It must be a peace without victory. . . only a peace between equals can last.
— Woodrow Wilson, Address to the Senate, January 12, 1917
Once again, Mr. Trump has shown the world that he is a consummate negotiator, one who has employed his skills to achieve that which none of his predecessors has–peace with North Korea.
Prior to Mr. Trump’s entry onto the world stage, North Korea was seen by almost the entire world to be an intractable foe, ruled by a ruthless despot. Then, Mr. Trump was elected president and he used the negotiating skills, of which he is justifiably proud, to bring an end to years of hostility with North Korea, and its current leader, Kim Jong Un. The means he employed were extraordinarily creative, and those unfamiliar with Mr. Trump’s negotiating techniques were momentarily taken aback.
The first indication the world had that Mr. Trump intended to improve relations with North Korea came in the speech he made at the United Nations on September 17, 2017. In that speech he said: “No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this [North Korean] band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. . . .”
Responding to what Mr. Kim immediately understood to be an offer by Mr. Trump to have better relations with North Korea, Mr. Kim responded two days later, saying:
“[F]ar from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors. A frightened dog barks louder. . . . The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the U.N. arena the unethical will to ‘totally destroy’ a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty think about discretion and composure. . . . He is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician. . . . Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say. . . . I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the D.P.R.K. . . . Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”
As we now know, those seemingly hostile comments by the two men, were nothing more than preludes to peace negotiations that took place less than a year later at the historic meeting in Singapore between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.
The Singapore meeting was suggested by Mr. Kim in March 2017, a suggestion accepted by Mr. Trump soon after it was made. The meeting took place on June 12, 2018. After the meeting ended, Mr. Trump held a press conference in which he said the meeting had been a success. In addition, he said that: “I think, without the rhetoric it [the meeting of the two leaders] wouldn’t have happened. “I really believe that. You know, we did sanctions and all of the things that you would do. But I think without the rhetoric. . .”
Flush with what Mr. Trump perceives as success in his dealing with Mr. Kim, he is using the same approach to improve relations with Iran, although in that case the rapprochement was initiated by Iran.
In addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats on July 22, 2018, Iran’s president. Hassan Rouhani, said: “Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret, . . . America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars. . . .”
In response, Mr. Trump sent out a tweet that created a conversation between the two countries similar to the one Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump enjoyed before they cemented their friendship. Using all capital letters, Mr. Trump tweeted: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
As a result of those exchanges, the entire world can be heard breathing a collective sigh of relief at the prospect of yet another potentially perilous relationship being set aside in favor of a new era of friendship. At this point the only unanswered question is how long it will be before one of the two men suggests that the two of them sit down together to discuss peace. If past is prologue to the future, I am happy to advise my readers that that will happen very soon. Unless it doesn’t.