Donald Trump is many things. But one thing he is not is a defender of the 2009-2016 status quo and accepted progressive convention. Since 2017, everything has been in flux. Lots of past conventional assumptions of the Obama-Clinton-Romney-Bush generation were as unquestioned as they were suspect. No longer.
Everyone knew the Iran deal was a way for the mullahs to buy time and hoard their oil profits, to purchase or steal nuclear technology, to feign moderation, and to trade some hostages for millions in terrorist-seeding cash, and then in a few years spring an announcement that it had the bomb.
No one wished to say that. Trump did. He canceled the flawed deal without a second thought.
Iran is furious, but in a far weaker—and eroding—strategic position with no serious means of escaping devastating sanctions, general impoverishment, and social unrest. So a desperate Tehran knows that it must make some show of defiance. Yet it accepts that if it were to launch a missile at a U.S. ship, hijack an American boat, or shoot down an American plane, the ensuing tit-for-tat retaliation might target the point of Iranian origin (the port that launched the ship, the airbase from which the plane took off, the silo from which the missile was launched) rather than the mere point of contact—and signal a serial stand-off 10-1 disproportionate response to every Iranian attack without ever causing a Persian Gulf war.
Everyone realized the Paris Climate Accord was a way for elites to virtue signal their green bona fides while making no adjustments in their global managerial lifestyles—at best. At worst, it was a shake-down both to transfer assets from the industrialized West to the “developing world” and to dull Western competitiveness with ascending rivals like India and China. Not now. Trump withdrew from the agreement, met or exceeded the carbon emissions reductions of the deal anyway, and has never looked back at the flawed convention. The remaining signatories have little response to the U.S. departure, and none at all to de facto American compliance to their own targeted goals.
Rich NATO allies either could not or would not pay their promised defense commitments to the alliance. To embarrass them into doing so was seen as heretical. No more.
Trump jawboned and ranted about the asymmetries. And more nations are increasing rather than decreasing their defense budgets. The private consensus is that the NATO allies knew all along that they were exactly what Barack Obama once called “free riders” and justified that subsidization by ankle-biting the foreign policies of the United States—as if an uncouth America was lucky to underwrite such principled members. Again, no more fantasies.
China was fated to rule the world. Period. Whining about its systematic commercial cheating was supposedly merely delaying the inevitable or would have bad repercussions later on. Progressives knew the Communists put tens of thousands of people in camps, rounded up Muslims, and destroyed civil liberties, and yet in “woke” fashion tip-toed around criticizing the Other. Trump then destroyed the mirage of China as a Westernizing aspirant to the family of nations. In a protracted tariff struggle, there are lots of countries in Asia that could produce cheap goods as readily as China, but far fewer countries like the United States that have money to be siphoned off in mercantilist trade deals, or the technology to steal, or the preferred homes and universities in which to invest.
The Palestinians were canonized as permanent refugees. The U.S. embassy could never safely move to the Israeli capital in Jerusalem. The Golan Heights were Syrian. Only a two-state solution requiring Israel to give back all the strategic border land it inherited when its defeated enemies sought to destroy it in five prior losing wars would bring peace. Not now.
The Palestinians for the last 50 years were always about as much refugees as the East Prussian Germans or the Egyptian Jews and Greeks that were cleansed from their ancestral homelands in the Middle East in the same period of turbulence as the birth of Israel. “Occupied” land more likely conjures up Tibet and Cyprus not the West Bank, and persecuted Muslims are not found in Israel, but in China.
An aging population, the veritable end to U.S. manufacturing and heavy industry, and an opioid epidemic meant that America needed to get used to stagnant 1 percent growth, a declining standard of living, a permanent large pool of the unemployed, an annual increasing labor non-participation rate, and a lasting rust belt of deplorables, irredeemables, clingers and “crazies” who needed to be analyzed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. At best, a middle-aged deplorable was supposed to learn to code or relocate to the Texas fracking fields. Perhaps not now.
In the last 30 months, the question of the Rust Belt has been reframed to why, with a great workforce, cheap energy, good administrative talent, and a business-friendly administration, cannot the United States make more of what it needs? Why, if trade deficits are irrelevant, do Germany, China, Japan, and Mexico find them so unpleasant? If unfettered trade is so essential, why do so many of our enemies and friends insist that we almost alone trade “fairly,” while they trade freely and unfairly? Why do not Germany and China argue that their vast global account surpluses are largely irrelevant?
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) assured us that the world would be suffocating under greenhouse gases within 12 years. Doom-and-gloom prophecies of “peak” oil warned us that our oil reserves would dry up by the early 21st century. Former Vice President Al Gore warned us that our port cities would soon be underwater. Economists claimed Saudi Arabia or Russia would one day control the world by opening and closing their oil spigots. Not now.
Three million more barrels of American oil are being produced per day just since Trump took office. New pipelines will ensure that the United States is not just the world’s greatest producer of natural gas but perhaps its largest exporter as well.
Trump blew up those prognostications and replaced them with an optimistic agenda that the working- and middle classes deserve affordable energy, that the United States could produce fossil fuels more cleanly, wisely, and efficiently than the Middle East, and that ensuring increased energy could revive places in the United States that were supposedly fossilized and irrelevant. Normal is utilizing to the fullest extent a resource that can discourage military adventurism in the Middle East, provide jobs to the unemployed, and reduce the cost of living for the middle class; abnormal is listening to the progressive elite for whom spiking gasoline and power bills were a very minor nuisance.
