Trump-Kim Summit: A Blunt Assessment of the Implications and the Role of Anti-American Imperialist Sentiments
US President Donald Trump has transformed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into a geopolitical celebrity by agreeing to meet at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island. The meeting could be a historic step toward establishing peace between the long-time rivals. Expectations are not high. The cost of failure is no greater than that of maintaining the status quo. The most unexpected developed is the actual proceeding of the event. Trump’s willingness to meet with the Supreme Leader of North Korea only adds to Kim’s prestige at home while Kim’s ability to garner the attention of the US President has evaluated him on the world stage, especially among those who share strong anti-American, anti-American Imperialist sentiments. For Kim Jong Un, concessions from the US will be a welcome bonus, but he has already achieved diplomatic victory. Should Trump or Kim walk away from future talks, the Supreme Leader will simply cast Trump away as a dishonorable liar.
For Donald Trump, who is not seen as a serious political or global leader by much of the developed world, a failure is only going to solidify his negative image at home and abroad. Doing so would also undermine the credibility of sanctions against a North Korea willing to talk. Simply walking away from future talks would earn Trump condemnation from critics and proponents of his initiative, but his willingness to simply try would gain him accolades from his supporters. Success would, however, offer him much needed credibility. Ironically, Donald Trump has pursued his meeting with Kim Jong Un as he has fiercely criticized his predecessor’s diplomatic outreach to Iran and dismantled the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Like the Obama Administration’s agreement, any successful Trump deal is likely to be ineffective when it comes to denuclearization. If North Korea gets anything, it will be economic relief, but it will only agree not to use nuclear weapons except as a last resort, which is the status quo.
In essence, Trump is offering a North Korean Nuclear as a poor, yet more exciting, substitute for the Iranian Nuclear Deal. He hopes to discredit his predecessor while enshrining himself as a great global leader and historic figure. There are, of course, far less controversial diplomatic initiatives with far greater and far more certain payouts. Why, and more importantly how, Trump is choosing to pursue peace-talks with North Korea has more to do with Trump’s high-risk, oppositional personality and love of flashy theatrics than sound policy calculations. It also has to do with his politics, which is currently centered on his personal grudge against Barack Obama and a product of his campaign style. To become US President, Donald Trump fashioned himself as an anti-establishment, Washington outsider who was against everything big government represented. Domestically, this means the President’s views often coincide with Libertarian-leaning factions. It also means he often sides with special interest groups that push policies in conflict with deeply entrenched policies and the collective interests of the American People.
For domestic audiences, Donald Trump, despite his international business dealings, has framed himself as a nationalist, “anti-globalist.” On the global stage, Donald Trump’s oppositional politics takes on an interesting flare. The world can readily be divided into two camps: those who support the US-dominated International Community and those who fiercely oppose US Imperialism. Trump’s embrace of North Korea and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, while he distances himself from traditional US allies as part of an escalating trade war, is the manifestation of his oppositional personality. Trump is literally establishing himself as an anti-American Imperialist figure on the global stage by embracing the likes of Putin and Kim, even though he is the President of the very empire he seems to despise. In practice, Trump’s approach to diplomacy is making it impossible for the leaders of America’s traditional allies to work with him while he uses the credibility of his position as the US President to enhance the credibility of rogue powers and their authoritarian leaders.
Kim Jong Un may have earned his star as a geopolitical celebrity thanks to Donald Trump’s willingness to embrace him as a great and credible leader, but the Supreme Leader of North Korea is not a rebel leader fighting an oppressive Imperial power. Kim Jong Un is the head of a massive military machine that exists for the sole purpose of sustaining his power via the brutal oppression of his own People. Despite the fanfare he enjoys at home, due simply to the fact his father put him in power, Kim Jong Un is no hero. Even if he gave up nuclear weapons, which would be a major relief to the South Korean People, he would still be a brutal dictator. Only by freeing his People would Kim Jong Un become a hero. In all likelihood, this will not happen. Fortunately, Trump’s perception as an weak and incompetent leader means his self-proclaimed achievements will quickly be erased by the next US President, who will be embraced by the world. If Trump hopes to establish a lasting, constructive legacy, which can include a North Korean Nuclear Deal, he will need to pursue real achievements that can withstand the test of time.
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