In the short space of five days, June 8-12, President Trump took three steps that upended the old post WWII global order and moved us a few steps toward a more peaceful world. Two of those steps are undeniable; the third is perhaps not so obvious.
The Singapore Summit.
The Singapore Summit comes first, because it rocked the world.
In this bold and unprecedented meeting President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK), started down a path to Détente, aiming toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, an intractable problem or so the pundits informed us. But as Melania warned us with a bemused smile sometime back, “Donald always shakes things up.”
The historic meeting produced more than words; concrete steps were taken: The DPRK went first, terminating the testing of nuclear warheads, IRBMs and ICBMs and even closing its nuclear test site – all done before the summit. Leading up to the summit, Trump cut back on the extent of annual joint South Korea-US military exercises. These have been roiling the East Pacific since the 1970s, frightening the North Koreans since these “war games” could abruptly turn into a real invasion as in the Korean War. At summit’s conclusion Trump went further and terminated those exercises planned for late summer, labeling them “provocative,” as the North Koreans have long described them, and “expensive,” cost always being a big item in the Trumpian mind. These exercises are also costly for the DPRK since they come at a time of year when agricultural labor is needed and hundreds of thousands of men must be diverted from the fields to join the armed forces in case the war games turn into a real invasion. This hurts the agricultural output of the DPRK, and one suspects it is designed to do so.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Singapore Summit is the biggest step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula since President Dwight Eisenhower lived up to his 1952 campaign promise to “go to Korea” and end Truman’s deeply unpopular war, which had claimed millions of Korean lives, 1 million Chinese lives and tens of thousands of American ones. Ike ended that genocidal war, which had slaughtered 20% of the population of North Korea primarily by bombing and the use of chemical weapons. An armistice was negotiated quickly and so the killing stopped, but a formal treaty of peace proved politically impossible. (Ike, the peacemaker, was criticized by the media for being inarticulate and stupid and for spending too much time on the golf course. And he had a mistress. Sound familiar? But he brought peace.)
Quite rightly the world greeted the Kim-Trump breakthrough with jubilation – save for the US elite and its press, including the interventionist Democratic Party leadership all of which were quite glum or downright enraged. The admirable and effective President Moon of the Republic of Korea (ROK) who himself was a key figure in making the summit possible gave Trump much credit, and the South Korean people gave Moon’s Party overwhelming victories in the municipal elections on the day after the summit, putting the very political existence of the hawkish leadership of the rival party in question. There was great celebration in North Korea and even the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe hailed the agreement since it removed a perceived threat. Needless to say, China and Russia who have long pushed for denuclearization of the peninsula were very pleased; the cessation of US war games in exchange for ending DPRK testing of nukes and rockets was just the sort of first step they had advocated for some time. And the majority (71%) of the American people approved of the summit. The Monmouth poll taken just after the summit and before the media had time to spin its demented take on events reported: “Most Americans (71%) say that the recent meeting between Trump and Kim was a good idea, including 93% of Republicans, 74% of independents, and 49% of Democrats. Only 20% say it was a bad idea. This positive feeling is somewhat higher than in late April, when 63% said the prospect of having such a meeting was a good idea.”
Would it not be correct to say that the Singapore Summit is a move toward a world of peace by Trump and Kim? If so, should not all peace-loving forces support and praise it as a way to protect it from attacks of domestic hawks and to encourage similar steps in foreign policy? Have we?
This is not an academic question. The opposition to this and the policies listed below is large and building as can be seen from the reaction of the press. When Jimmy Carter tried to reach an accommodation with the DPRK and remove US troops and 700 nuclear weapons from the ROK, he was ultimately stopped by the forces we would now call Deep State, as chronicled here. And similar forces are already organizing to stop Trump. If the peace movement does not do all in its power to back these and the initiatives outlined below, then we will bear part of the blame if those initiatives fail. What side is the peace movement on here? To this writer the answer is unclear and the clock is ticking.
Let Russia Join the G7, says Trump.
Let’s turn to achievement number two over those five days in June. It came leading up to the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec. Trump announced beforehand that Russia should be invited back into the G7, a move opposed by all the other members but for Italy’s new government. The U.S. press went berserk of course, with many declaring as they do many times daily that Trump’s strings were being pulled by – who else? – Putin.
Putin himself responded to the disagreement at the G7, thus:
“As for Russia’s return to ‘the seven,’ ‘the eight’ [G7, G8] – we have not left it. Our colleagues once refused to come to Russia due to well-known reasons. Please, we will be happy to see everyone in Moscow.”
Putin made that statement at a press conference in Qingdao, China, at the conclusion of the meeting of the SCO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with its present 8 member states: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyryzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – with Iran, currently an observer, backed by China to become a full member. Putin went further in this press conference; and it was reported by RT.com as follows:
The SCO gathering concluded just shortly after the G7 summit, and Russia enjoys the format of the now-eight-member organization after India and Pakistan joined. Putin believes the SCO trumps the G7 in certain aspects. For example, the member states have already overtaken the G7 in purchasing-power parity, the Russian leader said, citing IMF data.
“If we calculate… per capita, the seven countries are wealthier, but the size of the SCO economies [combined] GFP is larger. And the population is of course much bigger – half of the planet.”
That is, the combined gross GDPs of the SCO 8 are larger than the combined economies of the G7 by the PPP-GDP metric used by the IMF and World Bank (and CIA) as can be seen here. It is noteworthy that Russia’s GDP is about equal to Germany’s, and not the basket case that it is made out to be in the Western press. In fact, the G7 has only 3 of the world’s 7 largest economies the same number as the SCO-8. The G7 are really nothing more than the ex-colonial and now neocolonial countries whose time may be running out with the rise of the economies of the once colonized nations of East and South Asia.