Open borders were our unspoken future. The best of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans felt that millions of illegal aliens might eventually break faith with the progressive party of entitlements; the worst of the open borders lot argued that cheap labor was more important than sovereignty and certainly more in their interests than any worry over the poor working classes of their own country. And so Republicans for the last 40 years joined progressives in ensuring that illegal immigration was mostly not measured, meritocratic, diverse, or lawful, but instead a means to serve a number of political agendas.
Most Americans demurred, but kept silent given the barrage of “racist,” “xenophobe,” and “nativist” cries that met any measured objection. Not so much now. Few any longer claim that the southern border is not being overrun, much less that allowing a non-diverse million illegal aliens in six months to flood into the United States without audit is proof that “diversity is our strength.”
The Republican Party’s prior role was to slow down the inevitable trajectory to European socialism, the end of American exceptionalism, and homogenized globalized culture. Losing nobly in national elections was one way of keeping one’s dignity, weepy wounded-fawn style, while the progressive historical arc kept bending to our collective future. Rolling one’s eyes on Sunday talk shows as a progressive outlined the next unhinged agenda was proof of tough resistance.
Like it or not, now lines are drawn. Trump so unhinged the Left that it finally tore off its occasional veneer of moderation, and showed us what progressives had in store for America.
On one side in 2020 is socialism, “Medicare for All,” wealth taxes, top income tax rates of 70 or 80 or 90 percent, a desire for a Supreme Court of full of “wise Latinas” like Sonia Sotomayor, insidious curtailment of the First and Second Amendments, open borders, blanket amnesties, reparations, judges as progressive legislators, permissible infanticide, abolition of student debt, elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau and the Electoral College, voting rights for 16-year-olds and felons, and free college tuition.
On the other side is free-market capitalism but within a framework of fair rather than unfettered international trade, a smaller administrative state, less taxation and regulation, constitutionalist judges, more gas and oil, record low unemployment, 3-4 percent economic growth, and pressure on colleges to honor the Bill of Rights.
The New, New Normal
The choices are at least starker now. The strategy is not, as in 2008 and 2012, to offer a moderate slow-down of progressivism, but rather a complete repudiation of it.
One way is to see this as a collision between Trump, the proverbial bull, and the administrative state as a targeted precious china shop—with all the inevitable nihilistic mix-up of horns, hooves, and flying porcelain shards. But quite another is to conclude that what we recently used to think was abjectly abnormal twenty years ago had become not just “normal,” but so orthodoxly normal that even suggesting it was not was judged to be heretical and deserving of censure and worse.
The current normal correctives were denounced as abnormal—as if living in a sovereign state with secure borders, assuming that the law was enforced equally among all Americans, demanding that citizenship was something more than mere residence, and remembering that successful Americans, not their government, built their own businesses and lives is now somehow aberrant or perverse.
Trump’s political problem, then, may be that the accelerating aberration of 2009-2016 was of such magnitude that normalcy is now seen as sacrilege.
Weaponizing the IRS, unleashing the FBI to spy on political enemies and to plot the removal of an elected president, politicizing the CIA to help to warp U.S. politics, allying the Justice Department with the Democratic National Committee, and reducing FISA courts to rubber stamps for pursuing administration enemies became the new normal. Calling all that a near coup was abnormal.
Let us hope that most Americans still prefer the abnormal remedy to the normal pathology.
His flip-flops suggest that he remains troublingly clueless about the biggest geo-political peer rival and potential challenger to the United States.
Under old-school journalism, reporters would be camping in front of Joe Biden’s campaign offices asking questions on his foreign policy: whether he still thinks Qatari-funded jihadis wanted to topple Syria’s Bashar Assad, if Libya intervention under President Obama was a mistake, and the reason for the flop of Obama’s Asia Pivot. In the last few weeks, Joe Biden has shown he would say anything to be president, including first promising to cure cancer, then flip-flopping on abortion, and finally flipping on China.
American domestic politics are for Americans to decide when the election comes, but at a time Beijing is returning to Tiananmen form, no bigger issue needs further scrutiny than Biden’s China stance.
Biden recently said in Iowa that China is a “serious challenge” and threat, adding, “We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us and in some areas a real threat.”
Funny, because in May, he mocked the China threat, saying, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man…They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east, I mean in the west.”
Biden then added that he is worried about President Trump’s tariff wars against China, which is arguably “exacerbating the challenge,” and said “if we do what we need to do here at home…we can out-compete anyone.” According to reports, Biden then said: “You bet I’m worried about China…if we keep following Trump’s path.”
While pondering the alternative way, Biden said he would force China to go green: “Biden will rally a united front of nations to hold China accountable to high environmental standards in its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure projects so that China can’t outsource pollution to other countries.” Yes, good luck with that. It might sound plausible in a school kid’s Earth Day project, but not in the policy plans of the prospective leader of the free world.
