As news of the statement by the North Korean vice minister for foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan spread, the usual suspects could hardly contain their glee: Trump’s vaunted Korean peace initiative had been a fraud all along! The summit was off! The North Koreans had been faking it, and Mr. Art of the Deal had been taken for a ride! Hurrah! Hurray! From Nicholas Kristof to Bill Kristol, the celebration was loud and the Twitterverse resounded with unrestrained gloating: finally the President’s enemies had earned the right to say “We told you so!”
Or so they thought. There’s just one problem, however: the celebrants are wrong. There’s nothing for these war-ghouls to cheer about. To begin with, the summit, as the US State Department has informed us, is on, and the US is making plans to accommodate the President’s trip to Singapore, where the meeting will take place.
Furthermore, if one actually reads the statement of the North Koreans, rather than taking what the Western media says about it as gospel truth, one thing is clear: Pyongyang isn’t making any unilateral concessions without getting something in return. No one ever assumed otherwise. The North singles out John Bolton – “We do not hide our repugnance toward him” — decrying his invocation of the “Libyan model,” which ended in the death of Moammar Ghadafi. There is also a rather disingenuous pushback against the idea that the North would literally sell out by giving up their nukes in exchange for economic aid, but then again who but the lowest lout doesn’t consider themselves principled?
Yet a literal reading of the North Korean statement wasn’t good enough for Anna Fifield, reporter for the Bezos-blog otherwise known as the Washington Post:
“North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting it ‘unilaterally’ abandon its nuclear program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.”
It is Ms. Fifield who is moving those goalposts, which were never positioned so as to force Kim Jong-un to accept Ghadafi’s fate. No one makes unilateral concessions unless they’ve just lost a war and are negotiating the terms of surrender. This distortion of what the North Koreans are saying is just a reflection of the degeneration of journalistic practices at the Post in the age of Trump: the whole point of this editorializing is to make the President look bad — and the truth suffers in the process. The headline itself is a lie: “North Korea expands threat to cancel Trump-Kim summit, saying it won’t be pushed to abandon its nukes” – in fact, the threat to cancel the summit is not “expanded” but is instead rendered in narrowly conditional terms. It reads: “If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot be reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-US summit.”
That’s a mighty big “if,” aside from which I’d also point out that “reconsidering” the summit and definitely pulling out are two quite different things.
Okay, so that’s the Washington Post, which has Jeff Bezos pouring unlimited resources into their crusade to take down Trump, and the CNN crowd: that’s what we expect from those circles. But how do we explain the spectacle of alleged “anti-interventionists” from well-known libertarian and conservative outlets joining in the orgy of gloating that accompanied this kind of misreporting: I won’t name any names, but they know who they are and I have to say it takes a special kind of callousness – and self-centeredness – to put one’s petty prejudices above the fate of an entire people.
On the other hand, one would think that the response of the supposedly bellicose Trump administration would be another Trump tweet promising “fire and fury.” Not so. Instead, the US has decided not to include B-52 bombers in the “Max Thunder” joint military exercises with the South Korean air force scheduled to take place this week: the North has also raised a ruckus over this, despite staying quiet during other recent exercises, because the B-52s are nuclear-capable.
The scheduled appearance of the B-52s was apparently the reason for the abrupt termination of scheduled follow-up talks between North and South Korean officials to discuss infrastructure aid. A commentary that appeared in the North Korean official news agency, KCNA, singled out US “nuclear assets” being moved into the peninsula as an “ill-boding act of going against the trend for peace” and explicitly pointed to this as the reason for the cancellation of the North-South talks.
Presumably at the insistence of the South Koreans, an “emergency meeting” was held between representatives of the two groups actually driving this process on the ground: the South Koreans and the US military, i.e. those who have skin in the game. South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of US forces in Korea met and in less than an hour agreed to nix the B-52s. John Bolton could not have been happy with that decision, but then again Bolton isn’t running the show, which is what the gloating nay-sayers would have us believe.
The Korean peace initiative has been driven, from the very beginning, by Koreans on both sides of the DMZ: first and foremost, President Moon Jae-in, who ran on a platform of North-South reconciliation and enlightened nationalism, and on the same level one has to give credit to Kim Jong-un. He’s no pussycat, but he just may be the Gorbachev of Korean communism.
I have to say that the unseemly display of open gloating by the President’s enemies as the misreporting of this story went viral tells us everything we need to know about the political class in this country. They are not only corrupt collaborators with the Powers That Be, they are contemptible human beings who don’t care about the suffering they inflict on others, as long as their narrow-minded prejudices are confirmed.
The way this story has been spun in the Western media tells us a very sad story about the corruption of journalism in this country, principally high prestige legacy media like the Post, the Times, and the television networks, all of which got this story wrong, as far as I can see. They misreported it as the virtual end of the Korean summit when it clearly isn’t, and this misperception is due to the effects of Trump Derangement Syndrome, a mental disease that impairs one’s judgment of current events and subjects the victim to hallucinations involving the ritual humiliation of our chief executive.
Rather than some radical reversion to type, as characterized by much of the reporting, the North Korean pushback is simply a reflection of regional sentiment. By specifically rejecting “unilateral” concessions, Pyongyang is echoing the recent joint statement of the South Koreans and the Chinese, which, according to the New York Times, urges that “rather than asking North Korea to make unilateral concessions, the international community, including the United States, should actively participate in guaranteeing a bright future for the North, including security guarantees and assistance for economic development, if it denuclearizes completely.”
The Times take was that the North Koreans were trying to drive a wedge between Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: they reported on sightings of “daylight” between these two administration powerhouses, both recently appointed and in some circles deemed rivals from the start. The editorializing is less overt than the Post, but the subtext of an administration in disarray runs throughout the story.
As the June 12 Singapore summit approaches, and the first ever meeting between an American president and the North Korean leader occurs on schedule, this sort of narrowly narcissistic perspective on such an historic event is almost comical. Forget the hopes and desires of the Korean people, who are sick and tired of being cast as actors in a cold war drama, what matters is the epic struggle of Pompeo versus Bolton!
The reporting on what is the biggest foreign policy story since the fall of the Berlin Wall has been absolutely abysmal, and I urge my readers to be very skeptical of much of it. The emergence of instant Korea “experts” should also be considered with suspicion, since most appear to be skeptics serving one special interest or another. Here in this space you will get the viewpoint of a very special interest, and that is the American interest in a peaceful resolution of the Korean Question.
What shall be the future of the Korean people: what, as the North Korean statement put it, is to be their destiny? And where will this be decided? In Washington – or in Korea, by the Korean people themselves?
Perhaps it will be decided in Singapore. The surprise winner of the 2016 presidential race may have a few more surprises up his sleeve in days to come.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.