12 June 2018

Sideshow in Singapore

The bad-hairstyle summit in Singapore has ended with news of a deal -- but there's less here than meets the eye.

The full text of the joint statement is here; an analysis is here.  Most of it is diplomatic fluff and vague promises about improving relations in the future; there is language about recovering POW/MIA remains which will be meaningful to those who have POW/MIA relatives.  The main issue is addressed in a single sentence:

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Note that even this is explicitly presented not as something new, but as a reaffirmation of something already declared at the April 27 summit between North and South Korea.  The phrase "work toward" is odd.  North Korea is a dictatorship.  If Kim intends to "denuclearize" his country, he doesn't need to "work toward" that goal, he just has to give some orders.  As for "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", which would include South Korea, this presumably means that the US should not keep nuclear weapons in South Korea and that that country should not develop its own.  This doesn't seem like a significant change to the status quo, since South Korea has no known plans for building its own nuclear weapons and the US could, if needed, deter the North using weapons based on ships or in Japan.

Then, too, there's the fact that this is a deal between two of the least trustworthy leaders in the world.  Kim and his predecessors have a history of making agreements and then flagrantly violating them, and Trump has just unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal with Iran -- which, unlike this brief "joint statement", was a full international agreement with an inspection regime for verification and the support of five other major countries, to which Iran had been adhering for three years.  Both Trump and Kim had a lot riding on the summit -- Trump wanted a foreign-policy success, Kim wanted the prestige of a one-on-one meeting with the world's most powerful leader -- so it was pre-ordained that they'd produce something, however vacuous.

The symbolism of this meeting right after the G7 fiasco is terrible.  Trump squabbled with and insulted the Prime Minister of Canada and leaders of other allied democracies, then ran off to shower respect and praise on one of the world's nastiest and most threatening dictators.

Trump will of course brag and claim credit for this scrap of paper and any good that follows, making the issue a new staple of his rallies and Twitter binges, and his loyal Trumpanzees (most of whom probably couldn't find Korea on a map) will eat it up.  And it is quite possible that Kim will indeed take meaningful steps toward peace -- because he now knows his pitiful failed state would be doomed anyway if a war broke out, not because of Trump or yesterday's meeting.  And at the April 27 summit he already agreed to denuclearization and a peace treaty ending the Korean war, something which also had nothing to do with Trump.

All Trump got was a single sentence reaffirming what was already agreed at the real summit, the inter-Korean one on April 27, which didn't involve the US at all.  I've previously noted the American narcissism which assumes all major actions by non-Western leaders or groups must somehow be reactions to some American or at least Western cause.  It wouldn't surprise me if South Korea and other parties involved allow Trump to claim all the credit he wants, if only in hopes of stopping him from messing things up.  But this fundamentally isn't about us.

[Image at top:  one nation, two systems -- slavery vs. freedom, failure vs. success]

11 Comments:

Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Excellent analysis! "Bad-hairstyle summit" -- LOL, too true!

12 June, 2018 06:26  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

Thanks for watching so I didn't have to. Since they're both congenital liars anyway and there was never going to be an agreement that amounted to anything. I suppose we could hope that two narcissistic, man babies with daddy issues could bond and come to an agreement over nukes. But then, wishes are not horses.

12 June, 2018 11:18  
Anonymous Arvind said...

"There's a special place in hell for Trudeau"

"Kim is a very worthy, very smart negotiator and a very talented man who loves his country very much"

13 June, 2018 07:03  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

Note: Pardon my multi-block comment!

Re: "Trump will of course brag & claim credit for this scrap of paper & any good that follows, making the issue a new staple of his rallies & Twitter binges, & his loyal Trumpanzees (most of whom probably couldn't find Korea on a map) will eat it up."

Unfortunately, that's all politics has become these days: Keeping "the Base" (whatever that might be for any given politician) happy. There's no longer any such thing as "problem solving" or "effective governance." There is only "providing emotional satisfaction to the portion of the masses most responsible for getting one elected." This has been the case for the US, & in particular its Right, for a long time now, but I see a lot of it elsewhere, including in the American Left (though at the moment it's less of a problem there).

The American Right's attempt to do this has turned into a debacle with the election of our Groper-in-Chief. For the last 3-4 decades they used the anger, anxiety & sanctimony of a particular segment of the public to bring them into the Rightist fold & shape them into an electorate which reliably supports them. That proved successful for a long time, as they gained control of Congress (which, in spite of all the talk of a "blue wave" coming, I don't see changing this November).