This, is, of course, pure madness. There is no bigger potential challenge for the West, and especially for the United States, than the rise of a near peer-rival great power like China. At this very moment, Chinese government lackeys in Hong Kong are cracking down on the largest protests of 2019, where more than a million Hong Kongers are marching to stop China’s de facto takeover of Hong Kong’s justice system, which would allow any dissident to be packed off to trial in mainland China.
But that is not the biggest issue. The problem is China is a challenge unprecedented to U.S. policymakers. Chinese peacetime gross domestic product is overtaking America’s, and China is set to soon, as a percentage of relative power, eclipse all previous great power challenges that the United States has ever faced, including Imperial Spain, Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and even the Soviet Union.
To put it simply, the conflict of interest between the rising China and an established hegemon in the United States is inevitable. In international relations, it is known as “the Thucydides Trap“.
Consider the world of international politics like a snooker table. Unlike the domestic politics of a nation state, the international system is anarchic in nature. That is because, in domestic politics there is an established government that can decide and, if needed, enforce. The lack of hierarchy in international politics makes it anarchical, in Kenneth Waltz’s terminology, because there is no global governance, and any attempt to form a global empire would invite backlash from rival powers, while any attempt at global governance would result in a global war.
Naturally, international politics is determined by nation-states, and more importantly great powers, which are the single most important actors of world politics. And great powers rise or fall due to a variety of factors: stupid policies, ideological and military overstretch, spending more than one can afford, foolish wars and global policing, failure or decline in technological competition, juvenile or effeminate elites, and the biggest variable of all: time.
In that light, the Thucydides Trap comes in.
Throughout history, there has been one completely consistent pattern: Growing and rising powers always challenge established powers. From Athens and Sparta, to Rome and Carthage, to Napoleon, to the two World Wars, and the Cold War, this pattern remained the same. China and the United States are just the new avatars of this great game, as the actors change, but the game remains the same.
In this context, conflict does not always mean war. It could be a cold war, trade war, proxy wars, anything, but conflict between a rising and established power is inevitable. As J.J. Mearsheimer states in his book, China will try and push away the United States from Asia, just as the United States once pushed away European great powers from the Western Hemisphere.
Meanwhile, Biden is flip-flopping on this biggest challenge confronting the United States, tweeting friendship bands about how much he misses Barack Obama, and claiming there was not a hint of scandal during his eight years as vice president. For all his problems, President Trump has been forthright about the China challenge, much more than any current Democrat, or even a majority of the Republican leaders. In the future, this might be considered his legacy.
While most focus on tariffs and economics, China—with its AI research, space research, naval build-up, data and IP theft, and unfair trade practices—is a much bigger challenge than to suffer a dollar increase in the price of a beer can. There are questions already on how one should contain China, or what in itself is an intelligent containment strategy.
Some are pointing out their doubts about whether the present U.S. leadership and population is even martial enough to withstand the long-coming generational conflict. But whatever the case, to lightly rephrase an old and used proverb, you cannot choose whether to be interested in a coming Cold War, as the Cold War is already interested in you.
Biden’s callousness about identifying that and then his face-saving flip-flop is, therefore, the most troubling aspect of his candidacy. The less said about his Democratic colleagues, the better.
In a recent rally, the septuagenarian former vice president flashed his pearly set and declared, to the utter confusion of foreign policy analysts across the Euro-Atlantic, that China is no threat to the West: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man.”
Beijing is the world’s second-largest economy, and increasingly isolated due to its revanchism in the Asia Pacific. It is confronting Australia, India, and Japan simultaneously, challenging the U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy every day. It’s returning to Maoist totalitarianism and Chinese civilizational exceptionalism, the leader of artificial intelligence and genetics research, with advanced space warfare capabilities and highly advanced stealth and hypersonic warfare capabilities.
China is a chronic thief of intellectual property, a great power extensively buying lands (and governments) across the world, a manufacturing giant in a trade war, and a great power engaged in espionage, cyber warfare, and naval buildup. Yet, according to the front-runner of the Democratic presidential field, it is no threat to the United States and the West.
Biden is obviously wrong about China. In fact, Biden is wrong about a lot of things. Like Johnny English, it is his job to know nothing, be wrong, and goof around. He has a glowing smile, 1950s social mannerisms, righteous rage at social justice issues to update himself for the kids, and is catastrophically wrong about every single foreign policy position possible.
Let’s start with the biggest position that would come back to haunt him as president. I was a rookie reporter covering the U.S. vice presidential candidates’ debate when I saw the difference between a quietly earnest if wonkish Paul Ryan, and a smug, condescending Biden, with a media fully disposed in the latter’s favor. It was Biden who dismissed whether Russia was a revanchist power.
While one can argue about how much Russia was a “threat” per se, no one would deny that Russia is and will be an adversarial power, and something Biden’s administration not only didn’t perceive, but when informed, dismissed mockingly.
But that is not all. Biden is stuck in time, as the world changed around him. For example, Tucker Carlson writes in his book, “Ship of Fools,” “In the fall of 2002, a total of seventy-seven senators voted in favor of the Iraq War resolution. This included the majority of Democrats, and 100 percent of the party’s rising stars. Two future presidential candidates who voted for the war, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, also happened to be future secretaries of state. The future vice president, Joe Biden, voted for it…”
He also notes that, during Vietnam evacuation, “Senator Joe Biden of Delaware agreed; he introduced legislation to curb the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants, accusing the Ford administration of not being honest about how many refugees would be arriving.” Vietnamese immigrants, needless to say, are one of the most successful and assimilated groups in the United States, but that’s beyond the point.
