The Selflessness of Trump

It has been a period of exciting ups and downs for the average United States citizen, as well as for Kim Jong Un.  The reasons are, of course, different.  The ups and downs for Kim Jong Un were first the possibility that he would be able to have a summit conference with Mr. Trump, and put one over on this self-proclaimed master negotiator at that meeting. That was followed by the cancellation of the meeting by Mr. Trump, followed by its reinstatement thanks to Mr. Kim’s great negotiating skill that included sending a conciliatory letter to Mr. Trump expressing optimism about the outcome of the summit. For the American citizen, the exciting thing was quite different.

When Mr. Trump first announced that the meeting with North Korea was to take place on June 12, many of us began eagerly looking forward to the 2019 Nobel ceremonies in which, we had all been led to believe by Mr. Trump, he would be the recipient, and a worthy one at that, of the Nobel Peace Prize.

For Mr. Trump to receive the prize would be exciting for all of us under any circumstances, but it would be especially exciting since no American President since Barack Obama has been the recipient of that prize, and that award took place more than 10 years ago.  In addition to Mr. Obama, only three other United States presidents have received the prize: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Jimmy Carter. The pride that accompanies the bestowing of the award would be even greater since no other leader of the free world has been awarded that prize since it was given to Mr. Obama, and that fact alone, would make it very special. The bestowing of the prize would cause the entire nation to swell with pride, seeing yet another United States President standing on the podium, and being awarded the prize to what would surely have been world-wide acclaim.

It is a tribute to the selflessness of Mr. Trump that he was willing to take a principled stand in dealing with North Korea, even if that principled stand cost him the opportunity to go to Oslo to receive the peace prize. He knew that foregoing the prize and the trip to Oslo required that he put aside his own ambitions and prove himself the statesman he perceives himself to be by cancelling the opportunity fate had presented him-the June 12 summit meeting. Nothing less than such self-sacrifice was expected of the leader of the free world.

Had the June 12 meeting been cancelled, Mr. Trump’s peace prize opportunity would have vanished. The fault would have rested squarely on the shoulders of three men: Kim Jong Un, John Bolton and Michael Spence.  Mr. Kim, it turns out, is easily offended, and he was offended by the comments of Messrs. Bolton and Spence.  John Bolton, a notable hawk and a man inspired by venom rather than thought was the creator of thoughtless comments about the summit, that were mimicked by Mindless Michael, a man described by one North Korean as a “political dummy.”  Those words were the cause of the summit’s temporary collapse. Here is what happened.

Mr. Bolton, famously and irrationally, as is his wont, said only weeks before the highly anticipated meeting between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump, that for the talks to be successful, they were going to have to be “the Libyan model.” That view was echoed by Mr. Spence in an interview on Fox News.  A short hand version of the Libyan model goes something like this.

In the spring of 2003, Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s president, agreed to permit American and British observers into all the country’s nuclear-related sites.  The observers could see for themselves that Libya was following through on its commitment to denuclearize. As a result, Libya got relief from the sanctions that had been imposed on it, and agreed to pay $5 million to each of the families of the 270 victims of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 for which Gaddafi took responsibility. In 2011 the United States and European nations helped topple the Libyan government and Mr. Gaddafi was slaughtered by the country’s insurgents. Kim Jong Un’s response to that as the model to be followed by North Korea, could have been anticipated by wiser people. He did not take kindly to contemplating what most people would not view as a happy ending to what Messrs. Bolton and Spence referred to as the successful “Libyan model.”

Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice minister, said of Mr. Pence’s comments: “As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president.” That shows how little Mr. Choe understands about the United States even though he is involved in U.S. affairs.  No one I know is surprised at any “ignorant and stupid remarks” that come out of the mouths of Mr. Trump, his vice-president or his surrogates.  We hear them every day.  Would it were not so.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney based in Boulder, Colorado.