Damon Linker argues that there are three potential outcomes of the Trump-Kim summit, none of which is good. The article provides an amusing illustration of how twisted the anti-Trump left has become.
One outcome, says Linker, is a “modest” deal, akin to the one President Clinton reached with North Korea. Normally, says Linker, this would be a good outcome because it would avert war, at least for a while. But because Trump is being advised by hawkish Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump will promptly declare North Korea out of compliance lead us into war. So says Linker.
A another outcome is no deal. According to Linker, in this scenario war “moves from likely to a near certainty.”
The final possible outcome is a deal in which North Korea agrees to denuclearize. Surely, that’s a decent outcome, no?
Not for Linker. In this scenario, “Republicans would be well-placed to hold onto Congress in November — and Trump himself would be strongly situated to mount a successful bid for re-election in 2020.”
Linker doesn’t say whether this would be worse than a war with North Korea.
For what it’s worth, I think there’s very little chance this summit leads to war. North Korea can’t afford a war because war would destroy it. The U.S. can ill-afford one because of death and destruction that would rain down on South Korea and the many Americans who live there, and the possibility of a nuclear attack on the U.S. itself.
It’s fallacious to assume that an unsuccessful summit means war. We had our share of unsuccessful summits with the Soviet Union. None resulted in war. If talks break down, relations likely will return to what they were before — lots of tough talk but no military action — just as happened during the Cold War.
I also believe there’s very little chance the summit will result in genuine denuclearization by North Korea. Without nukes, Kim Jong Un goes from a formidable player on the world stage to a nobody. Why would he agree to that?
Kim may agree to something that sounds like genuine denuclearization. Trump will then have to decide whether to accept it in order to look like he’s accomplished something significant. I’m not going to predict whether he would. I hope he wouldn’t.
North Korea is now, in effect, a nuclear power. As I see it, this earns Kim the right to a summit. Complaints that we’re giving Kim what he wants just by having the summit and that, in doing so, we’re turning a blind eye to his domestic atrocities are true, but beside the point.
It’s in our interests to establish a person-to-person relationship between Trump and Kim, as we always have done with leaders who possess the ability to wage nuclear war. We also need to make it clear to Kim that sharing his nuclear technology with other governments and/or terrorist organizations is a red line he must not cross.
If the summit accomplishes these two things, it will have been worth holding.