The point is Biden never thought independently about what might be good or bad, but said the things the Democratic base wanted to hear. In 2002, Iraq War support was simply good politics, even though now no one talks about it.
Biden also argued for a renewed troop surge in Afghanistan, a conflict that has long transformed from a war to an imperial law and order mission, similar to what the British did in the 1890s, against Afghan rebels in North West Frontier Province. Funnily enough, when the most consequential decision of the Obama administration came, such as the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden, Biden argued against it. Obama, of course, took the advice of his generals instead.
To Biden’s credit, like a broken clock he was right about foreign policy twice. During one of the most catastrophic foreign policy decision in modern Western history, when Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice were arguing for toppling Muammar Gaddafi, which turned Libya into a slave trading hub and mass migration springboard, Biden apparently argued against it. He was also apparently overruled and then went on to fully support the Obama intervention, even when he despised Clinton, according to his aides.
Likewise, he was the first one to publicly state that there are no good Syrian rebels, because all are Qatari-funded Islamists. But then he promptly backtracked, genuflected, and apologized. He should have stuck by both, because history could have proved his caution and restraint right. But he did not.
The problem for Biden is much more than that. He reminds me of the grandmother in “Good bye, Lenin!” who fell in coma during the Soviet years, only to wake up after the fall of the Berlin Wall in a unified Germany, yet her grandson must continue an elaborate hoax to assure her that she is still in communist Germany, so she doesn’t have another shock and suffer a stroke.
Biden, likewise, is also stuck in the heady days of early 1990s triumphalism, with an expanding North Atlantic Trade Organization, an European Union that is a prospective trade ally, and the world fit for liberal interventionism and democracy, with a hope that China would eventually be entrenched as a pillar in the liberal order.
Unfortunately, none of that came true, and China is pretty much the biggest rising great-power rival challenge to an established superpower, compared to the history of rising-power challenges, from Sparta to Athens, Carthage to Rome, the Spaniards, Napoleon and Germans twice, to the Brits. There’s an academic consensus about it, and Uncle Joe is wrong once again.
Most importantly, however, he is opposed to his own base. Recent studies suggest, that Americans overwhelmingly, distinctly support a restrained foreign policy and less liberal interventionism and democracy promotion abroad, this stance is even stronger among the Democratic base.
The findings in this survey suggest that American voters are not isolationist. Rather, voters are more accurately described as supporting ‘restrained engagement’ in international affairs—a strategy that favours diplomatic, political, and economic actions over military action when advancing U.S. interests in the world. American voters want their political leaders to make more public investments in the American people in order to compete in the world and to strike the right balance abroad after more than a decade of what they see as military overextension.
Guess who won an election promising just that?
It is a mystery that President Trump cannot transform his foreign policy instincts into electoral support, but one can blame Trump’s poor PR, lack of strict message discipline, and continuous mainstream media opposition for that. The fact remains, however, that Trump is more attuned to a non-interventionist America than his prospective rival Biden.
It is still too early to say what would happen. The primaries and the debates haven’t started yet. While one can be sympathetic to an affable grand-fatherly figure, one should be careful about someone who has repeatedly, to use a liberal catch-phrase, been on the “wrong side of history.”
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
China is building a long-range cruise missile fired from a shipping container that could turn Beijing’s large fleet of freighters into potential warships and commercial ports into future missile bases.
The new missile is in flight testing and is a land-attack variant of an advanced anti-ship missile called the YJ-18C, according to American defense officials.
The missile will be deployed in launchers that appear from the outside to be standard international shipping containers used throughout the world for moving millions of tons of goods, often on the deck of large freighters.
The YJ-18C is China’s version of the Club-K cruise missile built by Russia that also uses a launcher disguised as a shipping container. Israel also is working on a container-launched missile called the Lora.
Spokesmen for the Defense Intelligence Agency and Navy declined to comment.
By Sumantra Maita • The Federalist
Bob Gates, perhaps the most farsighted post-Cold War defense secretary, presciently predicted in 2011 “that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress—and in the American body politic writ large—to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”
Gates, who once rightly understood that the Saudis would fight Iranians to the last American, also essentially hinted the same with regards to Germany and Russia, “nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”
Put simply, he was saying the Germans would talk about an international liberal order for as long as Americans would pay to defend it. The day they are caught not tangibly supporting this order, they would throw a tantrum and blame Washington. “Future U.S. political leaders– those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me—may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost,” he said.
By John Heubusch • The National Review
President Trump made headlines last week by walking out of his Hanoi summit meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The move came as a surprise, and many news outlets around the world have decried the summit. But Trump’s move recalled Ronald Reagan’s decision to walk out of an even higher-stakes summit, his 1986 Reykjavik meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev.
The two summits bear some similarities. Both were second rounds of negotiations with a foreign power to mitigate that power’s nuclear threat. Both presidents faced a Communist leader abroad and pressure for a deal back home. And both presidents made the right call in walking out to preserve their position of strength.
