It’s long been an American conceit that the way you negotiate is to demand a surrender by your opponent, and then you hammer out the terms of that surrender.
Ir worked great in World War II after the Red Army chewed up Germany’s elite army and left the country with the choice of being overrun by the Soviets or surrendering at least part of the country to the U.S., Britain and France. It worked great in Japan too after the U.S., with a temporary monopoly on an unimaginably powerful new weapon, incinerated two of the country’s cities and threatened to keep on doing so until The emperor and his generals gave up or let the Island nation be turned into charcoal.
But the concept didn’t work in Vietnam, which drove the U.S. out. It didn’t work in Iraq, which is now an client state of Iran, it didn’t work in Afghanistan, where the US is still fighting the Taliban 17 years after invading that poorest of countries. Truth to tell, the only time the policy really has worked was against the tiny island nation of Grenada, where the primary resistance to the U.S. armada that assaulted the place was a company of Cuban construction workers working on a new airport. (7000 medals were awarded to U.S. military personnel following that triumphant victory.)
But history doesn’t matter for the world’s “exceptional nation,” and so now we have Trump’s key advisors – the neoconservative nut-job John Bolton, Trump’s latest National Security Advisor whose primary asset seems to be hair, not brains or even military experience, and Mike Pompeo, recently shifted from the CIA director post over to Secretary of State, a porcine West Point graduate whose international experience appears to be limited to his having concluded that former President Barack Obama somehow managed to be both an “evil Muslim” and a Commuinist.
This goofy pair, appointed by that wiley deal-maker Trump, have managed to queer the deal on a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. First to give Kim second thoughts was Bolton who announced that the model for a peace agreement between the two nuclear powers, the US and North Korea, would be Libya, where of course, the U.S. got Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafy to ship off all his nuclear bomb-making equipment to the U.S., and then orchestrated his overthrow and brutal murder. Bolton has insisted, with no disagreement from his boss, that for starters, North Korea would have to fork over all its nuclear weapons, and destroy all its nuclear weapons-making facilities. Then we can talk, the idea goes.
Kim, of course, no dummy he, especially backed as he is by a treaty with neighboring China which commits China to come to North Korea’s aid – as it did quite decisively only a year after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, remember? – should North Korea be attacked by the U.S. or any other foreign power, has said no deal. Kim says he is all for denuclearizing the North Korean peninsula (in return for foreign aid and an end to sanctions), but that would include having the U.S. sign an enforceable peace treaty including both China and Russia as guarantors, with the U.S. recognizing his as the legitimate government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It would also include the U.S. pulling its forces out of South Korea, where they used to keep hundreds of nuclear weapons, and are in place to stock up on them again at a moment’s notice at present.
Next up, Bozo number two, Pompeo, let Kim know that just because he signs a treaty with Trump, it doesn’t mean the deal will mean anything. Pompeo did this by pushing for Trump to pull the U.S. out of the P5+1 treaty agreed in 2015 to by the U.S. and five other countries under which Iran ceased its nuclear fuel refining program, shipped off all its refined uranium 235 to Russia, and agreed not to start the process again for 15 years in return for a lifting of all sanctions on the country. After Trump pulled the U.S., Pompeo vowed publicly that the U.S. will “crush” Iran with punishing sanctions, and maybe even by allowing Israel to launch attacks on Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons-making infrastructure. Never mind that international inspectors say there is no such infrastructure and hasn’t been for years, never mind that Iran is known to have been, unlike the U.S., abiding by the letter of the P5+1 agreement to end its nuclear fuel enrichment program. Pompeo says Iran’s government has to be ousted by making its economy scream.
These two White House bozos seem to think that America’s multi-trillion-dollar military gives it the winning hand, but in fact, North Korea’s little batch of home-made nukes give him the trump cards as it were, and Kim knows this. The U.S. military, which is just a bunch of bull’s eyes sitting on bases in South Korea literally seconds away from North Korean nukes or on ships not much farther away, knows this too, which is why Gen. Jim Mattis, the only one of Trump’s advisors who has any experience with actual war-making, has said a war in Korea would be terrible and difficult, not just for Koreans, but for the Americans who would have to fight it.
So if Trump’s goal was to win himself a Nobel Peace Prize by finally having the U.S. sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War, almost 65 years after the fighting ended, Bozo Bolton appears to have scotched the plan by letting Kim know the real goal is to put his head on a pike once he surrendered his nukes. With that cat out of the bag, it means now if there are to be negotiations with North Korea, they will have to be entered into by equals, not by a superpower dictating the terms.
