We know now the date and place for the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Little Rocket Man, the Dear Leader of the barren wasteland that is North Korea, Chairman Kim Jong-Un. You know it as well.
What do we expect?
It's a lovely question to ponder. After all, when you go into a negotiation, whether or not one side as actually written a book called "The Art of the Deal", there are things that each side wants of the other. And that part is always colored by ancillary topics that get thrown in at the last minute.
One example is a meeting between the owners of the Red Sox and Yankees in 1947, where they discussed a trade where Joe DiMaggio would go to the Red Sox and Ted Williams over to the Yankees. The owners, Tom Yawkey of Boston and Dan Topping of the Yankees, were quite drunk at the time, and although they tentatively shook hands on it, in the morning the deal was scuttled when the more-sober-then Yawkey asked Dan Topping, of the Yankees, to "throw in that little guy you have in left field."
The "little guy" was actually a catcher, name of Yogi Berra. The deal fell through.
In this one, what each side wants is not so clear that you and I could sit down and try to mock-negotiate an outcome. And that is a problem, since whether or not the leftist media tell us afterward that anything at all was good for the USA, depends on knowing what we wanted in the first place.
We know, for example, that we want the North Koreans to dismantle their nuclear weapons program, and get rid of all their nuclear weapons. We also want to be able to maintain a military and naval force in South Korea, we assume, and be able to keep our forces in the area as a buffer against China and Russia, not that we need Kim's permission to do so. We would like an end to the Korean War and a general sense of peace between the two Koreas, rather than a tense DMZ. Beyond that, there's nothing the NoKos can really do for us. The rest is just details.
But what does Kim Jong-Un want? You see, everything President Trump wants out of the negotiations, as far as we can guess he wants, is for the USA and the world, not for Donald Trump. He and we (except for the press and the left, but I repeat myself) want all the above things because we want peace and stability in the region. We'd probably also like a better situation for the North Korean people, but frankly that's for Kim to provide.
What Kim wants, different from President Trump, is 99% for Kim Jong-Un and only incidentally for his people, whom he starves and murders at will. So we can strongly guess that, while ultimately what we want is denuclearization of North Korea and a lasting peace, what Kim wants is his own security as president for life. And he will give away some things to keep it.
A certain type of Kim Jong-Un is not a terrible thing for the USA. That would be where he keeps his problems internal and ceases to pose a nuclear threat, or any military threat. It's not optimal, but it's stable. And we could be willing to accept his permanency if it comes without the threat -- or any nuclear program at all.
I mention that Kim is in it only for Kim because he is going to ask for something in return for dismantling his nuke program -- which at this moment may not exist much anymore, if stories of its collapse into a big hole are true (and we certainly know its actual status). The question is whether what he asks for is for himself, or for his starving people.
I don't think that President Trump is going to be agreeing to send a penny over there. He's a lot shrewder than that. He is smart enough to realize that the leverage is all his. Kim was cowed into agreeing to meet, partly because he discovered that Donald Trump and the U.S. military are a combination quite dangerous to his seeing tomorrow morning, and partly because his nuclear threat may have already dismantled itself into a mountainside.
Very likely he will try to play on our American sympathies for the plight of his starving people, asking for money to buy food, or even actual food. Again, he is dealing with a challenge in that this president is not going to ship a pallet of euros to Pyongyang in the middle of the night, like the previous one. Donald Trump is going to insist on tangible, verifiable results before taking any steps to help the North Korean people, and even then he will insist that, in so many words, the food gets eaten by the people.
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.
I would like to think that the president, courtesy of Mike Pompeo and our intelligence services, has a pretty reasonable idea of what is important to Kim and what he is likely to seek. I also think that for all the newsworthiness of the event, Donald Trump will get what he wants, at the price he wants, or he will politely excuse himself and walk away.
The press will have no idea what will happen, because they are not astute enough to know what Kim wants, and certainly what would constitute a successful negotiation on the part of President Trump. We know for certain that the actual result will be between three and four times more positive for the USA than the media will portray it as being. You can use that factor, by the way, free. My gift.
But I sure wish I knew what they wanted over in Pyongyang.
Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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