Thursday, May 24, 2018

Peace Prize Playing Hooky

Cancellation?  Oops, there goes the Peace Prize.  The chickenhawk war consigliere Bolton appears to have triumphed.    South Korea seems blindsided that the meeting was cancelled right after Punggye-ri nuclear test site was demolished (IF it was demolished?).  

Moon just called an emergency National Security meeting at the Blue House in Seoul - at midnight!!!. Japan looks clairvoyant in their earlier skepticism about this summit.

Some are saying that Kim and company set up Trump to cancel, making Kim look like the adult in the room with Chinese and ROKs both in his corner.   Maybe, but I'm not so sure.   Trump does not need anybody's help in making himself look like a buffoon.

Update 5/24: FDChief here (sorry to horn in, mike, but I couldn't resist...) Fred Kaplan at Slate has a worthwhile take on the "probable-why" the Art of the Dealer called this off:
"In short, Trump is sleepwalking into a potentially historic summit with a determined leader who knows what he has and, more importantly, what he wants—while, until very recently, Trump has shown no awareness that this knowledge is fundamental to diplomacy, to leadership, to making a smart deal.

Maybe Moon will snap Trump out of his torpor when they meet in Washington on Tuesday. Both of them want the summit with Kim to take place and, by some measure, succeed—Moon to reduce tensions and promote peace between North and South Korea, Trump to bolster his self-crafted reputation as a deal-maker extraordinaire. Moon has some idea of how to get to a plausible, if modest, accord; Trump has no idea. The question is whether Trump will acknowledge the disparity and let Moon write the script for the reality show in Singapore. If he doesn’t, he might as well bang on the table and shout, “Fuck you!”
Which Trump now seems to have done, in effect.

To add to the ridiculousness of this tragicomedy, here's the letter Trump wrote to Kim cancelling the summit. It's...bizarre, is perhaps the best description I can come up with. If one of my high school students wrote it in response to a "draft a diplomatic communique" I'd have given him a C-minus.
"I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history."

To me the real tragedy of this is that now we will never be able to have this awesomely majestic challenge coin:

Update 5/24 p.m. This is just too good not to add:

Update 5/24 p.p.m. And this is even better:

When I can stop and think coldly about all this, there's really nothing to laugh at here. The chief executive of the largest, most heavily armed polity on Earth has been shown to be a poorly-informed, badly-led, credulous, monstrously egotistical, self-deluded fool.


  1. The Nobel peace prize was never in range.
    I feel people are taunting Trump with the Nobel to push him into doing the right thing. After all, he cannot really beat Obama or be better than him if he doesn't get a Nobel as well.

    The Europeans who are in the Nobel peace prize committee are adult academics. Trump the Moronic would never be considered for real.

    1. Sven - Agreed! That title was meant to be ironic.

  2. FDC -

    No problem. It is not my blog but more of a liaison and exchange between colleagues.

    Trumpy's use of the phrase "If you change your mind..." is a bit bizarre since it was NOT Kim that cancelled.

    Some have said the recent tough talk out of Pyongyang was just 'low level propaganda' designed to show their objection to B-52s in the US/ROK military exercise. And that it was badly interpreted by the White House (i.e. Bolton).

    1. Bolton does not interpret anything.
      He's a one trick pony and didn't need absorb any new info for the last 25 years.

    2. I think that Kaplan pretty much nails it. The Trumpkins, including the Orange Very Stable Genius himself, managed to kid themselves along thinking that they made their own reality, that Kim would see the Awesome Awesomeness of the Great Dealmaker and just fold his hand.

      The "tough talk" has been the Nork's line all along. "Denuclearization" meant that EVERYbody with nukes in East Asia would agree to go home - meaning they'd give theirs in return for the removal of ALL U.S. and allied strategic forces in the region. I'm betting that would have meant that Kim would have bargained down to giving up his ICBMs (or his pretense of having any) in return for U.S. tactical withdrawals - the intent being what the DPRK has always wanted, a distancing of the US from it's ROK ally.