During the Reykjavik summit, Gorbachev pressed Reagan to scrap research on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The initiative was a crucial point for Reagan. It served as the genesis of the effort that to this day provides some limited capability for the United States to protect itself from foreign ballistic-missile attack. The program had been allowed under previous treaties, and so Reagan refused Gorbachev’s demand, ending the summit. Afterward, Reagan explained his thinking to the American people: “I went to Reykjavik determined that everything was negotiable except two things: our freedom and our future.” SDI was an integral part of that future, so Reagan stood firm.
Similarly, Kim Jong-un pressed Trump to lessen sanctions on North Korea as a precondition for any denuclearization. The United Nations–implemented sanctions had been key to pushing North Korea to the negotiating table in the first place, and Trump rightly recognized that they were his key source of leverage. Without a firm, enforceable process in place for denuclearization, history proves there can be no assurance that North Korea will stay true to its word. Weakening or scrapping the sanctions before that process has begun would be an enormous misstep. So Trump walked.
The pre-Trump policy of continuous sanctions with no communication or negotiation is no longer an option, because Trump has given Kim legitimacy by opening negotiations in a way Reagan likely never would have. But times and circumstances have changed. Despite leaving the negotiating table, Trump has maintained a cordial tone toward Chairman Kim in the days since the summit. He is clearly interested in cultivating a relationship for the future. And in the coming months, Trump would do well to continue drawing from the Reagan playbook.
To that end, his most pressing order of business is making goals and possible outcomes clear to Kim. Reagan laid out his goals in lengthy correspondence with Gorbachev. His “zero option” meant the elimination of intermediate-range missiles in Europe. He also refused to concede “our freedom and our future,” which to him included SDI. Trump needs to make his goals just as clear to Kim: Our future safety is not on the table, and denuclearization is a nonnegotiable first step to easing relations between North Korea and the rest of the world. While Trump touts his negotiating skills, he must have clear aims and be extensively prepared before any further summits occur.
Second, Trump must play hardball. Reagan imposed tough sanctions on the U.S.S.R. and commenced a massive military buildup, both for national-defense purposes and to further pressure the Russian economy and government. The mounting financial and political strain contributed both to Gorbachev’s willingness to negotiate and to the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse. Trump should increase sanctions and work hard to bring China and Russia on board with them for the same reasons. If it causes Kim to negotiate toward denuclearization, great. If it causes the regime to collapse, even better.
Finally, Reagan was willing to return to the negotiating table, even if he’d previously walked away without a deal. After Reykjavik, he said “we prefer no agreement than to bring home a bad agreement to the United States.” That’s why he was able to negotiate directly with Gorbachev three times after the summit collapsed and still win significant concessions. Trump, his top negotiators, and our legislators should likewise remain open to future talks. As long as America maintains its position of strength and is willing to walk away from a bad deal, we are unlikely to lose.
Trump’s talks with Pyongyang present a historic opportunity, but they are not without risk. If the president can maintain a Reaganesque resolve and continue to apply maximum pressure on the Kim regime, he may still be able to ensure a more prosperous future for North Korea and improved security for the people of the United States.
By Aaron Kliegman • Washington Free Beacon
Hopes were high in Hanoi, Vietnam, this week, as President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled and shook hands, ready for their second summit. Perhaps the United States and North Korea would finally reach a deal to denuclearize the latter, paving the way for a more benign, fruitful relationship between the two countries. Alas, it was not meant to be. Trump and Kim ended their summit on Thursday after failing to agree on any steps to curb North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. But while the talks collapsed—at least for the moment—people should not view the result as a failure. Indeed, Trump should be commended for walking away from a bad deal.
Many observers thought Trump would be so desperate for a deal that he would agree to almost any terms, succumbing to dreams of diplomatic greatness. They watched Trump call Kim his “friend” and worried the president was too trusting. Perhaps Kim felt this way, too, hence his widely one-sided proposal (more on that in a moment). Ultimately, however, Trump did not do what his critics feared.
“I am never afraid to walk from a deal,” Trump told reporters after the summit ended. “Sometimes you have to walk.”
Lifting sanctions on North Korea seemed to be the main roadblock to further negotiations. According to Trump, Kim insisted that all of the United Nations’s sanctions imposed on Pyongyang be lifted in exchange for dismantling the Yongbyon nuclear facility, the site of a reactor and plutonium-reprocessing plant and a central piece of the North’s weapons program.
“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho later disputed Trump’s account of what happened, saying his country asked for the removal of 5 of the 11 sets of sanctions imposed by the U.N., not all of them.
“We proposed to the United States to lift five sanctions—which [were] adopted between 2016 and 2017 and impede the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people—among 11 U.N. sanctions resolutions all together,” Ri said, according to a translation of his remarks.
Even if Ri’s account is accurate, Trump was right to reject the proposal. That North Korea only asked for a fraction of the U.N. resolutions can be misleading; the five that North Korea put on the table comprise most of the international pressure through sanctions on Pyongyang. Trump may have not been literally accurate about all sanctions, but he was right for all intents and purposes. And in exchange, the North would only destroy one nuclear site. What about the other sites in North Korea? And what about inspecting them? Like Iran during negotiations over its nuclear program, North Korea seems to want all the benefits without any of the costs: to obtain relief from sanctions while preserving the ability to build nuclear weapons. Only this time, Trump did not grant an adversary its wish—at least for now.
