The pause in North Korea negotiations reveals that the media is locked in a dangerous imaginary world where negotiations play out like bad old-time movies.
To date, the stupid Leftists in the media have been trained like Pavlov’s dog to expect “a win” whenever there’s a summit with a foreign leader. Past presidents have always emerged from the meetings with “a deal,” even if that deal was either illusory or, worse, gave away the store.
Media hacks therefore have no template within which to fit an actual negotiation, such as the one Trump is conducting with North Korea. That’s why we end up with these headlines (to which I will not hyperlink):
Trump-Kim Summit’s Collapse Exposes the Risks of One-to-One Diplomacy (New York Times)
Trump Kim talks: What to make of the Hanoi summit collapse? (BBC News)
Trump Cuts North Korea Summit Short After Talks Collapse (iHeart News)
Will nothing go right on this trip? Officials have to manually push stairway from Air Force One after they broke down in Vietnam – just like Trump’s disastrous summit with Kim Jong Un (Daily Mail)
Hanoi summit collapse could be ‘big blow’ to North Korean leader’s pride, experts say (ABC News)
Summit Collapse: How Trump’s Hanoi Talks With Kim Unraveled (Bloomberg)
Aside from the Borg-like repetition of the word “collapse” (those “journalists” must all drink coffee around the same cooler), the collective media is displaying its inability to see beyond a Hollywood moment. You know what Hollywood moment I mean.
To the media, every negotiation is one of those old black-and-white films in which the leaders of two nations on the brink of war are sitting around a conference table, exhausted, their ties loose, their shirt sleeves rolled up, five o’clock shadow on their faces, ash trays stacked with cigarette stubs. If they walk away, the negotiation is over and the world explodes into war. Then, suddenly, our hero rushes in with a brilliant idea or a piece of breaking news. Instantly, the stalemate is broken, the joyous negotiators dance around the room, and the hero and his girl fall into each other’s arms, the world once again saved.
That’s certainly the stereotype past presidents played into with their announcements about “successful” summits — even if it meant spelling success “caving in to foul dictators.” You’d think we would have learned back in 1938, after the Munich (“Peace in our time”) Agreement between Hitler and Chamberlain that this is not how the real world works. But, egged on by an ever credulous media, we’ve learned nothing.
Thankfully, Donald Trump does not live in a Hollywood movie nor is he moved by the brigade of media stupid Leftists. Instead, Trump lives in the real world of real deals — and one of the absolute necessities of pounding out real deals that benefit all parties (especially yourself) is a willingness to walk away from the table. As he explained in a press conference, “Sometimes you have to walk.”
Kim tried to offer Trump this deal: North Korea promises to de-nuclearize in return for the U.S. actually getting money into the broken North Korean economy. This is, of course, the same deal every past president has made with North Korea, and the outcome has always been the same: North Korea broke its promises even as the Americans fulfilled theirs to enrich North Korea’s coffers. Incidentally, it is also the same deal that Obama made with Iran, with exactly the same result. It’s a fool’s deal, intended to keep the media happy. It’s also the classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.
Indeed, in the CBS story about the pause in negotiations, the reporter makes this telling admission: “The summit was truncated, to the surprise of the press, with the elimination of a lunch and a signing ceremony previously on the schedule.” (Emphasis mine.) I’ll bet the press was surprised. That’s not part of the usual Hollywood script.
Thomas Lifson, not only one of the best political thinkers out there, but also a former Harvard Business School professor back in the day when that still meant something, explains what Trump was really doing:
President Trump wisely sent North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, back to Pyongyang from Hanoi, where he can tell the generals and security police commanders, on whose support he depends, that they are not going to get sanctions relief without giving up their nuclear arsenal.
There is every sign that this outcome in Hanoi is a predictable stage in the process of obtaining consensus among the North Korean ruling class that they must give up on the strategy of confrontation and isolation, with their survival guaranteed solely by nukes, and instead open up to the outside world and the prosperity market economies can generate.
President Trump abundantly signaled that he is not in a hurry for a deal — any deal — at the expense of getting a suboptimal result. He set the expectation that, while optimistic about eventually getting to his goal of denuclearization, it might be a longer process than the short attention span media would prefer.
Aside from the practical realities behind Trump’s willingness to pace the deal to get what he wants, Lifson hones in on the idiocy of the word “collapse,” which implies that the negotiating parties parted ways with recriminations and threats in the wake of complete failure. To the contrary:
It is clear from Kim’s language that the talks didn’t “collapse” into bitterness and a refusal to proceed. Both leaders remained cordial and continue to affirm their mutual goal of getting to a deal. So far as I have been able to discover, this was the first time a North Korean leader has ever faced a press conference with Western media asking questions. That in itself is a significant factor in opening up North Korea to the process of getting toward acting as a normal country does. It is a long process, to be sure, but this is a step in the right direction.
