Donald Trump’s technique for achieving Global Domination is actually quite subtle. It’s quite obvious that domination and clearly delineated hierarchies are the only terms he thinks in: when you’re the star you don’t deal with the producer’s assistant or an associate producer, you deal with the goddamn producer! And he’d better show-up to your dressing room with a gift! The reason Trump seems to have his only success in dealing with North Korea is he and Kim Jong Un think exactly the same way: they are both The Greatest History-Making World Leader Of All Time, if you ask them.
Trump understands the value of drama and the risks of being specific. He can’t be tied-down by things like promises and facts. This is also the North Korean approach to diplomacy. After they show you they can fire missiles wherever they want, they go for a nice walk hand-in-hand with the leader of the half of the country that got all the pork and beans. Then while you’re negotiating with them they’ll fire-off another missile. Dealings with North Korea in the past have always been a flagrant buy-offs in dollars – not supplies, not trade, not humanitarian aide – they want money.
And that’s all you can expect from the world’s largest criminal organization. There’s a reason Kim dresses like Dr. Evil – it’s because he’s following his father’s lead and his father loved movies, James Bond movies to be precise, and he modeled his uniforms after Dr. No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld: he identifies with those guys. North Korea is funded by trade with China, primarily in raw materials and rare-earth resources, and then by weapons dealing, drug running, and even kidnapping. The only job worth having is being in the military because even though you never get paid you mostly get fed. It is believed that North Korea uses slave labor in factory prisons. There is a regular stream of escaped refugees entering China, some of whom make it to South Korea. There are relatively large numbers of foreign nationals being held in prisons in North Korea.
It’s real evil. Not the fake movie kind. And there’s a long way to go from greeting Mike Pompeo with open arms, and scheduling a summit with Trump and Kim in a few months, to getting any kind of real agreement worked-out. But if it works then great! All the other insanity with Trump might be worth it. Just don’t believe that it has a good chance of working, because historically this is the same song-and-dance Kim’s father and grandfather were so good at, just ratcheted-up a few notches for the new century.
Meanwhile the Trump Effect rolls on. If North Korea is “good people” you can work with, apparently Iran is not. The Trump Effect is the way that Trump, by being so ignorant of even the most basic facts about the world, government, or diplomacy, reduces a dialog to fundamentals in order to distract from the specifics. So before we can talk about his willful reneging on the Iran nuke agreement it took years to hammer-out, we have to talk about the basics of protecting your international reputation so that other nations feel it’s reasonable to negotiate with you, and then buttressing that credibility with a clear understanding of good faith negotiating practices. Countries that unilaterally destroy multi-lateral agreements are not going to be viewed as showing good faith. This is the diplomatic code word for they’re a bunch of sorry lying bastards – the same thing we’ve been saying about North Korea for 50 years.