Vision of Peace

This week (6/10/18) two terribly flawed and egotistical men met to wage peace, to strike a deal.  One of them created a “trailer” video to flatter himself and the other man depicting them both at a historic decision point.  If their talks succeed, the film suggests, economic prosperity will bless their peoples and both will bask in the adoraton,  love and respect of those they govern.  But if they fail, bleak years of tension and hardship will curse their countries.

The trailer is made in the style of 1940s propaganda films. The original appeared on the Whitehouse website, and President Trump showed it to Chairman Kim Jong Un during their meeting. Some reporters, before learning its origin, thought that it was North Korean Propaganda.

Subsequently, the New York Times did a parody adding footage of their own to express cynicism and outrage.

“What if we’ve been overthinking foreign policy all along?” the narrator asks. The possibility is offered that peace be can be as simple as two men shaking hands and agreeing to set aside past hostilities and grudges and build a new relationship. Miracles are possible, but such scenes are the stuff of musical comedies and not international negotiations. Thoughts of Nevill Chamberlin’s appeasement diplomacy haunts us.

While the approach seems naive and simplistic, it’s also never a good idea to enter a negotiation rubbing your opposition’s nose in past transgressions. Far better to identify some common aims, a vision of the future all can agree upon.

But let’s not lose sight of who we are dealing with. Consider this testimony by someone who escaped North Korea.

It’s reasonable to assume that North Korea has now achieved its goal of joining the nuclear club and, in essence, succeeded in creating a doomsday scenario should anyone try to depose Kim’s regime. How likely is it that they will give that up?

Perhaps now they want to join the world economy and improve the lives of the people.  There is no way to know what their agenda is.  But it will surely emerge.

We know that Trump did NOT overthink this meeting.  His preparation was minimal. He went forward trusting his instincts. He admitted that he could be wrong – an uncommonly self-aware statement for him.

We can be sure that his opponent was thoroughly prepared. Reporters said the North Koreans were constant in their questions about all the personalities involved.  Unlike Kim’s life and affairs, Trump’s are in the papers daily, he works at it. Dozens of books have been published reporting critically on the events of his life.  Kim is well aware of what he can and can’t rely upon from Trump. Will he blindly trust that this time Trump is being sincere? Not very likely.

Will Trump blindly trust Kim? Probably not.

What did this opening cost? We’ll come to know over the next weeks and months. If the sanctions against North Korea weaken, what incentive will remain for negotiation? For now, it’s a storm of speculation, most of it pessimistic if not outright cynical.

3 thoughts on “Vision of Peace”

  1. Here is a more sanguine take on the “cheesy vidoe trailer” [As quoted in] …

    ‘Cheesy Gesture’ Alert: Bizarre Video Explained

    Ok. So of all the weird moments in the summit, perhaps the weirdest was the faux movie trailer about the summit and its potential for creating riches, produced by the White House. Freddy Gray writing in The Spectator, where he is deputy editor, argues that what Trump lacks in taste he makes up with an intuitive understanding of what Asian cultures are grasping at.:

    The text reads like some godawful martial-arts movie trailer crossed with a corporate advertisement for an ambitious construction project: ‘Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity. A new story. A new beginning. One of Peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny.’ It reminded me a lot of this epically absurd advertisement for Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Chaos pen’. Perhaps they used the same content providers.

    But, in some peculiar way, this cod spiritual gibberish works. It cuts across boundaries.

    Trump has talked before of how he sees the Middle East Peace process as a real-estate problem. He sees North Korea in the same terms. ‘They have great beaches!’ he exclaimed in the press conference after his meeting today. ‘You see that whenever they’re exploding canons into the ocean, right? So I said ‘Boy look at that beach. Wouldn’t it make a great condo behind?’ — and I explained it.’ We can all chortle as much as want, and we will. Clearly, however, Kim was not put off or offended by the suggestion. It’s quite likely he relished the thought.

    Trump’s tour of Asia last year was his first foreign-policy success. Thanks to his experience in business, he understands the importance of cheesy gestures in Far Eastern culture. He gave Japanese Prime Minister a baseball cap that said: ‘Donald & Shinzo, Make Alliance Even Greater’. He presented China’s premier Xi Jinping with a video, again on an iPad, of his six-year-old granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, wearing a mini geisha dress and reciting songs and poems in Mandarin. The stunt went largely unnoticed on western social media accounts; those who did spot it tended to cringe. Yet on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, little Arabella became a hit — she has been since she first sang for Xi in Florida earlier that year. The latest Arabella clip got millions of Weibo views. Weibo users said it was ‘extremely cute’ and ‘the best gift’ Trump could have given his hosts. Awww.

    International relations experts will roll their eyes and say none of this matters in realpolitik: Trump’s salesman diplomacy cannot change the dynamics of great power relations. Maybe not. But after today’s summit with Kim, it seems obvious that the American president’s global business language, his real-estate politik speaks more clearly than anything that has been tried before.

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