Meanwhile the trouble for Trump & Co’s scheme in Iran’s case is that none of the other parties to the agreement – France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany – see things their way. They all say that Tehran has been abiding by the terms of the agreement struck in 2015, and they aren’t about to slap sanctions back on Iran. In fact, the European countries are outraged that Pompeo and Bolton are threatening sanctions against European companies that defy what would now be U.S. – not U.N. – sanctions on Iran by continuing to trade with or invest in that country. China meanwhile is vowing to cut deals with Iran for long term oil contracts which it will pay for in Chinese renminbi, forgoing the heretofore requirement to pay in dollars. Europe too is talking about protecting its companies from sanctions by striking a deal to deliver Euros to Iranian banks, thus opting out of the U.S. dollar-based international trading system.
That is to say, Pompeo and Bolton are triggering the very cataclysm that the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve have long feared, in which countries would abandon the U.S. dollar as the international currency – a status that for decades has allowed the U.S. to live beyond its means and to fund its trillion-dollar-per-year military by simply printing more dollars at will. If countries don’t need the dollar to conduct their international trade and investment deals, the dollar will crash to its inherent value, which, given the U.S.’s horrendous trade deficit, would be a small fraction of what it is worth today. To prop up the currency, the U.S. would have to raise interest rates through the roof, crushing the economy.
Nice going Bozos!
It’s going to be interesting to watch how all this plays out.
China knew it had the upper hand in trade negotiations when Trump’s top trade negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief Trade Negotiator Peter Navarro, were spotted engaged in a vulgarity-laced shouting match outside their hotel in Beijing. As the Washington Post wrote of the incident, “It’s been amateur hour at the China negotiations.”
Indeed it has. The U.S. opening position – a version of the usual surrender first, negotiate with us afterwards format – was that China must give up its decades-long and very successful system of state planning for development, in particular its latest 10-year plan of government-directed investment to make China a leader in 10 key areas of technology, including communications, aircraft manufacturing and artificial intelligence. Right. Like they’re going to do that. Instead, China turned around and announced plans to include the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong in the government funding program. Take that bozos.
The “moratorium” announced by China and the U.S. on any trade sanctions against each other for alleged trade violations is a meaningless face-saving sop for Trump. The U.S. actually gets nothing but the usual vague and unenforceable promises by China to buy more U.S. goods. They probably will buy more U.S. agricultural products, but there will still be a huge trade deficit for the U.S. with respect to China. Why? Because the U.S. doesn’t make stuff anymore – not just stuff that China or other countries would want to buy, but even stuff that Americans want and need. That means the U.S. cannot hope to sell much more than Third World-type products and raw materials to China, and that at the same time, it will still have to keep importing increasing amounts of manufactured goods, from vehicles to iPhones and computers, from China.
The Bozos in the White House don’t get this. Maybe they think they can bully China with their fancy weapons, but that’s not likely to work either. China is fast catching up with the U.S. in military hardware too. Already U.S. aircraft carriers – the core of U.S. power projection in Asia – cannot sail too close to China in any showdown because they would be sitting ducks for Chinese cruise missiles and other weapons. Short of an all-out nuclear war that nobody would win, China is pretty much immune to U.S. military threats.
Iran is similarly in a much stronger position than Pompeo and his “crushing” threat implies. Russia has already been offering support to Iran – support that is likely to include provision of top-of-the-line anti-aircraft weapons which would make any Isreali or U.S. strike on Iran too costly to contemplate. No doubt Russia iis eager to offer Iran some of its state-of-the-art aircraft too, which would also up the ante for would-be attackers.
The blustery Pompeo, whose technical training was in law, not international affairs (and not even international law), should probably check out the CIA fact book on Iran. He’d discover that it is a country more than twice as large in population as Iraq or Afghanistan, and one that is much more unified than the stitched-together amalgam of Sunnis, Shia’s, Arabs, Turkmen and other nationalities that comprised Iraq under Saddam Hussein, With a national history dating back at least as far as China’s. Iran’s citizens may have their gripes about the religious junta that rules over their sort-of democratically elected government, but like the Chinese, Russians or Vietnamese, they would all rally quickly to support the defense of their nation and civilization against any foreign invader.
Only fools would contemplate a war with Iran.
Sadly, the Trump administration, perhaps even more than the Johnson administration in 1965, is filled with fools with inflated egos and senses of their own intellect and infallibility – in a word, bozos. And while clowns can be funny, lately we’ve been seeing cases where they have been downright dangerous psychos.
We’ll have to hope that the next few years will be simply amusing, and not tragic.