One does not need an MBA from an elite university to realize that making major concessions up front in a negotiation takes away leverage for later. If Trump agreed to lift most sanctions right away in exchange for less extensive nuclear concessions, then the United States would be in a far weaker position to act against North Korea in the future if necessary. What if North Korea cheats? What leverage would the United States have? Re-imposing sanctions at the U.N. does not happen with a snap of the fingers. Considering all North Korea has done is lie to the international community about its nuclear program, Pyongyang cheating is an outcome all too likely.
The United States should not provide North Korea any sanctions relief for something it has repeatedly promised to do. More generally, the United States should not lift any sanctions until North Korea has demonstrated beyond doubt that it has taken major steps to curb its nuclear program. Any agreement that falls short of this standard is not worth the paper on which it is written.
Trump’s decision to walk away from Kim’s proposal is a net positive not only for his policy toward North Korea, but also toward Iran. Had Trump agreed to North Korea’s terms, the Islamic Republic would have seen the United States make significant concessions while still allowing North Korea to keep its nuclear arsenal. Iran would be given greater incentive to undermine American sanctions and still seek nuclear weapons, believing that, once it gets the bomb, Washington will not have the will to do anything meaningful about it.
After the Hanoi Summit, the question is what happens next. Fortunately, the United States and North Korea are still talking, so high-level negotiations may resume at a later date. Whether they do or not, Trump and his advisers should consider one hitch that few people want to acknowledge, a hitch that explains why this summit failed and why future summits will likely fail: the United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, and North Korea does not want to give them up. That basic point is the great obstacle to denuclearization. And unless it changes, do not bet on any grand diplomatic bargains.
Eighteen months after the 2016 presidential elections, the United States of America finds itself in the throat of a most destructive existential crisis. The over two hundred forty years old Republic has been placed in this dangerous situation by the illegal manipulations of the political and legal systems of the extremely politicized Obama appointed political elite, in cohut with the entrenched Republican establishment, and not by the actions of the Trump Administration. These two political groups have been afraid of being exposed as conspirators to overturn the verdict of the majority of the American people against their steadily growing bureaucratic dictatorship. Hence the unending barrage of baseless allegations and outright lies to paralyze and ultimately overthrow the legitimately elected President of the United States of America.
The glaring contradictions between the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and the gross abuses of bureaucratic powers by the Obama Administration have caused too many hatred and fears across all elements of American society. This toxic mix of hatred and fears has obscured the very real difference between right versus wrong, has made a mockery out of the rule of law, has introduced insanity as the new normal in the general discourse, and has destroyed basic morality in public life.
Nobody can ever wholly escape the mixture of positive and negative influences of his or her times and country. Neither are politicians across the globe exempt from the deeply ingrained ethical, cultural, and intellectual foibles and prejudices of their respective societies. Accordingly, trust among political leaders of all ages and places has always been either non-existent or of short supply. This dearth of trust, fundamentally rooted in a mutual failure to comprehend the other nation’s mentality, has characterized the over two centuries old history of US-Russia relations too. Avoiding the temptation of expanding on this history, suffice it to state that as Russian domestic and foreign policies could not be understood by the pragmatic, result oriented American mind, so has been the emotional mindset of the Russians mostly incapable to objectively judge the domestic and foreign policies of the United States of America.
The “Cold War” ended with several agreements between the two states. At the Malta summit in December 1989, then President George H. W. Bush assured Mikhail Gorbachev that the United States of America will not take advantage of the unfolding events in Central and Eastern Europe. The same assurance was echoed by then Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of the Federal Republic of Germany on January 31, 1990, in the Bavarian town of Tutzing. Less than a month later, Continue reading
After almost four decades of ruthless oppression of the Iranian people, the indiscriminate terrorization of the greater Middle East and beyond, the absolute reign of the Shi’a Mullahs is nearing to its well deserved inglorious end. Bleeding from multiple, mostly self-inflicted wounds, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as envisioned by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini, has turned out to be an unviable hybrid – neither Islamic nor Republican.
To the eternal embarrassment of God, the existing Constitution implies that it has been given the Iranian nation by the Almighty God Himself: “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful” intones the first sentence of the Preamble. In a follow-up provision God appears to speak directly to the devouts: “We have sent Our Apostles with veritable signs and brought down with them scriptures and scales of justice, so that men might conduct themselves with fairness.” Accordingly, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a perfect political regime, because it is religiously correct. Yet, in spite of God’s so-called direct assurances, justice and fairness have not been the guiding principles of the Iranian Mullahcracy.
As every revolution before the Iranian of January 1979, the establishment and the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been analyzed and interpreted ad nauseum from both political and emotional perspectives. Yet, perhaps the most poignant verdict came from the late President Anwar Sadat who in a remarkable speech before the Egyptian People’s Assembly in 1981 compared the Iran of pre-1979 to the post-1979 era. In his speech he pointed out that under the Shah Iran imported one-third of its food supply from Israel and earned $250 million from oil exports daily. Two years into the Mullahcracy the regime struggled to feed the people and the latter could only obtain fuel on their personal ID cards.
