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Our Long History of Misjudging North Korea By Victor Davis Hanson|

North Korea has befuddled the United States and its Asian allies ever since North Korean leader Kim Il Sung launched the invasion of South Korea in June 1950.

Prior to the attack, the United States had sent inadvertent signals that it likely would not protect South Korea in the event of an unexpected invasion from the north. Not surprisingly, a war soon followed.

General Douglas MacArthur, after leading a brilliant landing at Inchon in September 1950, chased the communists back north of the 38th parallel. In hot pursuit, MacArthur gambled that the Chinese would not invade, as he sought to conquer all of North Korea and unite the peninsula.

As MacArthur barreled northward to the Chinese border during the fall of 1950, the landscaped widened. American supply lines lengthened. MacArthur’s forces thinned. The weather worsened. The days shortened.

Conventional wisdom had been that the Chinese would not invade, given America’s near-nuclear monopoly and likely air superiority. But in November 1950, what eventually would become nearly a million-man Chinese army did just that, pouring southward into the Korean peninsula.

The Chinese and North Koreans pushed the American and United Nations forces past the Demilitarized Zone at the 38th parallel. In January 1951, the Communists retook Seoul after forcing the longest American military retreat in U.S. history.

With the arrival of military genius General Matthew Ridgway, U.S. forces regrouped. In early 1951, Western troops retook Seoul and drove Communist forces back across the 38th parallel. But despite continued success, Western forces chose not to reinvade the north and reunite the country.

Will Trump Play North Korea’s Rigged Game? A cautionary note about the game the Kims have been playing for three generations, Bruce Thornton

The buzz about President Trump’s possible meeting with North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un has been followed by the usual Trumpophobe disdain matched by Trumpophile enthusiasm. But if this recent talk of an unprecedented presidential face-to-face negotiation with Kim turns into a reality, don’t expect much other than photo-ops and diplomatic clichés like “progress” and “productive,” with nothing meaningful accomplished. The Kim dynasty has been playing this game for three generations, and have become masters of exploiting the West’s diplomatic magical thinking that talk alone can stop a determined aggressor.

We know that Trump considers himself a master negotiator, eager to solve intractable foreign policy conflicts. Getting the Norks to denuclearize would be “the greatest deal in the world,” as the president said, something he reminds us his three predecessors could not accomplish. Perhaps the time is ripe. Kim may be feeling pressure from economic sanctions, especially since China has supported U.N. sanctions on their regional pit-bull. Or maybe Kim takes seriously Trump’s “fire and fury” threats, considering that the unconventional Trump may be a Nixonian “crazy” man who just might act on his bluster.

But as a perusal of the history compiled by the Arms Control Association shows, the canny Kims have survived over three decades of sanctions and saber-rattling rhetoric, participated in numerous negotiations and summits, and signed a plethora of agreements they have serially violated. Their aim has been clear throughout: possession of nuclear weapons that can be delivered on missiles capable of reaching the U.S. The vague “concessions” and “concrete actions” expected of the North before talks can begin, not to mention the suggested goal of the talks that North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons, are highly unlikely to be forthcoming.

Trump Administration Implements New Russia Sanctions in Response to Election Interference and Cyber Attacks By Jack Crowe

The Trump administration announced Thursday it is implementing new sanctions against Russian entities and individuals for their roles in election meddling and cyberattacks, in what amounts to the starkest repudiation of the Putin regime since Trump’s election.

The new round of sanctions targets 19 individuals and five entities, including the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin funded digital-propaganda group that sowed discord in the American electorate during the 2016 race by posting incendiary content on social-media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

The announcement coincided with the release of a joint statement by the White House, Britain, France, and Germany chastising Russia for its suspected role in perpetrating a nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter living in the United Kingdom. In the statement, the allies voiced their support for the U.K. and affirmed their belief that Russia was responsible for the attack.

The move, which targets many of the same entities identified by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, comes roughly a month and a half after the administration missed a congressionally mandated deadline for imposing new sanctions in response to Russian election meddling.

The Trump administration was roundly criticized for failing to meet the deadline, stipulated by a bill passed and signed into law in August, with Democratic lawmakers accusing the White House of pandering to Putin.

