Trump vs. Kim: Place your bets

Some think it's far-fetched for President Trump to think North Korea would ever give up its nuclear weapons.  To date, no one who gets nukes has given them up.

A couple of things about that.  First, it's not absolutely certain that the Norks really do have nukes.  They have something that gave off huge seismic waves, and it's reasonable to think it might have been a nuke, but it could also have been some big conventional bombs, such as our MOAB, set off simultaneously.  Secondly, North Korea may have arrived theoretically at making a nuclear weapon, but it's far from certain that the Norks' industry can produce more than a single bomb at a time — especially one so complicated as a nuclear weapon.

Given at least these two realistic considerations, it's not far-fetched to think Trump really can pull off a deal that means something.

The real thing the world wants from Kim is responsible behavior.  Killing generals with mortar fire and murdering your brother are not examples of responsible behavior.  Evading international obligations, starving your people so you can boast one of the largest armies in the world, shooting rockets over other countries — not responsible behavior.

The Soviets have had nukes since Stalin, but even that madman behaved responsibly in that sense.  None of the Kims has noticeably behaved responsibly, ever.  All three regularly behaved like Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium.  But Khrushchev then reassured the world by taking a sip of water, noting approvingly that it was Russian water and recommending it to the world.  The humor showed that he was acting.

The world seeks something like that from Kim Jong-un.

Perhaps the main thing keeping Kim from giving in on anything is that he doesn't know how to do it without the risk of becoming the next Ceaușescu.  Perhaps we should put our bright boys to figuring out how Kim could relax the chokehold on his country without losing control?

Could be worth a try.  The danger on our side would be the notorious Kim duplicity.  We've already tried — that is, Clinton and Obama already tried — pretending he was meeting obligations when they knew he wasn't.  That doesn't work with Kim, as it didn't work with the mullahs.  And he's right to question our own sincerity when we — Hillary and Barama again — double-crossed Gaddafi and Mubarak.

Trump has a better record keeping promises than Hillary and Barama had.  Getting Kim to understand that may have been the single most important achievement of the negotiations to date.

The game they're playing gets ever more interesting as the two plunge into ever newer territory.  Unlike his predecessors, Trump understands this game, and he's not conflicted, as they were, by crooked schemes of his own that need protection.  They just wanted to keep a lid on the situation on the Chosen Peninsula; Trump wants it resolved once and for all.

He knows he's dealing with a relative neophyte to international power relations and that he has to give Kim some space and some time.  Kim isn't accustomed to dealing with a shrewd operator in no hurry who deals from a position of strength.

In the high-stakes game of geopolitics, canny psychology can be an ace in the hole.  Bet on our guy.

Some think it's far-fetched for President Trump to think North Korea would ever give up its nuclear weapons.  To date, no one who gets nukes has given them up.

A couple of things about that.  First, it's not absolutely certain that the Norks really do have nukes.  They have something that gave off huge seismic waves, and it's reasonable to think it might have been a nuke, but it could also have been some big conventional bombs, such as our MOAB, set off simultaneously.  Secondly, North Korea may have arrived theoretically at making a nuclear weapon, but it's far from certain that the Norks' industry can produce more than a single bomb at a time — especially one so complicated as a nuclear weapon.

Given at least these two realistic considerations, it's not far-fetched to think Trump really can pull off a deal that means something.

The real thing the world wants from Kim is responsible behavior.  Killing generals with mortar fire and murdering your brother are not examples of responsible behavior.  Evading international obligations, starving your people so you can boast one of the largest armies in the world, shooting rockets over other countries — not responsible behavior.

The Soviets have had nukes since Stalin, but even that madman behaved responsibly in that sense.  None of the Kims has noticeably behaved responsibly, ever.  All three regularly behaved like Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium.  But Khrushchev then reassured the world by taking a sip of water, noting approvingly that it was Russian water and recommending it to the world.  The humor showed that he was acting.

The world seeks something like that from Kim Jong-un.

Perhaps the main thing keeping Kim from giving in on anything is that he doesn't know how to do it without the risk of becoming the next Ceaușescu.  Perhaps we should put our bright boys to figuring out how Kim could relax the chokehold on his country without losing control?

Could be worth a try.  The danger on our side would be the notorious Kim duplicity.  We've already tried — that is, Clinton and Obama already tried — pretending he was meeting obligations when they knew he wasn't.  That doesn't work with Kim, as it didn't work with the mullahs.  And he's right to question our own sincerity when we — Hillary and Barama again — double-crossed Gaddafi and Mubarak.

Trump has a better record keeping promises than Hillary and Barama had.  Getting Kim to understand that may have been the single most important achievement of the negotiations to date.

The game they're playing gets ever more interesting as the two plunge into ever newer territory.  Unlike his predecessors, Trump understands this game, and he's not conflicted, as they were, by crooked schemes of his own that need protection.  They just wanted to keep a lid on the situation on the Chosen Peninsula; Trump wants it resolved once and for all.

He knows he's dealing with a relative neophyte to international power relations and that he has to give Kim some space and some time.  Kim isn't accustomed to dealing with a shrewd operator in no hurry who deals from a position of strength.

In the high-stakes game of geopolitics, canny psychology can be an ace in the hole.  Bet on our guy.