      I'm not sure whether Pompeo and Bolton are idiots - assuming that their roping in the Libya thing was actually their "negotiating position" - or FUCKING idiots, which would be the case if they were using the Libya example as a way of 86ing the talks in hopes of getting their war on. Either way, there's no possible way that the Norks could pretend to ignore that nonsense. A Chief Executive with a functioning hindbrain would have either sat on those two oxygen-thieves, or known better to begin with and used their blabber to confuse and throw shade at the Norks. Instead, I think that the Two Stooges were expressing Trump's actual position, suggesting that, yes, he's just as ignorant as he seems.

    3. So I think the actual timeline goes something like this:

      1. Kim gets his nukes - or enough of them to feel confident that he's got a hole card to deter the West.
      2. He then opens up a "charm offensive" with stuff like the Olympic Games and meetings with the ROK and the PRC. This happens to coincide with Trump's "fire and fury"; the effect is to make Trump think that he's done what he seems to think is "negotiating" - jabbed his finger in Kim's chest and bellowed "Fuck you!" - and it's worked.
      3. Trump and Kim agree to the summit, but working from totally different information states. Kim knows exactly what he has and wants, and sees the summit as culmination of a long-term Nork goal, 1-1 meeting with the leader of the global superpower. Trump, OTOH, is clueless; doesn't understand what the Norks are doing, doesn't get what his potential upper and lower limits on any potential "deal" are, and is working from his usual default position, "What's in it for me?". He figures that "Fire and fury" bluster will actually work if the Norks don't just fold.
      4. Pompeo and Bolton blow the gaff, and the Norks proceed to respond exactly as you'd expect, given their publicly stated positions. Trump backs his bobos, and the Norks simply respond "Fuck YOU."
      5. The Trumpkins are gobsmacked that these little yellow bastards don't fear them. They suddenly realize that it's entirely likely that His Porcine Majesty will get up from the table having gotten the better of Orange Foolius.
      6. They hastily call off the summit, blustering and bluffing in hopes that their clueless stupidity hasn't been obvious. It is, but not to their FOX-addled fanbois, who will be comforted by the thought that their Dear Leader walked away from "a bad deal".
      7. The rest of us? We're still stuck with these clowns, so WASF.

  3. Here's Kaplan with a followup (

    "Now what happens? Trump cannot resume his “fire and fury” campaign to pressure Kim to disarm through military threats—at least as long as Kim continues to suspend tests and persuades his neighbors that, hey, he tried to make peace but these dangerous, unreasonable Americans backed off. Moon, who is very keen on promoting North-South détente, may now move toward a separate peace, independent of whatever Washington wants. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who fears both Pyongyang’s aggression and Trump’s isolationism, may feel compelled to find his own way through the shoals as well, possibly building his own nuclear deterrent. Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose relations with Trump had begun to fray, may have mixed feelings—pleased at the shrinking of U.S. influence in the region, nervous about Kim’s ambitions, which he may have hoped the summit’s outcome would help contain."

    1. The Korean War was a "police action" for the U.S., correct?
      That means nobody but the South Koreans could really have a peace treaty with the North Koreans anyway - after all, nobody else was at war, right?

    2. The "police action" thing was an offhand remark made by (I think) Truman or one of his spokespeople. There is no actual category of "police action" in the U.S Constitution governing either the Congress' declaration powers, or the Presidential warmaking capacity.

      The U.S.' participation in the Korean War was under the auspices of the United Nations Command, an ad-hoc politico-military organization put together in 1950. In the 1990s the Secretary-General of the time (Boutros-Ghali) said: "...the Security Council did not establish the unified command as a subsidiary organ under its control, but merely recommended the creation of such a command, specifying that it be under the authority of the United States. Therefore the dissolution of the unified command does not fall within the responsibility of any United Nations organ but is a matter within the competence of the Government of the United States."

      So the parties to the original conflict include the ROK, the DPRK, and the US as the "place-holder" of the UNC.

  4. I thought it was Pence and Bolton that brought up the Libya model. In any case, no matter who first voiced it in regards to North Korean nukes, it was absolutely the wrong thing to throw in the face of the Norkos. They know perfectly well what happened to Muammar.

