By Tom Luongo
Geopolitics is one-part strategy, two-parts tactics and three-parts sales. Donald Trump proved something to me this weekend and I’m glad he did. Because now that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has backed down on his threat to nuke Guam, we can move to the diplomatic resolution of the situation on the Korean peninsula.
We always knew he is a Master at sales. What he hadn’t proved was whether he had the strategic and tactical acumen to operate on the world stage effectively.
Trump’s using Congress’ recess to push a confrontation with North Korea that they could not interfere with was his first truly tactical victory of his administration. And where I’ve been critical of Trump has been at the tactical level.
His obsession with giving the media and his opposition power over him, to push him around, is what has gotten him in trouble on so many fronts.
He has been erratic – 59 Tomahawks launched in Syria on thin (now disproven) evidence. As well, he has been an enabler of his opposition, making the classic mistake of projecting onto the people around him in D.C. as having the same love for the U.S. that he does.
For everything Trump has done, I have never questioned his patriotism. What I questioned was his naivete in dealing with his enemies.
But, as it pertains to his North Korea strategy, he has already gotten an enormous win. China refused to back Kim if he fired first. Trump pushed China to that point. The diplomatic outrage from both Russia and China’s Foreign Ministers over the rhetoric, is just that, rhetoric.
What happens now is a negotiation. And this is where Trump should shine. He will have to sit down with Russia and China and work out a plan to guarantee we never go back to this moment in time again.
Remember, North Korea isn’t just about North Korea. It’s also about Iran and the idea that both countries are outsourcing part of their nuclear weapons’ development to each other. This is what Trump is angry about and wants ended. This is why he hates the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal.’
So, to do this it will take bringing China to the table to guarantee North Korea’s behavior, Russia to guarantee Iran’s behavior and for Trump to put paid his inaugural statement that the U.S. is no longer in the regime change business.
But, that means a tense negotiation that will mean giving up something big.
In my last article, I laid out the guts of it.
But to get more from them (Russia and China), Trump will have to give on something beyond just standing down militarily. And that something may be Afghanistan. He’s unhappy with the advice he’s been given [about resolving the war] and sent his military advisors, grumbling, to come up with better plans.
Personally, I think he may just be buying time to keep the pressure on China.
A pullout from Afghanistan if negotiations with the Taliban fail would be the tit for North Korea’s tat.
And it would win Trump tremendous points with the base back home on two major issues – denuclearizing North Korea and bringing the troops home from Afghanistan.
This also puts the Neocons on their back-foot. Since they wouldn’t allow Trump to talk with Kim Jong Un they pushed him into this course of action. Now, if he resolves this problem without bloodshed and all he has to do is give up Afghanistan, which he can sell easily to the American people, they will have nothing to say.
They’ll talk. Bill Kristol will cry into his Morning Joe, but no one will listen.
Their mistake was positioning themselves against him, reflexively refusing to support him. John “Bomb the Freaking World” McCain didn’t back Trump on a policy that McCain himself advocates.
This is the geopolitical equivalent of the Socratic Method – using your opponent’s position to prove your point; followed by a WWE-Style takedown.
With the Taliban issuing a letter this morning calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, when we know that Rex Tillerson’s State Dept. has been talking with them, tells me that we are closer to a withdrawal than we’ve ever been.