In addition to election meddling, the sanctions announcement cited a number of cyber attacks, including a previously undisclosed Russian attempt to breach the U.S. energy grid.

“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyberactivity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”


Democracies need different rules of engagement with authoritarian regimes.

“Iknow very well that right now some are trying to isolate Cuba. We Europeans want to show, on the contrary, that we are closer to you than ever,” said Federica Mogherini, the head of the European External Action Service, in a not-so-subtle dig at the Trump Administration. A few weeks later, Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former Prime Minister, pussyfooted on Twitter around Iran’s aggressive posture in the Middle East: “Yes, Iran obviously sent a drone into Israel airspace. Israel regularly violates the airspace of Lebanon and Syria.”

The idea that political dialogue, or engagement on economic and cultural topics, can bridge the gap between countries governed by leaders who are accountable to voters and taxpayers and those pillaged by a narrow predatory elite counts among the worst misconceptions plaguing foreign policy thinking on the political Left and Right. While the two approaches often differ in their prescriptions, Barack Obama’s multilateralism and Donald Trump’s cynical realism are two sides of the same coin, producing much the same effect: to obscure the motivations of leaders of different countries and the particular incentives that they face.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to both. Even though defending Bush-era neoconservatives might not be the most popular of propositions these days, the neoconservative outlook left little space for the illusion that democracies and authoritarian regimes could behave alike in any meaningful respect in the international arena. That insight needs to be re-learned today by both American and European policymakers.

No social scientist would deny that the nature of a political regime—or its institutions—matters a great deal for domestic policy outcomes. Autocracies dependent on natural resource revenue are less likely to supply public goods and be responsive to the wishes of voters and taxpayers than democracies where public revenue comes from general taxation. Governments facing weak political scrutiny will rely on networks of patronage catering to political loyalists instead of providing public goods and a social safety net for the general public. And so on and so forth.

The same logic extends itself easily to foreign policy. When authoritarians engage in “multilateralism” or “dialogue,” they are not doing the same things as liberal democracies. A government that is accountable to voters faces public scrutiny and criticism of its foreign policy decisions. Large and consequential commitments made by liberal democracies—such as EU and NATO membership, for example—do not reflect just the whim of the leaders of the moment but a broader societal consensus, running across political divides. Not even Poland’s Law and Justice Party and Hungary’s Fidesz question the geopolitical decisions that previous governments made after the fall of communism.

Because of a much smaller number of veto players, one should accord a much lower degree of trust to promises made by authoritarians. Not even the staunchest supporters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would dare to argue that the deal means a material shift in the long-term ambitions of Iran’s mullahs, who are likely to scrap it the moment it becomes convenient for them. After all, the regime did not acquiesce to the temporary restrictions on its nuclear program in good faith but only because the Iran Deal also empowered it to play a much more aggressive game in the Middle East.

Let Our Stale Foreign Policy Dogma Leave with Tillerson A golden opportunity awaits to bring real change to the State Department. Bruce Thornton

Rex Tillerson’s departure from the State Department is an opportunity to correct the fossilized received wisdom that for years has hampered our foreign policy. His replacement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, seems likely to rejuvenate State by bringing a more realist philosophy to our relations with the world.

From the start Tillerson was a dubious pick to implement the president’s policies, and his differences with Trump were predicated on the same assumptions evident in Barack Obama’s two terms. Obama is the epitome of the globalist idealism that dominates Western political and business elites. In their view, interstate relations and conflicts are best managed with “supranational constraints on unilateral policies and the progressive development of community norms,” as Oxford professor Kalypso Nicolaides put it. This “security community” favors “civilian forms of influence and action,” rather than military, and the “soft power” international idealists regularly tout to create “tolerance between states” and to “move beyond the relationships of dominance and exploitation” by mean of “integration, prevention, mediation, and persuasion.”

Obama’s disastrous foreign policy mirrored these utopian goals, what the New York Times at the beginning of Obama’s presidency identified as a “renewed emphasis on diplomacy, consultation, and the forging of broad international coalitions.” The Times was quoting Obama. In a 2007 Foreign Affairs article, he highlighted the “need to reinvigorate American diplomacy,” and to “renew American leadership in the world” and “rebuild the alliances, partnerships, and institutions necessary to confront common threats and enhance common security.” These goals, moreover, required toning down expressions of American exceptionalism, which he recommended in 2009, and participating in global affairs “not in the spirit of a patron but in the spirit of a partner–– a partner mindful of his own imperfections.”

