When Neville Chamberlain returned from the Munich Conference with Adolf Hitler in September 1938, he believed he had an answer to his primary question. “What does Mr. Hitler want?” was on the mind of the Prime Minister going into the meeting, and it colored all of the proceedings.
The perception was that Germany was wronged in the Versailles Treaty and that Hitler, as the leader, was simply acting in his own nation’s interest. Chamberlain completely neglected the growing body of evidence that Hitler was indeed a psychopath who had his own interests in mind and was simply using Germany as a tool.
Diplomacy is always complicated, but with such people it is even moreso. More than seeking the right answers, it often becomes critical to ask the right questions in the first place.
A comparison between Hitler and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea is never going to be perfect. The situation is completely different in many ways, and the direct threat to the neighboring nations, while equally dire, is hard to compare.
But there is one key characteristic that the two leaders share without any qualifications: both have an absolutely pathological desire for blood and punishment. It goes beyond what is necessary to stay in power, requiring instead that the entire state and its population bend to their will. The psychotic behavior is actually enjoyed.
There is never anything wrong with sitting down and talking between leaders. In this particular case, Kim won something very important simply by meeting with Trump – legitimacy. His ego has been fed by the recognition of the world that he, too, is now a power to be reckoned with. If we are going to ask any question about him at this moment, it would be one that can only be answered by his record: “What will Kim do with his new power?”
That’s where we need to be afraid.
The desire for peace is a good one. The need to talk is critical. But to enter into these talks with a framework that suggests the problem can be solved quickly, with a single stroke, is absolutely crazy. The question, “What does Mr. Kim want?” seemed to be on the mind of Trump through the entire proceedings.
History shows us that this is exactly wrong, and is not the path to peace.
Much has been made about what was given up in this early round of talks. I can’t say for sure how important joint exercises are for the security of South Korea, so I will wait to see how Sec. Mattis and others respond to this. If all that these exercises did was provoke, then they should be stopped. There’s no reason to not show flexibility to the extent it is in your own interest.
But the key question cannot be centered on Kim no matter what. There can be no question that what is in the best interests of nearly everyone in Korea, the region, and the world is for a unified and neutral Korea. Given that long term goal, the small number of people who would lose is a list topped by Kim Jong-Un. What he wants is an utterly irrelevant way of looking at the situation.
Whether it is respect, military aid, or construction of resort hotels does not matter one bit. What matters to the people of North Korea is a full belly and some basic human rights, things that they don’t have.
Very much like Chamberlain, Trump has gone into this whole process looking for a quick-fix and asking the wrong question. We cannot and should not care what Kim wants. To look at the situation from that perspective can only be called appeasement, and we see what that got Neville Chamberlain.
Trump just gave away the farm and received nothing but hollow words of praise for the gift. I fear more deeply today for our country than I ever have before.
Exactly what I was thinking but you got to the core of it. Very good. I fear for our country, too.
He loves dictators. That is the problem. He doesn’t see the problem with human rights violations or any of it.
I had real trouble with the comparison at first but you made the case. Good blog.
Well said! I knew that I couldn’t be the only one who thought that Trump in his narcism was playing more the part of a Chamberlain than a Churchill. Yes. Peace is good. I agree that America gets into too many wars and that we shouldn’t risk war with North Korea, but neither do I feel that appeasement to Kim is the answer either.
You’re off the mark, I think. Hitler wanted an empire, which France and Britain had but Germany didn’t develop because of the different evolution of its capitalism. Kim doesn’t want an empire. He might want all of Korea, but can’t do anything about that. Mainly, North Korea wants America not to destroy it for its political system the way America tried to do in the 1950s. That’s why it’s the way it is and it has nukes.
To achieve normality in Korea the US needs to credibly reassure the North that it’s not going to to attack the country or the regime there. That requires a president with two assets: A willingness to break with the Cold War policy of decades past, and credibility. Sadly, Trump has only one of these. Kim can’t trust him any more than Trudeau could.
I think talks and a willingness to treat North Korea with respect are positive steps. They need carrots more than sticks, perhaps literally. I think Trump will achieve little because he’s too transient and unpredictable to create any kind of doctrine, but he may scale back hostilities enough for the two Koreas to talk and solve their own problems.
Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
This morning I came across a post by fellow-blogger Erik Hare, writing as Barataria, that made much sense to me and I wanted to share it with you. I have not yet written about the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, because I am taking time to step back and let time give me a better perspective than I initially had. Erik’s thoughtful post puts the summit and its results into perspective, I think, and gives us some things to consider. Thank you, Erik, both for the post and permission (implied) to share.