From its inception, the regime has relied on extreme violence against its own people for the sole purpose of retaining absolute power. Having showed no mercy even for children as young as twelve years of age, the regime has executed during its almost four decades of existence tens of thousands of Iranians and foreigners. All this internal terror has been based on Khomeini’s sick rhetoric
that differentiates among three foundations: theocratic power embodied in the doctrine of Velayat-e-Faqih, Islamic ideology corrupted by Marxist and Bolshevik dogmas, and spiritualism based on discrimination between the Shi’a Muslims who follow the correct Islam and the misguided masses who adhere to the satanic ways of disbelief, such as the Sunni Muslims, the Jews, and the Christian powers and their allies. In Khomeini’s political and religious dictionary the righteous Shi’a Muslims have been the oppressed victims of both the East and the West. In one of his frequent public speeches he said: “….when we say we want to export our revolution, we mean we want to export the spirituality that dominates Iran…. We shall export Islam when we assist Islam and Islamic ethics grow in every country.” In other words, Khomeinism called for global and permanent revolution in the mode of Leo Trotzki, one of the leading Russian Bolsheviks, a century ago.
A simple examination of the Iranian Constitution shows that the only real authority resides in a single person, namely the Leader, also called the Imam. He possesses all the powers of a despot. He plans and sets the policies of the Islamic Republic. He is the Supreme Supervisor of implementing those policies. He issues decrees, declares war and peace, is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, appoints, dismisses and retires the clerics of the Council of Guardians. He is the Supreme Judicial Authority. He is the head of the radio and television. He is the Leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He can dismiss the elected President of the Islamic Republic. Finally, he has the power of pardons. In summary, the Leader is an unelected, absolute potentate whose status makes a mockery of all the fake democratic institutions of the theocratic state, such as the Council of Guardians, the National Exigency Council, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, also known as the Majlis, etc. For these reasons, the President and all the seemingly august institutions of the Islamic Republic have no more power than any unelected or unappointed non-governmental body or any ordinary citizen.
Indeed, Khomeini sought political legitimacy of his earthly religious kingdom in two conflicting principles – one religious and one political. While he declared God the sole sovereign, he claimed himself the monopoly to be self-appointed as God’s omnipotent earthly despot. This clearly is an inadmissible contradiction. Moreover, the subjects who are forced to live under such an inadmissible contradiction, constantly feel that their intelligence and morality are insulted daily. The problem for the regime
has been that it could not disguise itself any more from the critical eyes of the majority of Iranians, because the latter have discovered the Mullahcracy’s real nature. A terrible situation in which the incurable agony of the regime causes the people to seek redemption in no-holds-barred violent revolts.
Violent eruptions by the oppressed masses in Iran have been the ever present hallmarks of the Mullahcracy’s reign since its very inception. Indeed, Khomeini’s Iran has never known peace and stability. The ubiquitous restlessness and ever present anger, not only against the Mullahs and their coterie, but also against Khomeini and his successor Khamenei, have established a chain reaction of official terror and public counter terror across Iran. Clearly, both Khomeini and Khamenei have been accused as the individuals almost exclusively responsible for the many miseries of the Iranian people. They have been the despots who have designed the ruinous scheme of foreign interventions that have demanded the lives of hundreds of thousands and that have pushed the Iranian economy to the brink of bankruptcy. To wit, they also have been instrumental of transforming the country into a living cemetery. It has been in this general atmosphere of mutual hatred that the 2009 and the currently ongoing riots have shown that the Mullahcracy has lost its quest for the hearts and minds of the people. What is left appears to be nothing but a political, religious, spiritual, cultural, economic, and financial vacuum that cannot be filled by lies, idiotic accusations, and blind terror any more.
Khomeini’s invention of Velayat-e-Faqih is for all practical purposes dead. The odor of its stinking corpse has contaminated the air throughout the Middle East. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the Gaza strip are dying too. Meanwhile, the appeasement policies of the Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and particularly Obama administrations have ended in spectacular failures. Collectively, these presidents have learned nothing from the disastrous Munich Agreement of 1938. As the West betrayed the countries that they created in 1918 in Versailles, the totally incompetent former President Barack Hussein Obama abandoned the United States’ friends in the pursuit of an idiotic utopia with a denuclearized Iran.
Over a millennium ago, a Persian by the name of Jabir Ibn Hayyan penned a book with the title “Book of Stones.” In it he claimed to have created by a secret script and even more secret codes a human-like, artificial creature called “homunculus.” Following the Shi’a dogma of takiya, which roughly translates to concealment, the author hoped to mislead everybody, but those Shi’a Muslims who truly believed in Allah. Throughout the next centuries his version of takiya has taken on a life of its own to be resurrected in the late 20th century by the Mullahcracy. While the Islamic Republic of Iran is a militarily weak economically exhausted, and financially bankrupt regime, its leaders pretend that their country is the hegemon of the greater Middle East. Yet, the only area that they enjoy an advantage is in employing terrorist and paramilitary tactics.