In calling for Russia’s readmission to the G7, Trump was turning his back on the old Cold War alliances and looking to the economic realities of the 21st Century exemplified by the SCO. He was opting to create an atmosphere of dialogue which would include Russia. As he later said, the G7 spends 25% of its time discussing Russia- so why not have Russia present and try to work out problems together.
Trump’s appeal to readmit Russia to the G7 is simply a repeat of his call to “get along with Russia” a promise made in the campaign of 2016. Is this not a good idea? Is the recognition of new realities not part of creating a peaceful world?
Would it not be correct to say that this move of Trump’s is a move toward a world of peace? If so, should not all peace loving forces support and praise it as a way to protect it from attacks of domestic hawks and to encourage similar steps in foreign policy? Have we? Again this is not an academic question because the outcome depends in part on our support or lack thereof.
Mercantilism over imperialism and hegemony.
The third move in Trump’s weekend trifecta is not so much an action of his in and of itself but the revelation of a mindset behind that action. Trump has set in motion the imposition of tariffs on countries that he views as unfair in trade with the US. My point is not to argue whether such tariffs are good or bad or even whether the US has been treated unfairly. (One might think, however, that the need to impose them is the sign of a trading power in its infancy which needs to protect its key enterprises – or of one in decline which can no longer prevail by virtue of the quality of what it produces. But that is not of significance for this discussion.)
What is unusual is that Trump did not limit his economic attacks to an official adversary like China. No, he is also directing them at our “allies,” from NATO all the way to Japan on the other side of the world. In so doing he shows that commerce is more important to him than alliances that facilitate military actions aimed at domination and hegemony. It might fairly be said that Trump is putting mercantilism over imperialism – if by mercantilism we mean economic nationalism. Most of those at the G7 meeting who were aghast at the tariffs are NATO allies. This action taken without regard to “the alliance” reminds us of Trump’s assertion during the campaign of 2016 that “NATO is obsolete.”
Trump’s stance was criticized by Canada’s PM Trudeau on this very basis, saying: “Canadians did not take it lightly that the United States has moved forward with significant tariffs on our steel and aluminum industry…. For Canadians who…stood shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers in far-off lands and conflicts from the First World War onward…it’s kind of insulting.” (Emphasis, jw). Is fighting in the useless and criminal WWI, something to be proud of? Let’s pass over the many other murderess conflicts that have engaged the US and the G7 in the last 25 years, let alone the past 70 plus years. Trudeau encompasses all this criminal behavior in the single word “onward.” The alliances that have made this possible are indeed “obsolete,” in fact retrograde and dangerous. Trudeau is simply saying that the G7 have been willing allies in the imperial crimes of the US. So they expect due economic consideration in return. Trump is saying no more; now the business of America is business first and foremost.
This does not mean that economic nationalism is the answer to the world’s problems. But Trump’s action does represent a move away from the “entangling alliances” that have been employed to further the hegemonistic policies of the US.
Would it not be correct to say that favoring competition in trade over cultivating alliances for military hegemony is a positive development? Should not all peace loving forces praise the move away from our “alliances,” away from NATO which has been the agent of so many criminal wars of the last quarter century?
The flies in the Trumpian Ointment.
At this point in the conventional treatment of matters Trumpian, it is compulsory to launch into psychobabble about the man, with cries of indignation about his narcissism or vulgarity or some other imagined personality disorder. This writer is not a mind reader, nor do I have much have faith in the “science” of psychology. Such anti-Trump disclaimers are more often than not simply inoculation to protect the writer from the wrath of the legions of Trump-haters and Respectables. Such disclaimers also represent a cheesy substitution of pop psych for political analysis.
In reality none of Trump’s actions outlined above should have been a surprise. They are fully consistent with what he promised in 2016. Likewise the war of words between Trump and Kim earlier in the year was simply a way to protect them both from charges of being weak on their adversary by their own hardliners. Trump himself has admitted they were a charade, and there may have been more to the charade than he admitted. Kim too had his hardliners although not so numerous or powerful as Trump’s.
That said, the beginnings of Trump foreign policy has not taken us from a quarter century drive toward US unipolar hegemony, which began with the Clintons, to a nirvana of peace in the space of 18 months. Since the US Empire is the last of the 500 years of European Empires, successor to them all, it would be absurd to even expect such an outcome. Likewise, it would be easy to google all the things that are wrong with US foreign policy and even growing worse – and there is a cottage industry devoted to just that.
But one of the current problems, US policy toward Iran, looms large and deserves special mention. Because Iran has support from Russia and because it lies so close to Russia, conflict with Iran is likely to destroy Trump’s desire for Détente with Russia and could therefore drag the US into military conflict with a great nuclear power, even a World War. Such a thing would be catastrophic for humanity – so it is a very big deal. Fundamentally Trump’s position on Iran is dictated by Israel which maintains its stranglehold on US foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). By necessity, given Israel’s power in US politics, and by his conviction as well, one suspects, Trump’s brain is Israeli occupied territory. And the same malign influence contributes to the criminal US support of the Saudi atrocities in Yemen. Perhaps discussions with Putin can help Trump on this matter. But right now Israel poses one of the greatest obstacles to a new and enlightened foreign policy in a key area for all of humanity.
Finally let’s return again to the Singapore Summit. Please, dear reader, immerse yourself in the jubilation it generated worldwide. It jumps out of the screen right here Gangnam Style. Be sure the sound is on at the lower right of the screen– and join the dance for joy.
John V. Walsh can be reached a [email protected]