Pence, Pompeo and Bolton v. North Korea

BREAKING NEWS: “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long planned meeting.” Trump cancels the June 12 summit meeting with Kim of North Korea.

The rest of this blog was written before this news broke. Trump’s own men caused this to happen. Does Trump realize this?

Trump surrounds himself with men who are willing to get a lot of people killed, Pence, Bolton, Pompeo, and they have a license to make threats against North Korea. They have the power to torpedo the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim, and that is exactly what they are doing. Trump himself wavers in his statements and seems unconcerned by what they are saying. He barely moderates their statements. He doesn’t walk them back, not yet and not enough. It is no surprise that North Korea responds with rough statements of its own. Is this supposed to be pre-summit “bargaining”? It’s stupid, crude, negative and risking the peace. It’s an embarrassment to have these men at the top of the American political heap. This too is to be expected in our system of government.

Yesterday, it was Pompeo who was mouthing off. He demanded that North Korea take concrete steps to denuclearize his country, before bargaining could begin. Today it’s Pence mouthing off. Before Pompeo it was Bolton comparing North Korea to Libya and graphically demanding submission. Trump at best was more ambiguous and cut Kim some slack. The three war hawks have it in mind to be the bad cops promising to bomb North Korea unmercifully unless it kowtows to their demands for North Korea to get rid of all its nuclear weapons. Trump holds out the carrot of large quantities of aid and a beautiful future, plus somehow promising security, i.e., the U.S. won’t attack North Korea.

Would the entire matter not have been handled with greater promise of success and finesse if South Korea and North Korea had been allowed by themselves to continue proceeding without the U.S. entering with its crude threats? After all, they’ve already made some historic steps toward peace. Kim’s nuclear threat to the U.S., while of uncertain caliber, is real, but it is not of a dimension that cannot be contained and even eliminated over time through a stepwise process by which a united Korea is produced and U.S. forces removed from Korea. Bolton, Pence and Pompeo have all jeopardized such a process by demanding that Kim take steps now, before starting to bargain, that demonstrate he will get rid of his bombs and missiles.

The U.S. has vast power, far exceeding that of North Korea, and it has shown, in such cases as the expansion of NATO, breaking the ABM treaty, attacking Libya, and abruptly terminating its nuclear agreement with Iran, that it breaks its word. Given these facts, why should North Korea accede to the demands of these men? Why should they give away the leverage that they have? Pence, Pompeo and Bolton are tossing their weight around, but North Korea can only call their bluff and respond in kind with harsh words of their own. So far, Trump has shown far more restraint, which leaves the negotiating door open.

Perhaps this is how the empire plays its dangerous and potentially very bloody games. Perhaps there is nothing new here. However, the modus operandi of Pence, Pompeo and Bolton is a bluff that is morally unsound. The U.S. does not own North Korea. If the U.S. has nuclear weapons, so may North Korea develop and have them. If the U.S. threatens North Korea with its might, so may North Korea threaten the U.S. Neither of these two states is a paragon of peace; neither is a Switzerland, a Monaco or a Lichtenstein. The U.S. cannot justify destroying North Korea again in order to remove a threat. It threatens massive destruction in return for a North Korean threat that need not ever occur if other routes are chosen. The Pence, Pompeo and Bolton behavior is extortion. If the U.S. ever actually plays the destruction of North Korea card, it’s a further strong signal of moral and practical failure at the empire’s periphery. The fact is that North Korea’s development of its bombs already shows that the U.S. empire has reached a limit, as with Iran, and cannot control a land on its periphery, a land that has allies in Russia and China.

Allowing South Korea and North Korea to negotiate their own peace and progress, with reasoned diplomacy by the U.S., is actually a way for the U.S. to preserve its empire and even extend it. Reasoned diplomacy means understanding the identity, the culture, the preferences and the goals of those on the other side. The stupid Pence, Pompeo and Bolton do not see this. They treat the North Koreans like some kind of mechanical puppet whose strings they can pull. Being ignorant, blind and insensitive to their opposition, they eschew real diplomacy. Our government is permeated with an attitude of superiority in which our excuses for diplomats consider other peoples in the world as children who need the strong and mature hand of the Americans to move beyond their adolescence. Pence, Pompeo and Bolton have this attitude and then some. They mistakenly think that force is the key element in managing the countries at the empire’s periphery.


9:33 am on May 24, 2018