Facing unending nationwide protests, the Mullahs are in a state of extreme panic. For this reason alone appeasement is not an option. The anti-Shah movements of 1978 and 1979 were about the establishment of a Republic based on justice and freedom. In Khomeini’s Mullahcracy there is neither justice nor freedom. Therefore, the Iranian people must be assisted in their attempt to accomplish the noble objectives of the pre-Mullahcracy era.
By Peggy Grande • Fox News
Now that his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is back on for June 12 in Singapore, President Trump will benefit from some important lessons he appears to have learned by studying the success of President Reagan in dealing with the Soviet Union’s final leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
This should give all Americans comfort.
Few predicted Ronald Reagan would win the Cold War without firing a shot. In the same way, few imagined that Donald Trump – who, like Reagan, entered the White House with little foreign affairs experience – would bring North Korea to the negotiating table to discuss the elimination of its nuclear arsenal and future nuclear capabilities.
We know President Reagan succeeded. We hope President Trump will as well.
As he prepares for his summit with Kim Jong Un, President Trump should heed the Russian proverb that President Reagan embraced in his nuclear disarmament negotiations with Gorbachev: “Doveryai, no proveryai,” which means “trust, but verify.”
Just as promises made by the Soviet leader were meaningless without verification, the same is true with North Korea. Kim Jong Un, along with his father and grandfather who ruled North Korea before him, has a long record of broken promises.
President Trump knows from his extensive career in business that without binding agreements, clear penalties for violations and established methods for verification, the words of the North Korean leader are worthless.
President Trump is also wisely continuing President Reagan’s belief in “peace through strength” – both in military capability and in economic capacity. President Trump knows the sanctions have been working to apply pressure to a fragile and failing North Korean economy, which puts him in a position of strength at the negotiating table.
In fact, the seal of the president of the United States has an eagle in the center clutching the olive branch of peace in one talon – and the arrows of war in the other. President Reagan in the 1980s and President Trump now extends an olive branch of peace first, with the hope that the arrows of war will not be needed. Yet both presidents have been unafraid to make their counterparts aware that America has the capacity, and the will, to defend itself if provoked.
At the Reykjavick, Iceland summit on nuclear disarmament, President Reagan eventually walked away from the negotiating table because Gorbachev wanted America to put an end to its Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – the missile defense program some dubbed as “Star Wars.”
Stating that SDI was non-negotiable for the U.S., President Reagan refused further discussion and got up and walked out. While the summit was deemed a failure by many in the media because no agreement was reached on that day, President Reagan’s strong stance moved talks forward to a point where they could be resumed a short time later.
The groundwork was laid at the summit for much of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed in 1987 by Reagan and Gorbachev, eliminating an entire class of nuclear weapons.
President Reagan was committed to putting America’s interests first and would rather have no deal than a bad deal that weakened the United States. With his America First foreign policy, President Trump clearly is taking a similar position.
President Reagan knew the importance and effectiveness of face-to-face diplomacy and believed there was nothing that couldn’t be resolved if two leaders sat down across the table from each other to discuss their differences, as well as their shared goals. President Trump is committed to having a face-to-face conversation with Kim Jong Un, which will be a diplomatic milestone with global importance.
History is judging Ronald Reagan as one of our greatest presidents, while Donald Trump is still writing the record of his presidency by which history will ultimately judge him. But by looking to the diplomatic and negotiating success of President Reagan and following in his footsteps, President Trump has wisely chosen an outstanding leader to emulate.
By Kenneth R. Timmerman • Fox News
Security expert Ryan Mauro comments on ‘Fox & Friends First.’
The Iran nuclear deal is dead – and the mullahs who rule the Islamic Republic have only themselves to blame.
There is no need for President Trump to even announce that the United States is pulling out of the deal. Iran killed the agreement through its own willful actions and blatant lies, even before the deal was officially implemented on Jan. 16, 2016.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry – who negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran and the European Union, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – heaped praise on the agreement when it was reached in July 2015, ignoring its fatal flaws.
The premise of the deal, which was designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, was simple: Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear activities and said it would provide Continue reading
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that Chinese nationals fired lasers near a military base in east Africa against U.S. military aircraft in the region, injuring several pilots.
Pentagon Press Secretary Dana White said the U.S. government made diplomatic protests to the Chinese government over several recent incidents of laser firings near China’s first overseas military base at Djibouti.
“These are very serious incidents. There have been two minor injuries. This activity poses a threat to our airmen,” White told reporters.
“We have formally demarched the Chinese government, and we’ve requested that the Chinese investigate these incidents,” she added.
The number of incidents is “more than Continue reading
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
The Trump administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on 19 Russians and two Russian intelligence agencies for their role in the 2016 election meddling and costly cyber attacks and penetrations.
The Russian spy agencies included the Federal Security Service and the GRU military intelligence service, along with six GRU officers.
No FSB officers were named in the Treasury Department list of sanctioned Russians, although 13 Russians indicted last month in a separate action, were named.
The Russians are linked to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg operation that used social media to interfere with the presidential election.
Government officials did not say whether the Internet Research Agency was a front organization for the Russian government.
Officials also revealed that Russian cyber actors conducted reconnaissance into industrial control systems related to the U.S. electrical grid in a bid to obtain sensitive information that could be used in future attacks aimed at shutting down power networks. Continue reading