Once upon a time it was fire and fury and loads of sanctions like nobody ever saw before, and look, it was said, President Donald Trump is going to get us into a nuclear war. But then North Korea came around, saying it wanted to talk. So Trump met with Kim Jung Un who promised to denuclearize, and now it’s said Trump has elevated a murderous dictator to hero status and set us up as dupes.
What I want to say is wait and see and quit trying to make Trump out to have handled this so badly when there were three predecessors who put us in this fix in the first place. One was President Bill Clinton, upset in 1994 because North Korea was preparing to use nuclear fuel rods to help make nuclear weapons. Military preparedness and U.N. sanctions came to mind even as an ex-president named Jimmy Carter said he would visit with Kim Il Sung to quiet things down.
That’s OK, he was told, as long as he did not negotiate a deal, which he did, announcing it on CNN TV before telling Clinton. Clinton aides were furious and, according to the author Steven Hayward, the State Department joke after Kim died shortly thereafter was that he laughed himself to death. The deal, which Clinton accepted, involved the United States shipping big bucks worth of energy materials North Korea’s way. The team of President George W. Bush found the deal deficient, ended it, and we now know the North Koreans were cheating.
After 2006, when the North Koreans tested a nuclear device, the Bush administration got in the concession business to no avail even as we let North Korea get away with sending nuclear materials to Syria. Then we had President Barack Obama in power with a plan known as “strategic patience,” apparently meaning, look, when San Francisco is taken out, our patience will be at an end. Understand?
Of course, Obama gets credit for the Iran nuclear deal in which allies can inspect everything, except of course military bases that Britain, German, France and the United States want to look at. There have been no deal violations except for 32 in which Iran tried to secure nuclear technology from German enterprises. Iran’s peaceful intent, meanwhile, has been shown by the recent discovery of what experts say is development of a long range missile that could reach America. The nation purrs softly by constantly testing ballistic missiles, funding terrorists and building up its own military to further control its neighbors. It still has the capacity to make nuclear weapons, but it might take a little longer than it once would have. So don’t worry.
North Korea’s nuclear cravings began in the 1960s, but it was only lately that it began testing missiles left and right while aggressively bragging it could hit the United States. Trump said, hmm, have you ever heard of total destruction? Working with China and United Nations, he inflicted grave economic pain on the country and Kim Jung Un said he wanted to talk, and there was this session in Singapore with Trump clapping him on the back, showing him a film about how great things could be and getting some vague assurances.
Yes, vague, but pointed in the right direction with more talks to come, more details about such things as inspections and speed of dismantlement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — tough and smart — is in charge, and yes, we have already said we will end military exercises in South Korea. But we will also keep sanctions in place and maybe Kim will somehow outwit all of that and maybe there is no way Trump can win, anymore than he could ever be elected in the first place.
I think there is another possibility and that Trump has already been abler than Clinton, Bush or Obama.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.