    A better model to bring up would have been the South African nukes, dismantled by de Klerk in 89 against fierce opposition by both hard line Afrikaaners and some hard line radicals of the ANC. As I recollect de Klerk's Nobel was for that also as well as for his ending of Apartheid and introducing universal suffrage. There is a recent article about that online somewhere but I lost the page while surfing.

    1. I think you're right about Pence being one of the Two Stooges. However, Pompeo stuck his Stooge oar in somewhere; I recall reading the Nork responses dismissing him as "just a spy".

      The thing about this wasn't Libya or South Africa, tho; it was always the Trumpkins' moronic insistence on seeing that was never there. The Norks have been consistent all along; denuclearization was going to be phased, and mutual. Pence, Trump, Bolton, Pompeo...they were all either fools, or lying, if they said or thought anything else.

      Add to that, de Klerk's example has been rubbed out by Saddam's and Gaddafi's. The Land of the Free has conclusively proved it can't be trusted.

  5. One of the worst things is that Trump did not give the South Koreans a warning. They had to call an *emergency* meeting at midnight to figure out what to do about the cancellation.

    This is not how to treat a valued ally. Every diplomat in the world will notice this and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Don't be surprised if the USA starts getting blindsided going forward.

    1. Ael -

      Stiffing business partners and making deals behind their backs was always a feature of Trump's real estate transactions. It is no surprise that he has brought the same methods over to the White House.

      Speaking of diplomats, how do you like the latest US Ambassador in Ottawa: Kelly Knight Craft? Her ambassadorship was bought and paid for by her billionaire coal mining husband, Joe Craft. Hubby gave over $1.1 million to Trump PACs.

    2. Yeah...the tradition at State was that the big donors got ambassadorships to useless little scenic places like Montenegro or Iceland. Strategically useful places got career diplomats who could be useful in crises. Since the Trumpkins consider diplomacy a kind of fakery, it makes sense that they wouldn't bother with that tradition.

      That a digital communication era I'm not sure how critical ambassadors are. When communications took weeks, or months, it made sense that you needed someone in a foreign capital with both knowledge of your policy and the intelligence to expand on it as needed. Your ambassador might be required to make decisions that would impact your foreign policy. Now? Not so much.

    3. Career diplomats in a country have lots of low level chats, they read and understand newspapers, watch and understand political TV shows, sometimes they explain American policies to the public in interviews or political debate TV shows.
      You don't get that with a billionnaire's familymember from some American inland state. Such people would focus on events like fancy dinner parties.

    4. Good point. There's value in having a local observer hooked into the scene 24/7. Even a big organization - and the Trumpkins have been gutting State, so it's not as "big" as it was - can only dedicate so many people to keeping tabs on various places. Having someone on the ground who knows what they're doing is still useful, even if the former degree of autonomy is no longer applicable.

  6. The most impressive thing about Trump is that he is in the process of shattering three very powerful alliances that made the US enormously more powerful:
    1. NATO
    2. The group of 6 that intervened effectively in Iran
    3. The North Korean neighbors

    The so-called brilliant deal-maker has gained NOTHING by destroying the effectiveness of the alliances. In Iran he's effectively turned the alliance into a pro-Iran anti-US alliance that includes the UK, France, and Germany. Now he's doing the same with South Korea, Japan, and China via the North Korean deal.

    Diplomacy was never a strength of the US but this is ridiculous.

    1. "The so-called brilliant deal-maker has gained NOTHING by destroying the effectiveness of the alliances."

      Trump refused to reaffirm article 5 North Atlantic Treaty.
      The U.S. would not necessarily assist in the defence of Eastern Europe - so he got rid of a lot of burden.
      Remember, the U.S. was already a most unreliable and North Atlantic Treaty-violating partner before Trump. Such treaties with the U.S. aren't worth the paper they're printed on with him in charge.

  7. Sven -

    I understand that Trumpy’s new ambassador to Germany riled up Angela and her chief diplomat Heiko, along with the German business establishment by issuing orders to them on his first day in Berlin. Grenell is a former twitter troll, Faux News contributor, and social media guru. I note though that Spiegel gave him a puff piece.

