America’s bitter polarization at home exacts a price on its credibility abroad, says Dr. Fareed Zakaria– on Hanoi Summit

March 3, 2019

America’s bitter polarization at home exacts a price on its credibility abroad, says Dr. Fareed Zakaria on Hanoi Summit


Image result for Trump in Hanoi

“One of the challenges with North Korea is trying to get an agreement that locks in concessions at the start, because history tells us that Pyongyang will not follow through, fully implement or honor its commitments. But, in truth, the United States does not have a great track record of honoring its international commitments, either”.–Fareed Zakaria.

It appears President Trump decided that a bad deal with North Korea was worse than no deal, a reasonable conclusion that suggests he and his team were approaching this important issue with the seriousness it deserves. One of the challenges with North Korea is trying to get an agreement that locks in concessions at the start, because history tells us that Pyongyang will not follow through, fully implement or honor its commitments. But, in truth, the United States does not have a great track record of honoring its international commitments, either.

Image result for Trump in Hanoi

It’s always useful in a negotiation to put oneself in the other side’s shoes. If you were a North Korean statesman, you’d surely study the last important international agreement negotiated and signed by a U.S. president: the Iran nuclear deal. In exchange for the elimination of 98 percent of Iran’s fissile material, thousands of centrifuges and its Arak nuclear reactor, as well as the installation of cameras and inspectors everywhere, the United States agreed to waive sanctions against Iran and allow Western companies to do business with the country.

But even during President Barack Obama’s administration, Iran never really got much access to the international economic system. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif explained to me on several occasions that, despite the language of the deal, the Obama administration approved barely any commercial transactions between Iran and the United States. And once Trump took office, his administration began to actively undermine and even violate it, lobbying European countries to boycott Iran and using the dollar’s power to freeze any business with Iran. Not surprisingly, support for the deal in Iran, which was sky-high, has taken a serious hit.

Or consider when Libya agreed in 2003 to “disclose and dismantle” all of its weapons of mass destruction, which it essentially followed through on. In return, President George W. Bush’s administration promised to help Libya “regain a secure and respected place among the nations” and pledged “far better relations” between the United States and Libya. Bush suggested that the United States would work to turn Libya into a “prosperous country.” Little of this happened, of course, and several years later, the Obama administration helped topple Moammar Gaddafi’s regime. I am not arguing the merits of the Libyan intervention. But if you are a North Korean negotiator and Washington is promising you security guarantees, you might find this bit of history relevant and worrying.

If the North Koreans look back honestly at their own history of negotiations with the United States, they will recognize that they repeatedly lied, cheated and broke promises. Washington’s behavior is not nearly as duplicitous, but it did make promises to Pyongyang that were never really kept.

In 1994, North Korea agreed to halt operations at its Yongbyon nuclear facility and have its spent fuel monitored by inspectors. Yongbyon was eventually to be destroyed. In return, Washington would “move toward full normalization of political and economic relations” and give North Korea two light-water reactors, plus heavy fuel oil.

North Korea took most of the steps outlined. But as scholar Leon V. Sigal pointed out on, Washington moved slowly on its commitments, never providing the light-water reactors and failing to deliver the fuel on time. It took only modest steps to normalize relations. Pyongyang made clear that if the United States did not live up to its end of the deal, it would renege on its own obligations. Still, President Bill Clinton’s administration did not come through, and North Korea began violating the accord. When the Bush administration came to power, it scuttled the entire process and moved to a much harder line against North Korea.

These U.S. moves are part of the hyper-polarized political environment of the past quarter-century. During the Cold War, most international agreements and commitments made by one president were likely to be upheld by his successors. Though many Republicans opposed President Harry S. Truman on NATO and foreign aid, the party did not try to reverse course and wreck these policies once in power. Though candidate Bill Clinton bitterly criticized George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy, it is hard to find an area where there was a significant departure from it once he became president.

Compare that with the current environment. Trump has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he has questioned the continuing value of NATO. He has repeatedly shown that he regards every decision made by his immediate predecessor to be at least wrong, and often treasonous.

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If you were a North Korean negotiator, you would surely be wondering whether any deal made by the Trump administration would be honored or properly implemented by its successors. And you would be right to wonder. The United States’ bitter polarization at home exacts a price in the nation’s credibility and consistency abroad.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

3 thoughts on “America’s bitter polarization at home exacts a price on its credibility abroad, says Dr. Fareed Zakaria– on Hanoi Summit

  1. Trump claimed that North Korea “wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety” and that the US wasn’t prepared to do that. “They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that,” Trump said during his press conference. “We had to walk away from that.”

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters that North Korea had only asked the US for partial sanctions relief, and had offered a “realistic proposal” on denuclearization. According to Bloomberg News, North Korea had specifically requested a batch of sanctions imposed by a series of UN resolutions in 2016 and 2017 be lifted.

    So, who is lying? With the track record of Trump’s pathological lies, I tend to believe the North Korean. It was Trump who ended the summit early. I was Trump who walked away first.

    Trump was being hyperbolic when he spoke. And it was very obvious that Trump was ill-prepared for the summit. If North Korea was asking for the lifting of 5 UN sanctions in return for dismantlement of Yongbyon, he should have known that before he got to Hanoi.

    That the US should have known what North Korea wanted before the summit is probably the more important takeaway. But Trump’s decision to rely almost solely on his personal engagement with Kim meant that much of the hard, behind-the-scenes work required to make a massive deal like this went largely neglected. The Trump-Kim summit’s collapse exposes the risks of one-to-one diplomacy.

