It’s risky to opine on world affairs at the same time they’re unfolding, as my prior column about the cancellation of the nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un will attest. Within a day of the post, the meeting was back on. The pundits are now saying that the talks were never really off, and Trump’s cancellation was just some sort of head fake, but I think that gives the talking comb-over altogether too much credit. My guess is that when he cancelled the summit, his minions kept going about the preparations anyway, figuring Donald was just having one of his little spells, and would soon reboot out of snit mode and demand to know when they were leaving for Singapore.
Still, it goes to show how wrong you can be when you react in the moment, and how it’s probably too soon, following the meetings that maybe were never actually cancelled, to properly judge what went on, who won, and who lost.
I will anyway, though.
To all of Trump’s MAGA fans and enablers the answer is perfectly clear. Donny just did what no other President could ever do, and the Nobel Peace Prize is a mortal lock. And he’s the Best President Ever. This is because the rapprochement with North Korea is already way better than anything Obama did with Iran, and that’s because unlike Obama, Donald is tough. He’s a tough guy. Firm and fearsome. Which is good, because all that tough talk got us peace. That and he’s The World’s Best Negotiator. Etc.
Even those not otherwise inclined to say anything nice about Trump are granting him the limited praise that at least he’s talking, and diplomacy is better than war, so kudos for turning down the heat.
I feel obliged to respond, in my churlish way, that actually, any President could have met with Kim or his predecessor on the promise of giving him a massive PR victory for nothing whatever in return. That sort of fiasco could have been arranged at any point over the last 20 years – one Kim or another would have been up for that at the drop of a hat. It’s just that Clinton, Bush and Obama serially figured it was plain stupid to give the Northern tyrant du jour a huge boost while getting back precisely jack/shit. As to reinvigorating diplomacy and cooling things down, the heat was only so high in the first place because Trump jacked it up with his crazy “fire and fury” rhetoric. Like all bullies, Donald wants you to be grateful when he lets up punching you in the face for a second. Bullshit. No credit to the dummy for putting out the fires he started himself. Supposing any fires have been put out.
Now, you’d never guess it from all the victory whoops flying out of the yaps of Trump and his enablers, but the Singapore summit was, by any reasonable yardstick, a rare and gratifying triumph for Kim and a signal embarrassment for the United States. This was predictable, and indeed, if I may be permitted to toast my own prescience (c’mon, bear with me), the meeting went pretty much like scenario number two as gamed out in my previous post Gosh, Geopolitics is Nutty! (which The WordPress view counter tells me no more than three or four of you could possibly recall). Except Donny didn’t get a parade:
2. Trump trades everything for magic beans.
Kim will have noticed that the master negotiator is easily manipulated, and awfully stupid. All he has to do is suck up, maybe offer to throw Donald a military parade when it’s all over, and he can get Trump to agree to withdraw US forces from the peninsula and ease sanctions in return for something that sounds pleasant, like an agreement in principle to negotiate towards a possible framework for further talks somewhere down the road, combined with a time-limited moratorium on further North Korean testing. Based on recent tweets, Trump might equate this with actual denuclearization, and leave happy. Meanwhile, now that the Americans are gone, the eventual reunification of the peninsula by force or subterfuge is planned in a bunker beneath Pyongyang.
We got seen off, plain and simple. We got the magic beans. Meanwhile, look at what Kim spirited back to the Hermit Kingdom: a huge increase in his stature at home and abroad. Recognition as a statesman (!), and co-equal standing with the leader of a superpower, something his predecessors craved but could never swing. He got to bask in the public spectacle of the US President planting big wet sloppy kisses all over him – oh, that Kim, he’s so funny, smart, and talented, he just loves his people, wants to do the right thing, and we can trust him. Great guy. Land o’ Goshen, nobody’s heaped this much praise on a North Korean thug since the puppet playing Kim’s dad sang a loving ode to himself in the immortal I’m So Ronery, from Stone and Parker’s epic Team America: World Police.
Trump didn’t pledge to remove US forces from the peninsula, but he did, apparently, promise an end to joint exercises with South Korean forces, which is close enough, and something both Kim and his Chinese friends dearly wanted. Trump even obliged by calling the annual maneuvers “provocative”, parroting the claim that’s always made in the organs of North Korean state propaganda. It’s also rumoured that Donny did at least float the idea of withdrawing altogether, something he’s mused about publicly before, and North Korean state media claims he even promised to lift sanctions. Maybe that’s a lie, but how would we know? The meeting was attended solely by Trump and Kim, totally in secret. Not even the closest advisors on each side really know what these two bullshitters discussed behind closed doors, if anything.
And what did Kim have to give in return? Nothing, really. He signed a vague agreement to continue to work towards the ultimate goal of “denuclearization”. You know, at some point, by doing something of some sort eventually. No timelines, no benchmarks, no definition, even, what “denuclearization” means to Kim (I bet it doesn’t mean what we think it means). Not even any sort of time frame for another meaningless frigging meeting. Basically, Trump extracted a commitment to keep thinking nice thoughts.