Lifson explains as well that, while Kim has the appearance of a total dictator, that’s not true. Even the worst dictator in the world needs a cadre of people loyal to him who will be his attack dogs to protect their own turf. Before he can do anything, he needs to assure his loyalists that they will benefit from the deal. Otherwise, the sword of Damocles that hangs over every dictator’s head (“Sic semper tyrannis“) has a habit of falling, even if only to make way for the next generation’s brutal tyrant.
Trump has patiently been prepping for this moment for a long time. He knows what he wants — North Korea must give up its nuclear weapons in fact, not just in theory. He also knows what he can offer in return — North Korea’s return to the community of nations, along with Trump’s willingness to hold off on using his even bigger nuclear arsenal.
Returning to the community of nations is a huge carrot for an isolated, impoverished country in which even the supreme dictator lives in chronic fear. Holding the talks in Hanoi was a brilliant idea because it is the living embodiment of a way station on the road to true prosperity. Two years ago, I blogged about the thrumming economy in Vietnam and that’s nation of shopkeepers idea is going to seem more accessible to the North Koreans than suddenly promising they’ll be Switzerland. Kim knows Switzerland, for he went to school there, but he’s not a fool and knows that his country needs a slower trajectory.
Having laid the groundwork, Trump, the most experienced practical negotiator ever to sit in the Oval Office, is going to be patient and do it right: Kind words for his negotiating partner, strong positions on core issues with flexibility on ancillary issues and, always, the manifest willingness to walk away from a bad deal.
Some people, including NeverTrumpers have launched a different attack on Trump. They are saying that it’s an absolute disgrace for Trump to treat Kim respectfully because Kim has so much blood on his hands. Yes, it’s absolutely true Kim has blood on his hands, but he’s also got functional nuclear weapons in his arsenal. Given that latter reality, we have two choices: negotiations or war. At this stage, negotiations are still a lot better than war.
If we agree that negotiations are the way to go, we again have two choices: a good outcome for the U.S. or a bad outcome. Trump wants a good outcome and he’s smart enough to know that he will get this, not by insulting and demeaning Kim, but by appealing to Kim’s ego. It’s not clear if stupid Leftists, in or out of the media, or NeverTrumpers understand this, but people who live in the real world do understand that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
If you’ve ever read Dale Carnegie’s brilliant How to Win Friends & Influence People, which was originally published in the mid-1930s, you may remember that he opened the book by talking about “Two Gun” Crowley, a murderous gangster who was captured in New York in 1931 after a two-hour shootout with police. Crowley was an incredibly dangerous man who thought nothing of killing people, especially police.
Carnegie, however, added an interesting coda to the story of Two Gun’s capture:
But how did “Two Gun” Crowley regard himself? We know, because while the police were firing into his apartment, he wrote a letter addressed “To whom it may concern.” And, as he wrote, the blood flowing from his wounds left a crimson trail on the paper. In his letter Crowley said: “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one—one that would do nobody any harm.” (Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People, p. 4. Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.)
Two Gun wrote those words just hours after gunning down a police officer in cold blood. Even as he was being led to the electric chair, Two Gun denied being a murderer and insisted that he was acting in self-defense. Carnegie points out that Al Capone saw himself in the same light — not as a cold-blooded murderer and bootlegger, but as someone just doing good for his fellow man. The infamous Dutch Schultz also explained in an interview that he was doing good.
According to Carnegie, a letter he received from Lewis Lawes, who had been Sing Sing’s warden, these famous criminals were just like their criminal brethren:
[Lawes] declared that “few of the criminals in Sing Sing regard themselves as bad men. They are just as human as you and I. so they rationalize, they explain. They can tell you why they had to crack a safe or be quick on the trigger finger. Most of them attempt by a form of reasoning, fallacious or logical, to justify their antisocial acts even to themselves, consequently stoutly maintaining that they should never have been imprisoned at all.” (How To Win Friends and Influence People, pp. 4-5.)
That is human nature and Carnegie fully understood that, human nature being what it is, you get nothing by interfering with people’s best view of themselves:
If Al Capone, “Two Gun” Crowley, Dutch Schultz, and the desperate men and women behind prison walls don’t blame themselves for anything—what about the people with whom you and I come in contact?
John Wanamaker, founder of the stores that bear his name, once confessed: “I learned thirty years ago that it is foolish to scold. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over the fact that God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of intelligence.”
Wanamaker learned this lesson early, but I personally had to blunder through this old world for a third of a century before it even began to dawn upon me that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, people don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be.
Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment. (How To Win Friends and Influence People, pp. 5-6.)
I would not be at all surprised to learn that, just as Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (the substance of which Trump heard every Sunday while sitting in the pews at Peale’s church) strongly influenced Trump’s thinking, so too did Dale Carnegie’s seminal book. You can use verbal abuse to try to force people to bend to your will but, if you want people voluntarily to give you something, you have to be nice. And that’s what Trump is doing with Kim — he’s being nice, not just to pander to Kim’s tyrannical ego, but to allow Kim to save face, and be the big man, even as he gives up his only ace in the hole.