    Trump could have gone the tried-and-true diplomatic route of letting working-level staff, like America’s special envoy for North Korea negotiations Stephen Biegun, figure out the finer details of a deal. After months or even years of painstaking work, those staffers could produce a near-ready agreement for Trump and Kim to finalize together.

    Obviously, Kim Jong-un has emerged as the victor after the Hanoi summit. Unwittingly, Trump has given Kim legitimacy a second time, with Kim having convinced the most powerful man in the world to come to Asia a second time in less than nine months. Kim has demonstrated that he could play hardball. And, by not dissolving North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Mr Kim retains developing new nuclear and ballistic missile programs as a threat in future negotiations.

    Even in announcing the talks had failed, Trump continued to praise Kim, stressing the summit had been generally friendly and constructive. More importantly, Trump left the door open for negotiations to continue, and Kim can work with that, for he has already made big strides toward undercutting support for sanctions in China and South Korea and can be expected to try to keep pushing them farther away from Washington’s increasingly fragile policy of maximum pressure.

    And it is very obvious that even though Trump was physically at the summit in Hanoi, his mind was back in Washington DC with Michael Cohen’s testimony at the Congress hearing. Cohen has confirmed that Trump is a racist, a con man, and a cheat. Trump knows his presidency is crumbling. He knows he is nearing to the end of his line. His mind was not in the summit with Kim.

    After this failed summit with Kim, Donald Trump can say good bye, zaijian, au revoir, auf wiedersehen and adios to his dreams of a Nobel Peace Prize, which he asked Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to nominate him for. Oh, that’s killing him, for the Nigger President had one and the Big White Hope has not!

  2. The aftermath of Trump and Kim unsuccessful summit in Vietnam has been nothing short of startling. On Saturday, in an effort to reduce tensions with North Korea, the American and South Korean military defense heads agreed to end two major military exercises. It’s likely to delight Kim, indeed. The cancellation of the drills, adding to the fact that Kim hasn’t tested a nuclear bomb or missile since September and November 2017, respectively, means Kim has effectively secured that “freeze for freeze” agreement.

    The New York Times reported the next day that, while Trump and Kim were meeting in Vietnam, Pyongyang hacked more than 100 targets in the US and ally nations. It goes to show that North Korea’s hackers operate unchecked even as the two leaders are working to build a rapport. It’s a brazen move that shows there’s still a long way to go to normalize any relations between the two countries, even outside of the nuclear issue.

    Also on Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton went on Face the Nation to discuss the Vietnam summit. Bolton went on the same shows last year and he almost tanked Trump’s diplomacy with Kim by saying the administration wanted Kim to abandon its nuclear weapons program just like Libya did. Kim bristled at that, since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled with Western support years after he relinquished his arsenal.

    This time while he defended the outcome of Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, he revealed — shockingly — that he and Trump disagree on a key question: whether the US made a massive concession to Kim by holding high-profile summits with him. This time, Bolton likely managed to anger Trump. Take a look at the following video about Bolton’s telling exchange with CBS’s Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan in full:

    BRENNAN: But, in the meantime, as we say, they can still produce nuclear fuel. And as you saw after the President left Hanoi, Kim Jong-un stayed there. I mean he was walking around touring hot spots in Vietnam. He no longer looks like a pariah. Didn’t he gain from this?

    BOLTON: I don’t think that’s the President’s view at all. It– it’s–

    BRENNAN: He sat across from the President almost as if an equal.

    BOLTON: He– he did that in Singapore. The President’s view is he gave nothing away.

    BRENNAN: But do you actually believe that?

    BOLTON: The President’s view is he gave nothing away. That’s– that’s what matters, not my view. As I’ve said before, I guess I can’t get people to listen so I’ll try it one more time. I’m the national security advisor. I’m not the national security decision maker.

    What happened here was that, when given the chance to defend Trump’s belief that he has made no concessions to Kim, Bolton demurred, waving away the issue by claiming that his belief wasn’t important. That, of course, is ludicrous, since he’s the president’s top national security aide. Bolton didn’t trash Trump’s view, but he slyly noted that he doesn’t share it.

    This episode highlights the stark divisions within the Trump administration about North Korea. Obviously, Trump thinks holding summits with Kim is a good thing, allowing him to gauge the despot and press him to make some kind of deal. Bolton, however, has long argued that Pyongyang will never end its nuclear program and that the US should instead consider attacking the Kim regime.

    And on the same Sunday evening, Trump tweeted that his inability to cut a deal with Kim had more to do with his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony than with his flawed diplomacy, calling the Democrat-led spectacle “a new low in American politics.” Trump tweeted:

    “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the “walk.” Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!”

    So, it’s not that North Korea is unlikely to ever get rid of its nuclear weapons and it’s not that neither side did the requisite staff work to prepare an agreement ready for the leaders to sign. It’s actually the Democrats’ fault. The man might have instructed his fixer Cohen to intimidate all his schools from kindergarten to college not to release any information about how bad a student he was, but the man is as claimed a genius — a genius with coming up with idiocies.

    Put together, these latest developments show that the Trump administration’s North Korea policy is in total chaos.

  3. It appears that the DNC is trying to make the So Called Russian intervention in 2016 Presidential elections stick. Muller reports looks a bit iffy. Now move focus on family.
    However you argue socialism and welfare state are things of the past and have been debunked in our generation because very few states can keep population growth and GDP growth at the same level. Caling themselves progressives may produce the same results.
    And now the Military is saying they need more intelligence and military hardware in Europe. Where is this going I do not know. But the optics is not good. We all know what happened after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.

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