Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments, Chris.
The whole point of the headline is that it’s histrionic: I’m suggesting what Fox would have said if Obama had made a deal like this (which is the literal subtitle of the piece). I even made a point of saying that I don’t at all endorse the analogy.
I think I was very clear about what I think Trump gave up by meeting with Kim: the strategic advantage and a massive propaganda coup. It’s not merely about Kim’s military advantage in terms of invading the South; he is now legitimized on the world stage in a way his family has sought for decades….and he got that legitimacy without any concessions at all on his part beyond the same vague, empty promises his family has always made. I think that is a significant diplomatic blunder by Trump.
Likewise, why did Trump cancel joint military exercises with the ROK — another longstanding DPRK desire — without any quid pro quo? I spent six years as a US Army infantry and intelligence officer; I am well aware that the USFK are merely a tripwire. But what is the logic in conceding something like those exercises, largely symbolic though they are, in exchange for nothing concrete from Pyongyang? The Art of the Deal indeed.
Again, I refer you to the premise of the piece, which is less about the summit itself or even the flimsy statement that came out of it than about the US media reaction. What would Fox Nation have said if Obama or Hillary had made such inexplicable concessions while getting nothing in return?
I do agree with you about the ongoing negotiations b/w Seoul and Pyongyang, which are far more substantive than Singapore and to be encouraged. Indeed, given that those unprecedented talks are ongoing, what was the need or purpose of Trump making such extraordinary concessions, topped off by his astonishing post-summit flurry of praise for the North Korean police state and its despotic ruler? I would argue that Trump’s insertion of himself into this process was driven almost entirely by ego rather than any kind of coordinated effort with Moon, or even awareness of what Seoul had been doing. Note, for example, how the ROK was blindsided by the aforementioned unilateral American cancellation of Ulchi-Freedom Guardian.
I am less optimistic than you about how serious Kim is about any kind of genuine negotiation, let alone CVID. My surmise is that, having achieved a battle-ready nuclear capability that can now range the US mainland, he is merely mounting a very savvy charm offensive from his newfound position of strength. Given the fact that all that leverage stems from possession of those weapons, why would he ever give them up?
I agree with your assessment of how the DPRK can be manipulated due to the unusual nature of its one-man rule. Yes, Kim cares about preserving his own skin and maximizing and maintaining his power — nothing but, in fact. (Perhaps we can exploit his desire to visit more international strip clubs, as you say.) While that opens avenues for us to exploit, it still leaves the thorny problem of his horrific human rights abuses, which he seems no more willing to abandon than his nuclear program. Containing the threat of nuclear war on the Korean peninsula is in itself a huge challenge; addressing the epic oppression of the North Korean people is even more difficult.
Similarly, I think your assessment of the Iranian regime is spot on, but I disagree with your conclusion that somehow that made the JCPOA more, not less, problematic. In stark contrast to Singapore, that was a complex, hard-fought agreement — however imperfect — that had actual teeth. How this administration can sneer at the JCPOA as a “terrible deal” while trying to convince the world that this complete charade that came out of Singapore, lacking even the barest of details, is superior is beyond me. And I am not at all reassured by Mike Pompeo’s subsequent condescending remarks that, in essence, we ought to just trust him that the North Koreans are going to meet terms that we haven’t been specified. Again, consider what the reaction would have been if John Kerry had said that.
(On the subject of Iran, I have another essay about that which you might be interested in. Link is below.)
My general issue with all of Trump’s foreign policy (to the extent that it can be called that), from the DPRK to Iran and elsewhere, is less with the substance of his actions than with its ad hoc and demonstrably erratic nature. That makes me very nervous. I am especially incensed by the fawning of the right wing American press, given its history of hysterical criticism of Democratic presidents for doing many of the same things and in a more coherent and thoughtful manner.
Thanks again for writing.