    Germany made out better than Denmark though. The new ambassador in Copenhagen is a former actress in sword and sorcery films.

    Trumpy’s other appointments include his bankruptcy lawyer, his insurance agent, an internet hustler, Newt Gingrich’s third wife, a telemarketer of dubious credit cards, a CEO of a notorious fracking drilling company, three cosmetics firm owners, and of course lots of real estate developers.

    My favorites are:

    Andrew Gellert, ambassador to Chile, a friend of Kushner who has a huge conflict of interest because of his extensive business holdings in Chile.

    Woody Johnson of the Johnson&Johnson Corporation, was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom. The buzz in the cellars of the State Department is that Trumpy appointed him because he thought he had kinship with and could work some magic with the other Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary Boris J.

  8. One thing to keep in mind about this is that it's not entirely out of line for the Norks to play around with this meeting. Tomorrow they may say it's on again. Then next week, off. Then on again.

    One thing that has been painfully obvious to me since this whole nutroll kicked off is the degree to which the lack of State Department and Executive branch expertise has handcuffed the Trumpkins. I mean, I knew the day that Bolton flapped his gums that the Norks would reply with a little rhetorical fire and fury. That's their schtick, just like self-stroking and roaring and bluffing and lying is Trump's. Anyone who had experience dealing with them would know that you reply with a calm "And your point is..?" and let THEM be the ones to pick up their ball and walk off in a huff. Makes 1) you look like the adult, and 2) it easier for them to be the ones to reopen the discussion, because, hell, you've been sitting there patiently the whole time while they prance around like a Castro Street drag queen.

    But...even if this meeting does happen, the notion that the Norks are going to just drop their nukes in Trump's lap is utterly fantastic. To do that Kim would have to be a suicidal looney and, while he's a vicious, murderous sonofabitch, he's not suicidal. So Trump's not going to get "what he wants", and he needs to keep his lips zipped if he wants to be seen as walking away with "a deal"...

    What's the under on THAT..?

  9. Trump got played.

    Plain and simple.

    And, I think this was lil'kimmy's pantsing of America for S.Korea, Japan, with China giving lil'kimmy hints and encouragement on how to pants donny in front of the world.

    The world just saw the American White House, devoid of counsel from the fired old hands of the State Department just get played by a roly-poly dictator sans the divine aspect of his claims.

    I don't think there is going to ever be a "summit" with lil'kimmy and donny, and I suspect this was proof that America is now under inept, and stupid management.

    I also think South Korea just got a real good look at Donald Trump's government, and has lost faith in America.

    And honestly, who can blame him.

  10. The narrative was way too America-centric anyway. The South Korean president Moon seems to be the real driver, while Trump's team is probably merely the noise-making loudmouth sideshow.
    South Korea can give North Korea some things that NK wants; economic improvements (trade deals such as NK steel for SK shipyards) and ejection of foreign (U.S.) troops from South Korea. NK may also dump elderly people into SK to relieve itself of the pension burden.

    1. "NK may also dump elderly people into SK to relieve itself of the pension burden."

      Ah, a good point.
      China's southern border is constantly flooded with NK's looking to escape the extreme poverty of North Korea, so this would actually benefit China as well.

      I can actually see China opening up to S.Korea to encourage that outcome.

  11. Aaannnd,

    I was right.

    Lil'kimmy pants'd Trump, and he's out.

    It's now SK NK and I'm thinking China.

    1. Or...not! As I mentioned above, the Norks gamed this thing. They still want sanction relief, and still want their 1-v-1 with a POTUS. Getting this fool isn't exactly like getting an Eisenhower or even a Nixon but, hey, close enough.

      Now we just have to cross our fingers and hope the fool and the despot can work out something positive.

  12. Well, we're not at war, so Bolton must be fucking CHAPPED, and that's good.

    Still...who the fuck still thinks that Trump is some sort of Master Dealmaker? Kim took the fucking rube for everything but the fillings in his teeth. What a maroon.