Hope Is a Heavy Load, Colltalers
Tomorrow, two men whose word is worth less than their underwear, will meet to define our future. It won’t probably work due to many petty and major issues, but that’s not even what the world fears the most: worst is if these overgrown toddlers show their dislike for each other.
For if either U.S. President Trump or the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un storm out of the negotiation table, their fragile ego unforgivably wounded, there won’t be any adult left to disarm the nuclear threat. We’ll be back to the lethal phase of watching them exchanging insults.
What makes this such a delicate issue is Kim, who’s be been ahead of Trump at every turn, growing frustrated that his efforts towards détente are not being taken seriously. And the American growing bored, an integral part of his volatile temper. In both cases, we’d be toasted.
Even though peace prospects in the peninsula must be credited to South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, in fairness, his counterpart did his homework and took steps to back up his intentions. Trump, though, used public abuse as a way out of committing to the talks, and may have only come back to it due to one factor: his delusional desire of receiving the Nobel Prize, which would be dead in the water if there were no meeting.
For even as these two peas in a pod make up to an admirable cliche, Koreans have an immediate survival interest at stake in tomorrow’s event. Americans, however, don’t seem to have it at all clear what even a single nuclear strike means to a civilization-ending world war.
We’ve just had a sobering sample of Donald’s self-attributed ‘powers’ of negotiation, during the gathering of the G-7 group, the allies that are traditionally the sole reason U.S. leadership in the world has been so incontestable. Without them, we’re a deranged bully in need of a stop. A photo of the meeting went viral last week, encapsulating the current global perception of our president: a round of obviously concerned world leaders, headed by Germany’s Angela Merkel, seems to pressure a seated, arm-crossed Trump, whose expression of childish defiance is so familiar to every parent. It’s a cartoonish but no less dangerous depiction, that’s painfully embarrassing America before the world.
He’s not just arrived late to the annual meeting, but
also advanced the unpopular case for Russia’s admission into the select group, refused to sign the final agreement, and left without participating in climate change discussions. Now, if this isn’t someone we should be sending to meet a belligerent dictator on the former Japanese P.O.W. camp Island of Sentosa, off the coast of Singapore, then our knees are on a twist.
Of course, we should all support and root for the success of this meeting, risks of world tensions taking a turn to the worst notwithstanding.
A long tradition of pacifying hostile countries, even only for the sake of rescuing their populace from misery and international isolation, has indeed been based on the world’s ability to bring them on to negotiations, not by isolating even further or sanctioning them to death.
The thing to keep in mind, though, is that not only the U.S. delegation lacks any relevant and experienced diplomatic member, but instead includes two open advocates for intervention in North Korea: National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The very essence of negotiation, sort of Diplomacy 101, is that it needs to start with ideas and possibilities to keep venues of communication open and flowing, and the foundation for that to happen is a certain level of trust that the other part is equally invested in finding solutions.
Talks need clear parameters and mutual understanding of what’s at stake, not conversation-killers such as pre-conditions and ultimatums. The disturbing fact is that Kim has long prepared for this meeting while Trump has actually boasted that he did none of that, and seem to lack any grasp of what it’s expected from it. As Koreans rally behind it, Americans and the president are not even in the same page about it.
Also, in a long and depression digression about why it’s been so hard to be hopeful about this meeting, is that the Trump administration has been consistently going back in most agreements this country has signed in the past, from the Iran nuclear agreement, to the Paris Climate Change accord, to current flare ups with Canada and NATO country members. How can that attitude inspire Kim to sign anything with us?
Thus if one has to pray, then go ahead and pray. If you have to believe, by all means, believe it. We can’t be picky about the kind of support needed for this meeting to open a new era. But let’s not lower our guard: the sooner these two step aside and let a bi-national team of obscure professionals to take over the negotiations for peace in the Korean Peninsula, the safe we will all be. Knock on wood. No, seriously.
This world has been, however, particularly harsh to a class of humans whose dignity, hard-earned compassion, and critical views make them such an inspiration to everyone else. We’ve lost another one last week: Anthony Bourdain, a NYC chef who transcended the confines of his profession to become a world class thinker and defender of equality in all its forms. He’ll be sorely missed. For him, let’s make this all work. WC