So yesterday, I declared that I really had no idea what each party in the upcoming summit between the USA and North Korea wanted, at least in the sense of a complete list. And I don't, to be perfectly honest, although we certainly can guess some of the pillar points of each side's desires.
But then I went on to pose a thought that I believe wasn't even anyone's pipe dream, not left, not right, not them or even us. No one is thinking this, unless you read this column yesterday. I suggested this:
"And here is a huge aside ... there is a
possible outcome that no one is talking about. That is where Trump and
Kim not only agree to denuclearize both Koreas and end the war and
lessen tensions, but to take steps toward actual friendship and jointly
re-developing a North Korean economy, and even becoming (gasp) an ally
of the USA! That would embarrass China to no end, of course. As long
as Kim feels secure in his own power, that is not impossible, though no
one has even posed that."
Needless to say, I got more than a few emails, only some of them suggesting that my recent birthday had flipped me over to senility. Believe me, as my friends have known for years, for me senility will be a very smooth transition.
Actually, I brought that peaceful-outcome notion up for no other reason than that I had been contemplating good outcomes -- in the sense of the press figuring out how to make President Trump look bad no matter what came out of the meetings. If they don't know in advance what would define "success", they could literally decide to call anything failure, simply because they want the president to fail.
In defining the most successful possible outcome, I then caught myself stopping at a fairly conservative point. "What if Kim agrees to dismantle and blow up his nuclear sites, turn all the weapons over to the USA, allow us to inspect whenever and wherever, and after six months compliance maybe we'll send some wheat or something." Pretty modest, conservative goals, right? The press and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) would still kick and moan and declare it a failure, but normal people would think that was pretty good, especially for having been on the verge of nuclear war to get there.
I thought about it, and let myself shift the paradigm, a lot. "Maybe it could be even better", I considered. "What about ..." and let my mind wander. Clearly the present situation, or at least the situation during the "Little Rocket Man" tweet period, was awful. What would be the opposite?
I tried to picture a USA-North Korea relationship that was completely opposite of the way it was, and it actually didn't sound completely ridiculous. Implausible, maybe, but not impossible. So stay with me for a few more paragraphs.
President Trump goes to Singapore and tells Kim they can talk as long as they need to, all night. That this is the most important thing for the world that day, and they had to end it right. He realizes that Kim is not a religious fanatic like the Iranians and ISIS and those types (a little nutso, maybe, but driven by things we understand, like power), and so it was not out of the question that they could negotiate.
Instead of feeling like they would be successful if Kim blew up his nuke sites and we sent them some wheat (just my metaphoric phrase for the outcome most people would hope for), President Trump says, "How about they consider a much bigger shock to the world?" They were going to shake hands for the cameras at the end anyway; why not declare a friendship, salute the peace, and regard each other as strategic economic allies?
What would that mean? Well, with the military threat negated (and as long as Kim is assured we're not going to invade, it can be negated), they could dismantle the DMZ by the end of the year. Kim would immediately cut off exports of weapons to Iran and the like, and allow us carte blanche to inspect his sites.
In return, President Trump could provide economic experts to go to North Korea and, with the South Koreans, help Kim put together an achievable two-year, ten-year and twenty-year program to rebuild its economy, and start creating wealth by identifying goods and services early on that could be exported. This president knows a few of those types. The USA would lead a coalition of Western nations that would -- without any effort to undermine Kim's chairman-for-life position -- help lead a resurrection of their economy.
All this time, the USA becomes, over time, the chief trading partner and economic support for North Korea, under reasonable trade agreements, displacing the Chinese and embarrassing them in the process. In fact, Kim could ask the same question of the Chinese -- "Why didn't you do any of this for us?" -- that the black community should have been asking the Democrats who led their cities into decay and ruin. And perhaps, years down the road, a path to a unified Korea can be seen.
Why should we not try for this? Why should we have to see only Korean denuclearization and a fragile peace as the best we should try for? How about imagining a future that's a lot better than just that?
Can you imagine? I actually can. And I'm not senile. Yet.
Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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