It’s been noted in many quarters that all of Donald’s oily oozing over Kim, his new and bestest BFF, stands in stark contrast to the backhand across the chops that he just dished out to the G-7, and Canada in particular, whose P.M. earned himself a “special place in Hell” for “stabbing Trump in the back” with his boilerplate promise to protect his own country’s interests. Par for the course these days; there’s nothing even vaguely surprising any more in Trump’s ongoing displays of unrequited love for tyrants, and withering scorn for traditional allies. But it’s still disgusting.
Unless you’re Putin. Papa Putin likes it just fine.
Not long ago I’d have been doubled over with the dry heaves, but after a while it starts to seem more like theatre than real, high stakes geopolitics. It’s episode 22 of The Bachelor, the season finale in which Kim gets his rose. From that perspective the whole Singapore Shit Show seemed almost worth it, just to get to watch Trump’s gonzo performance at the post-game press conference, which august international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, still doggedly keeping things real, described as utterly incoherent and depressing:
Yes, but there was a weird thrill in listening to Donny free associate, babble, and spout all manner of heresies (or I guess former heresies), wasn’t there? It was like some sort of verbal Cirque du Soleil, if they put on a sloppy cut-rate production in which the poorly rehearsed acrobats might snap their spines at any moment. What would he say next? Maybe he’d dis Canada again (he did). Maybe he’d admit that if the whole summit seemed, in retrospect, to have been a flop, he’d just lie about it (yup!). As he warmed up he even denigrated his own military for wasting buckets of money on what the silly old Joint Chiefs seemed to think were geopolitically vital exercises with America’s regional allies – why, it was a waste! So mean to the taxpayers, did you ever hear what that shit costs? A bundle, believe me. Like those bombers, the big planes that take part, with the long wings, and lots of engines, they carry the bombs, the bombers, and they fly all the way in from Guam!! It takes six hours!! Costs a fortune!! I thought Geez, I hope nobody tells Donny that the B-2s out of Missouri routinely fly 36 hour global sorties, and almost yelped with perverse delight. It was likewise delightfully astonishing to watch the phoney movie trailer that Trump screened on an iPad for what must have been a thoroughly nonplussed Kim, as if the cunning dictator was just another mark looking to buy a Trump-branded piece of shit condo in Panama:
The assembled press corps was confused for a bit, thinking they were watching a propaganda reel cooked up in Pyongyang, but Trump soon waltzed out, beaming, to take credit for the thing. You had to love it! “Destiny Pictures Presents“! Wonderful! This is a moment of destiny, Kim old pal, get it? You and me, Kim buddy! We can turn your shit-hole country into the next Mar-a-Lago! Trump expanded on this theme to the reporters:
They have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, ‘Boy, look at that! Wouldn’t that make a great condo!’ And I explained, I said, you know, ‘Instead of doing that, you could have the greatest hotels in the world.’ Think of it from a real estate perspective!
When they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. This seems to be a reference to ballistic missile test shots into the Sea of Japan, but whatever, the point is, just look at the development opportunities! Whole new vistas of Trump Towers could one day stand in tall shiny lines up and down all of those nice beaches! Maybe a couple of golf courses! Rich men could land their private jets at the new Trump Field, on their way to attend the Trump Pyongyang Invitational, before retiring in luxury for the evening at the exclusive Trump Eden East Resort and Spa!! Like the video said, there was almost no theoretical limit. I can just hear him in the closed-door session: Kim, swear to God, we’ll be bigger than Boca Raton. Donald was practically vibrating with glee at the whole idea, the sheer magnitude of the opportunity, ‘cuz when he smells money, Donny’s a happy guy. Maybe even happier than when he’s banging his latest pneumatic conquest. Look at this snapshot from the press briefing – doesn’t this look like a happy guy?
Oh yes – you’re awake. US foreign policy has morphed into another way to promote the Trump brand and secure building contracts. Embrace it.
So everything’s super, though it’s too bad that there turns out to be a real Destiny Pictures production company. It was just supposed to be a joke name, like the one they used for the fake movie studio that showed up from time to time in the Flintstones, Miracle Pictures – If it’s a good picture, it’s a Miracle! – remember?
I think this is where “Ann Margrock” worked. Anyway, by dumb luck there’s a real Destiny Pictures, and now those poor saps are fielding calls all day about their freaky propaganda video. Oh well, fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke, and fuck ’em anyhow, they’re based in L.A., at the rancid cultural epicentre of goddam lefty California, so they’re likely all Hillary voters. Those dickweeds can take their lumps.
Afterthought: this promise to suspend joint military operations appears to have come as a complete surprise not just to regional allies, but the Pentagon. It might not ever become policy – maybe Mattis will talk him out of it, or maybe he was just improvising for the press and never made any such pledge. In a while, the whole idea may be forgotten and things will go on as before, though he keeps talking about it, and about removing all forces from the area, see paragraph 3 here: Crazy Trump Fox Interview
Welcome to Trumpistan.
Oh, and remember, NO COLLUSION. And no puppet. You’re the puppet.
UPDATE JUNE 19 2018: Be darned if exercises aren’t really cancelled: