. In that regard, the summit was hardly a leap forward, only a case of an ill-informed and malignantly narcissistic US president conducting reckless, loose cannon rogue diplomacy. The proof is in the woeful failure of the DPRK to live up to its promises in the months since.
Those are my main arguments….as I say, there are others in the essay itself. Most important, however, is that you and I can have a debate like this in a civilized, mutually respectful way. Rather rare these days! Thanks again…..