If you follow my blogs and articles, then you know how much I truly love history. But before I begin today’s short trip down memory lane, while I understand the historic nature of the meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un, I also recognize that in the Information Age, one in which information–and disinformation–are disseminated with the stroke of a computer or smart phone key, that calls for Trump to win the next Nobel Peace Prize are as premature as those for his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who actually won it before accomplishing any major foreign policy wins during his first year in office.
Trump’s oft stated objective–the immediate and “complete denuclearization of North Korea,” was in play yesterday in Singapore. The result? Promises of “talks” of denuclearizing North Korea over time. (Nota Bene–As one who recognizes that the only nation to ever use atomic weapons is the United States, and as one who abhors nuclear weapons, I have always wondered what gives the United States and her European and Israeli fellow nuclear power allies the moral right to tell other nations that they cannot have nuclear weapons?)
Digressing, undaunted, President Trump exclaimed that his meeting with Jong Un, the same man that he has chided as “Little Rocket Man” while seemingly daring the North Korean strongman to give him a reason to unleash nuclear holocaust on the Korean Peninsula, was a success. Said Trump: “I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past.”
And with that, the president’s staunchest supporters and even some media members are declaring this as a victory for Trump. In time, it very well could be a victory of sorts, despite the fact that the poor North Korean regime is not quite the threat to worldwide peace that, say, a still potent Russian nuclear arsenal poses. But I would be remiss if I did not point out that if history shows nothing else, it is that Western democratically elected leaders often can be totally fooled by dictators who say all of the right things behind closed doors, only to march steadily towards their objectives after the goodwill from meetings and summits have waned.
Like in September of 1938, when Great Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain infamously declared “peace for our time” following a summit in Munich with Adolf Hitler, Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini and French Premier Edouard Daladier. The issue? A completely rearmed and powerful Germany had threatened to annex all of Czechoslovakia to fulfill Hitler’s oft stated goal of “lebensraum” (living space) and uniting Germans in the the Czech Sudentenland with Germany. After hours of talks that did not include any representatives from Czechoslovakia, Hitler was ceded the Sudentenland and, seemingly pleased, he signed a non-aggression pact with Great Britain. Chamberlain, upon returning to London, was hailed a hero.
Six months later, Hitler broke the Munich pact and annexed the entirety of Czechoslovakia. Six months after that, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, thus beginning World War II.
In 2001, then President George W. Bush met with former KGB agent and Russian leader Vladimir Putin and infamously stated that: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”
In the time since Bush looked into Putin’s soul, the Russian leader has cracked down on many of the human rights reforms of his predecessors Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev; invaded and cost thousands of lives in former Soviet and since independent states like Georgia, Crimea and the Ukraine; backed chemical weapon loving Syrian President Bashar Al Assad; and stealthily meddled in American political affairs.
I do not have a problem with President Trump or any American President meeting with totalitarian regimes, unlike some media members who base their support of such meetings on the ideological bent of the president in office, like the factually accurate meme about Fox News star Sean Hannity shows below.
But I also believe that while giving Trump some credit for taking this historic meeting, it is important to not rush to declare victory, peace or mutual understanding because, just as American leaders have in the past backtracked on treaties and promises in world affairs, the same holds true for foreign heads of state and when such occurs, the scales of war and peace often are tipped towards warfare.
Lest we forget…