Why Tillerson Had to Go By Arthur Herman

In the Trump administration, unconventional, assertive thinking about foreign policy is in; ineffectual, process-driven diplomacy is out.

Of all the abrupt comings and goings in this administration, the dismissal of Rex Tillerson is undoubtedly the most important — maybe one of the most important firings since Harry Truman fired Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

By dismissing MacArthur, Truman drew a firm line between military and civilian authority that no soldier since has dared to cross. By dumping Tillerson, Trump has sent a similarly unambiguous message to the entrenched bureaucracy — Foggy Bottom’s version of the “deep state” — and to America’s political elites about the future direction of U.S. foreign policy, hopefully one that will outlast his administration.

To understand what’s going on, let’s stipulate a couple of things.

First, Rex Tillerson is a man of deeply conventional mindset during a deeply unconventional time, a man with no understanding of the rapidly changing face of world trends, especially but not limited to the rise of China as an aggressively revisionist power; Iran’s determined bid for regional hegemony, including getting nuclear weapons; and the fateful dynamic of Russia’s reassertion of its imperial ambitions in Eastern Europe and against the West under Vladimir Putin.

Second, Trump almost certainly did not realize this when he appointed Tillerson secretary of state. He probably assumed Tillerson would bring a businessman’s mindset to the job, as a hard-headed negotiator with a shrewd nose for good deals sharpened by years as a CEO of a global energy corporation, ExxonMobil. Above all, he assumed Tillerson would be someone like himself, who would immediately recognize the place of American interests in the world, and fight for those interests with energy and boldness.

‘A Foreign Policy for the Left’ Review: Can There Be a ‘Decent’ Left? The editor of Dissent magazine asks his comrades for a more nuanced moral response to America’s use of power abroad. Martin Peretz reviews ‘A Foreign Policy for the Left’ by Michael Walzer.*****

Michael Walzer, now 83, is the unanointed dean of the American left. The editor of Dissent magazine for more than 30 years, he has written a book criticizing his comrades’ foreign policy and, subtly but unmistakably, their worldview. He sees both as morally lacking and advocates something more humane and more engaged.

Mr. Walzer is a leftist not for psychological or emotional reasons but for moral ones. He believes, a priori, in practicing human decency: a moral sensibility toward other people and their existences. He thinks that capitalism’s inequality has coarsened this sensibility but that capital’s productive capacity can be harnessed, through political action, to transcend the capitalist system: to create societies where people can live more equally and so be more decent to one another. The aim is democratic socialism, the means are helping “oppressed men and women to become political agents who control their own lives.”

The danger of this a priori politics is vanguardism, under which acolytes of an ideal believe that the ideal is more important than how they reach it. Where Mr. Walzer differs is that he believes that if the aim is decency, the means must be decent. This requires departing from theory and practicing a politics of distinction, “[paying] close attention to local circumstance and particular histories” and “[thinking] hard about the relation of means to ends.”

It also requires a foreign policy of distinctions, of recognizing that people labor under different kinds of oppression that call for different kinds of responses. And it requires recognizing that local resistance to oppression varies: Sometimes, as in Cuba, people who speak in the name of the oppressed simply want to use them as tools for power. Mr. Walzer is an honest leftist, and he tries to keep his comrades honest, too.

But he isn’t sure whether many of them are. “A Foreign Policy for the Left” reads like an anguished plea to comrades who have strayed so far from a politics of distinction and decency that the author doesn’t know whether they can be brought back. According to Mr. Walzer, the left’s vanguardism has put it in bed with dictators, fanatics and activists who reject reasoned debate as a means to democratic change.

