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The Trump-Kim Jong-un summit should not be seen as a “victory” for either party. However, the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un sets the proverbial stage for more fruitful forthcoming talks between the two leaders (remember: the Cold War did not end after one meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev—it’s about building rapport between the two men).
In the run-up to the summit, the American foreign policy establishment insisted that Kim Jong-un either played Trump or that nothing substantive could be achieved. It is true, that the resolution to the American-North Korean entente is far from certain. But there is reason to be hopeful going forward.
Rest assured, the mere act of meeting one-on-one with the North Korean dictator is a win for Trump’s nascent foreign policy. This is especially true given that Trump speaks the language of force.
When objective historians look back on the post-Cold War period, they will likely observe that American presidents from George H.W. Bush through to Barack Obama were nothing more than placeholders.
The neoliberal and neoconservative pretensions about the post-Cold War era were as unfounded as the proclamations of British writer, Sir Norman Angell were in 1909. Angell was the man who, on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War, wrongly prognosticated that Germany and Britain would never war because they were too connected by peaceful trade (and because the British and French empires were too powerful).
In much the same way, every American president from the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency to the start of Donald Trump’s will be remembered for buying into the fallacies of neoliberalism or neoconservtism and thereby failing to resolve the pressing concerns of our time.
The difference-maker between Trump and his four post-Cold War presidential predecessors is attitude. As my friend, F.H. Buckley, has brilliantly written, President Trump is an alpha-male who respects only those leaders who “pass the manliness test.”
Thus, Trump’s behavior toward fellow G-7 leaders—most of whom are engaged in unfair trade practices with the United States, yet remain totally reliant on America for their defense—is better understood. Not one of the G-7 countries is either a direct threat in the way that North Korea is, or meaningful to securing American interests the way that creating better relations with countries like North Korea (or Russia, for that matter) are.
America’s greatest threats today are countries led by pre-modern dictators—Kim Jong-un, the Mullahs of Iran, Xi Jinping of China, and Vladimir Putin—who do not share the West’s love for soy milk or Birkenstocks.
Far from being a weakness, Trump’s willingness to deal fairly—and strongly—with these states will likely be remembered as the cause for no major war breaking out on Trump’s watch.
Say what you will about Trump’s tough attitude, but he’s certainly winning over the people who need to be won over.
Photo credit: Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty Images