What's amazing about it is they've turned this "Right-wing Base" into an army of people who're actually undermining their own positions; they've convinced them that policies which ultimately serve businesses' interests will help them. What they don't realize is that the loss of jobs in America over the last 50 years or so has been due to businesses' efforts to economize & enhance profits. Offshoring of jobs runs rampant in spite of everything, but nothing the Right wants to do will prevent it (quite the opposite, actually) & workers' pay lags far behind corporate profits or C-level pay. The Right did a good job of triangulating ... e.g. pretending to be anti-immigration when in fact most businesses are pro-immigration because immigrants, particularly illegal ones, are willing to work for far less than Americans are.... [1/4]

13 June, 2018 08:28  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

[cont'd] The Right has also traditionally been supportive of the military & law enforcement, even though it's actually done little to help either be better. They've financed things like new aircraft carriers, fighter jets, & littoral combat ships ... at an astronomical cost ... but there are problems with all of those, while military pay remains as it was, & personnel are stretched thin & poorly trained (as illustrated by the naval accidents last year). Law enforcement is also still bogged down in a "war on drugs," which diverts resources from real efforts to curb criminality. Police agencies still can't figure out how to deal with active shooters (e.g. the Parkland shooting, where an officer right outside the building while the shooting occurred did not intervene). Our military is not where it ought to be, even though the Right pretends to be its champion, & law enforcement in many places is a joke.

What they've done is to leave their own electoral "base" in a kind of limbo. They did it by imposing a strict, puritanical form of ideological adherence on them (primarily in the form of talk radio & Fox News). The Right used these outlets to declare what, exactly, Rightists are REQUIRED to think, coupled with their emotional appeals intended to make them happy, also telling them the information they get about things via "the mass media" is poison to them ... & thus slipped ideological straitjackets on them.

Along comes the Groper-in-Chief, though, who blows the lid off all the triangulation. For example, he's unrepentantly anti-immigrant, even if businesses like immigration & the Right has long winked in their direction despite ostensibly having decried it. He provided an emotional salve to people who found their problems haven't been solved by the Rightism into which they locked themselves.

The only way the GiC can maintain control of this bloc is to keep them whipped up & infuriated. Fortunately for him, this isn't hard for him; he's good at it, & the bloc he's appealing to is childish, so they fall for his crap. Then, too, since 2014 or so there's been a growing culture called "the alt-right" which, like the GiC, promotes a strongly emotional version of Rightism. It's different in some details from traditional Rightism but aligns well with Groperism ... so the two feed off of, & promote, one another in cyclical fashion.... [2/4]

13 June, 2018 08:29  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

[cont'd] So how is the traditional Right to throw off the yoke of what is, essentially, a usurper? The best way would be by educating their "Base" (or rather, miseducating them, since that's what they've been doing all along) & that, in turn, could be done via the mass media. However, they've spent the last 3-4 decades telling their "Base" that the media is "biased" against them & wants to DESTROY them all. They could use their own wing of the media, particularly talk radio & Fox News, but those have all been compromised by the GiC as well as the "alt-right" & are more or less in line with him/them ... because his/their emotional appeals were more compelling than the Right's previous ones (which ironically WERE, in fact, effective in themselves). They're just going along with what works for them & maximizes ratings (and in turn profits). So that avenue is closed to the traditional Right. The only way they can succeed is if the sanctimonious fervor of the Right's "Base" diminishes, allowing the GiC's & the "alt-right's" grip on them to falter.

What does all of this have to do with the GiC & his DPRK deal? It's all about the GiC maintaining maximum fervor among his fanbois. That's why he tells as many lies as he does ... including some that are not only brazenly untrue but there doesn't even seem to be any point to having told the lie in the first place (e.g. the GiC's recent claim that 16,000 boaters watched Hurricane Harvey from out at sea). This is the kind of thing that could "stick" in their minds; i.e. he can repeatedly point to it & keep reiterating, "See? I did something BIG. Very, very, very BIG!" & in fact, it IS kind of big. (Say what you want about this deal, it was & is big international news, & whether or not it actually deprives the DPRK of nuclear weapons, it's consequential.) The mass media will talk about it, because it's consequential & they will have to ... it can't just be ignored. So the GiC will be able to keep pointing to it as a "success" even if it's not one.... [3/4]

13 June, 2018 08:29  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

[cont'd] It's no wonder Bob Corker erupted on the Senate floor. The chances of him, & the rest of the traditional Right, regaining control of their party just fell by quite a bit, because of this deal.

