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Trump’s imaginary power bloc

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Is the ultimate objective of US President Donald Trump the creation of another pole of economic, military, and political power with him at the zenith? It can be an enticing thought for him.

Or is he simply operating by “vaps”, doing and saying whatever strikes him as being the thing to do at the moment to attract attention?

One day he insults and antagonises traditional US allies at the Group of 7 Summit; the following day he is “honoured” to meet with the reportedly mass murderer, North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, with little more than a press release of good intentions emerging from the meeting.

At the same time that Trump gets little substantial commitment from Kim, he agrees (surely the suggestion must have come from Kim in the one-on-one meeting) to end the joint US South Korea military exercises in the area, designed to give comfort to US allies, inclusive of Japan, and prepare against the possibility of an attack from the North.

The question is: Why should the ultimate “deal maker” settle for such a “bad deal”? In reality, it’s a deal which compares unfavourably to that struck between Iran and the leading nations of the world, one which Trump repudiated. To compound all of that, North Korean regimes have broken such previous agreements.

On the part of Kim, will he be willing to relinquish his total and brutal hold over his country for his newly-minted international statesman status? It is a status which will be further burnished by meetings with the Japanese leader, an invitation to the White House with a return visit of the US president to Pyongyang; and what Kim must long for, the removal of economic and trade sanctions to bring a measure of prosperity to his country.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who has made several trips to North Korea, says Kim hankers after the “good life”:”This guy wants to be around the world; he wants to come to America and enjoy his life; he wants his people to enjoy this life.”

There is no gainsaying the fact that even a threadbare agreement between Trump and Kim to co-operate peacefully is far more comforting to the world than nuclear threats between Pyongyang and Washington.

Whatever freedom and prosperity the North Korean leader may gain from subjecting himself and country to the dictates of modern western civilisation, Kim will calculate the costs. He must be aware that the dropping of crippling economic sanctions against the regime and the re-start of the economic aid needed to sustain life will bring unimaginable costs in terms of opening the society to scrutiny. What kind of impact that will have on the Kim dynasty, he must wonder.

Will President Trump’s power of pardon extend to absolving the man who has reportedly slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people and brutalized several thousand others? Will it save him from prosecution at the International Criminal Court?

Will western world leaders be able to defend their association with Kim while being critical of human rights violations elsewhere?

At the level of geo-politics, Trump’s embrace of Kim and his regime must surely remove Russia and China from having to answer questions about human rights violations in their own countries. And this will be more so if Trump’s ultimate intentions are to create a rival pole to Western countries in the Group of 7—who Trump must feel are disrespectful of him and who want to continue “taking advantage of the United States.”

More immediately, and notwithstanding the meandering path mapped out above as possibilities—but then again it matches Trump’s policy-making, actions, and statements in his tweets—what is clear is that Trump’s engagement with Kim Jong-un must be considered as an effort to bolster his international image. He must hope that that image will stand as a counterpoise to whatever Robert Mueller and other law enforcement institutions may find that implicates him and can trigger impeachment proceedings in the Congress and or criminal charges in the Court.

It may even be that President Trump has concluded that his efforts with Kim can move the world away from a nuclear threat and win him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. He must reason in such circumstances, the US Congress could not possibly seek to impeach him, even if Muller’s findings require him to answer hard questions.


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