This is most obvious to Mr. Walzer in foreign policy, because it’s so extreme. He gives many examples: leftists’ unwillingness to engage with unionist and feminist allies in Afghanistan and Iraq because American intervention as a force for good didn’t fit their theory of America as a force for evil; their mischaracterization of America’s world reach as totalistic, which allows blame always to ricochet back to us; their lumping in of Israel with despotic and imperialist regimes, ignoring the unique historical situation in which this encircled democracy finds itself; their attraction to thinkers like Judith Butler and Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek —the last of whom preaches, Lenin-like, violence by the few in the name of change. CONTINUE AT SITE

Don’t Meet with Kim NRO

If President Trump indeed conceives of his presidency as a reality-TV show, he pulled off his greatest cliff-hanging plot device yet with his quick agreement to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

This is stunning improvisatory diplomacy and also, we believe, a very bad idea. North Korean leaders have long sought summits with American presidents as the ultimate means of international legitimacy. And what has Kim done to deserve this honor? Over the last nine months or so, he murdered Otto Warmbier, threatened Guam, and launched multiple missile tests, including two that flew over Japan.

Kim reached out for a meeting with Trump via South Korean intermediaries with hazy assurances he is willing to discuss denuclearization. The gambit may reflect the squeeze Pyongyang is feeling from sanctions that the Trump administration has, to its credit, steadily ratcheted up. But it is also straight from the regime’s playbook. Its pattern over the decades has been to buy time and get relief from sanctions, while continuing to pursue its core strategic goal of developing nuclear weapons and an advanced missile capability.

The North may believe that Trump is an easy mark for the latest iteration of this approach. The president is not given to extensive preparation or attention to detail, and his recent White House meetings on immigration and guns demonstrate a negotiator who is eager to tell his interlocutors what they want to hear, even if it is counter to his administration’s policy. Trump will be under pressure from South Korea and from his State Department to be conciliatory, and the temptation to get an agreement, any agreement, to wave around as an against-the-odds diplomatic achievement will be considerable.

The Trump-Kim Summit The President is giving recognition before any nuclear concessions. see note please

The President issued a stark and dark warning, and Little Kim offered to meet….and the President agreed with no pre-conditions….Why does the WSJ sound like the airheads of CNN? rsk

A diplomatic breakthrough is easy when you offer the other side what it wants. And Donald Trump on Thursday gave North Korea something it has long craved: a summit with a sitting U.S. President. Perhaps this will be the start of a stunning nuclear disarmament, but it could also end up in a strategic defeat for the United States and world order.

Mr. Trump doesn’t do normal diplomacy, and this leap to a face-to-face meeting had his impulsive trademarks: spur of the moment in response to a Kim Jong Un offer relayed through South Korean mediators; no vetting with his senior advisers or as far as we can tell our Japanese allies; and no pre-planning. What could go wrong?

Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday that “sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached,” which is somewhat reassuring. But like his predecessors, he is giving the Kim regime a substantial reward before it takes verifiable steps toward denuclearization. Even a brief meeting will boost North Korea’s claim to be a nuclear power that must be given respect and recognition. In return, Kim appears to have given nothing other than the promise not to test his weapons in the interim. He can resume those tests at any time.

Mr. Trump can claim credit for putting the diplomatic and sanctions screws on North Korea to a greater extent than any previous President. And it’s possible that pressure may have hurt the North Korean economy enough that Kim chose this moment to change tack. (The Trump critics who claimed he was trying to blow up the world but now say he’s leaping too fast to diplomacy are especially amusing to watch. They wouldn’t give him credit if Kim disarmed entirely.)

Passing the Torch to China? By Lawrence J. Haas

UNFOLDING EVENTS IN Washington and Beijing raise the disturbing specter of a global passing of the torch from the United States to China, one with frightening implications for freedom and democracy.

First, President Donald Trump seemed to applaud from afar as China’s leader consolidates his power over a more authoritarian government at home, while the regime promotes its model of governance in increasingly aggressive terms abroad. Second, Trump announced that he will slap steep tariffs on steel and aluminum and welcome a trade war that most of the world, and most of his own Republican Party, dreads.

These events may seem unrelated, but they’re really sides of the same coin, for they both signal a U.S. retreat from defending the Western liberal order of free-market capitalism and democratic government that it did so much to nourish in the decades since World War II.

Let’s take these one at a time.

In Beijing, the Communist Party is amending China’s constitution to end presidential term limits, enabling Xi Jinping to remain as party chief and Chinese president for as long as he likes and, thus, become China’s most powerful leader since Mao.