As far as I'm concerned the best tactic for dealing with this is one I've advocated a long time ... & it's one both the Right, as well as the Left & the rest of the country, can & should do. & that is to marginalize the Right-wing "Base" (or rather the majority of it which are the GiC's fanbois). Condemn them, deride them, ridicule them, push them to the margins of society, & in general treat them as the walking garbage cans they are. If no politician than the GiC appeals to them, they may not turn out to vote in elections other than for president, & their electoral power will have been wiped out.

I would, therefore, say that Corker is right ... both for the welfare of his own ideology (the traditional Right) & the rest of the country. Congress should vote on the tariff legislation and, thus, implicitly tell the GiC's raging fanbois to go fuck themselves. If they don't like their idol being screwed by Congress, well, too bad so sad for them. It's long past time to dismiss them rather than indulge them. We've indulged that particular infantile electorate for far too long as it is. [4/4]

13 June, 2018 08:29  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

You summed up the situation well, both pre- and post-"summit." Also, whatever "summit" afterglow Trump is hoping to last will be negatively affected by the chaos that inevitably surrounds him and his regime. For example, his self- own assery at the G-7 badly undercut any "Trump the Statesman" messaging pre- "summit," and the next Mueller indictment or flip =cough= Cohen =cough= will knock this right off the front pages -- sad!.

13 June, 2018 11:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: The two worst coiffures in global politics.....

Kevin: Trump seems to feel a bond. You just know Kim is thinking, "I can't believe how easily I'm playing this idiot".

Arvind: It's maddening. Not just Trump but his whole gang are isolating us from other democracies and embracing mass murderers.

PsiCop: I think Obamacare was an example of effective governance. It didn't necessarily make the base happy, not right away -- we lost seats in 2010 -- but it was worth it. There's probably more real governing going on at the state level, at least in blue states.

They keep their base voting for them despite self-interest by (a) deceiving them about the causes of their problems, (b) appealing to cultural animosity (they'll vote for whoever attacks the gays/feminists/liberals etc.), and (c) whipping up a pitch of sustained hysteria so that the rubes won't ever calm down long enough to start checking out other sources of information or questioning whether they're blaming the right people. Or at least most of them won't. Generally they are poorly educated and not good at processing or interpreting information, and certainly not at introspection.

The problem with creating a monster is that it eventually turns on you. They created an infuriated mob that would vote on the basis of populism for a party which actually implemented a more corporatist agenda. Then Trump came along and started to actually deliver on more of the populism. Having tasted raw meat, the base will never again be satisfied with the pablum the party got away with serving up before.

Agree 100% about the Republican elite's problems with "re-educating" the base. They designed this monster to be impervious to reason, and it's impervious to anything they themselves might say as well.

marginalize the Right-wing "Base" (or rather the majority of it which are the GiC's fanbois). Condemn them, deride them, ridicule them, push them to the margins of society, & in general treat them as the walking garbage cans they are.

I've been trying to contribute to that in my own way. With some of the saner and more peripheral ones the fever may eventually break, but the hard core of the Trumpanzees are unreachable and it may be the best we can do is marginalize them and wait for them to die off. But the non-Trumpanzee Republicans probably won't cooperate. They know it would mean the division and marginalization of their whole party (which was always the ultimate goal anyway, from my viewpoint).

Hackwhacker: Trump's sole saving grace is his ineptitude. Bashing Canada should indeed drive the wedge in a little deeper for the few remaining sane Republicans, though the real wingnuts have long demonized Canada as a land of socialism, atheism, and rampaging Muslims (!), as they have with Europe. I've seen hints that there's some big news coming about Cohen. Let's hope so.

13 June, 2018 12:19  
Blogger Professor Chaos said...

My favorite part of the agreement is that supposedly Kim agreed to destroy some nuclear site but they never got around to actually putting it in the agreement. They "ran out of time" according to President McCheese.

13 June, 2018 17:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Details, details.....

14 June, 2018 08:56  

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