Saturday, May 26, 2018

We Should Praise The President, When Praise Is Due

If Trump ever meets with Kim Jong Un and they work out a plan that denuclearizes the Korean peninsula, the folks on the Left ought to give Trump credit.

I played with this thought as we moved toward the summit in Singapore. Then Trump's cancellation seemed to reinforce my hesitation.  I ended up writing about how it seemed to me that Trump really only cares about policy if he thinks it will burnish his image, his brand, his fortunes, his sexual reputation.  (Note, he's one of the few, if not the only high profile male who's been accused of sexual predation but hasn't apologized, resigned, or been indicted.)

Talking about policy triumphs is difficult because it takes a while to determine if something actually was a good thing or not.  The 1991 first war against Iraq that pushed them out of Kuwait seems to have worked.  But Jr.'s attack on Iraq a decade later seems to be a total disaster.  We were supposedly going in because of weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be non-existent.  (Just as LBJ's premise for entering the Vietnam war was fabricated.)  We were supposedly avenging the 3000 deaths in the World Trade Center attacks.  There have been about 200,000 Iraqi civilian deaths to date.  Saddam Hussein was NOT a man to admire, but like Tito in Yugoslavia, he maintained peace among different ethnic groups in Iraq.   More importantly for some, Saddam's Iraq was a major force for keeping Iran in check.

I'm not defending Saddam here.  There would have been many civilian deaths had he stayed in power.  And one could argue that the young men he sacrificed in wars against Iran, had been civilians before they were forced into the military.  But it didn't need to be the United States' problem.  Our desire to help oppressed people is laudable (when that isn't simply an excuse to help US corporations access raw materials like oil).  But sometimes if someone is drowning, jumping in after them only results in the rescuer drowning as well as the original victim.

The Arab spring seemed like a loosening of harsh rule in various countries.  But when we look at Libya and Syria and Egypt now, the end results aren't all that good.

So, lauding Trump for arranging a meeting with Kim Jong Un seemed premature at best.  After all, any of our presidents could have met with Kim or his father.  Meeting with them is NOT a victory for the US, but it IS a victory for North Korea.  A victory for the US depends on what the US gets in return for giving the head of North Korea equal footing with the president of the United States.

Is there a chance, as Trump now hints post cancellation, that the meeting might actually happen?  The one attribute Trump has that past presidents didn't which could give him an edge, is that he's just as volatile, outrageous, and unpredictable as Kim Jong Un.  Perhaps even more so.  Thus, there's a chance that they actually understand each other.  But don't hold your breath.

Kim went to a German language high school in Switzerland.  He went to school with people from a variety of countries.  And he and his country have been focused on the US for all his life, while I'm not sure Trump could have found Korea on a map before he was president.  (May not be able to now.)  I suspect that despite appearances, Kim is far better prepared to deal with the US than vice-versa.

Furthermore, Trump reverses himself so often, that one has to be cautious.  What seems good  (or possibly promising) right now could be reversed by a tweet in an hour.  So praising our president for anything is a risky business.  Time will tell if he ever does something that improves the United States or the world.  So far, there is infinitely more damage being done than we can keep track of.  That too will take time to sort out.  (Yes, I can go through a list of things that I see as damaging, but it seems evident to me and others.  Those who are skeptical aren't likely to be persuaded by a list. But we could go into it more if you leave serious comments.)

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