Trumpistas and President Trump himself are undoubtedly pacing the floor over whether the president will receive his Nobel Prize for securing peace in Korea after all, given North Korea’s threat yesterday to cancel the planned June 12 summit between North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Trump. Until yesterday, all that was left was the uncorking of the champagne bottles.
Will Trump secure a deal with North Korea that will get him his Nobel? Anything is possible. But I’ve got my doubts.
As I have indicated before, both sides to the controversy — the U.S. government and the North Korean government — have positions that up to now have been intractable. The U.S. government wants North Korea to destroy its nuclear weapons and submit to extensive verification procedures. The North Korean government wants to be certain that it is being removed from the U.S. government’s list of regime-change targets.
Here is one basic problem: The U.S. government, especially the Pentagon and the CIA, remain committed to regime change in communist North Korea, just as they remain committed to regime change in communist Cuba. Insofar as those two communist regimes are concerned, the Cold War never ended for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment.
Here is another basic problem: Korea is none of the U.S. government’s business, given that the conflict is a civil war, no different from America’s civil war. Korea’s civil war is no more the business of the U.S. government, than America’s civil war was the business of Korea. Never was and never will be.
But the U.S. government has made Korea’s civil war its business, just as it made Vietnam’s civil war its business. And while it has seemingly given up on the situation in Vietnam, it has never been able to let go of its desire to bring about regime change in North Korea, one that would bring a pro-U.S. regime into power, which would then enable U.S. officials to establish military bases and missiles on the Korean-China border, just as they hoped to do on the Ukraine-Russia border.
That’s what the sanctions on North Korea are all about. For that matter, it is what the economic embargo on Cuba is all about. Regime change. U.S. officials hope that by bringing impoverishment and death to the North Korean and Cuban populaces, they can bring down the two communist regimes and have them replaced with right-wing dictatorships that are pro-U.S., much like the Pinochet regime that U.S. officials installed in Chile or the military regime that they support and partner with today in Egypt.
That’s precisely why North Korea saw the need to develop a nuclear weapons capability. It is just another classic example of “blowback” from U.S. interventionism abroad. From North Korea’s perspective, it was the only way to deter the U.S. government from effecting a military regime-change operation, as the Pentagon and the CIA inflicted on Iraq and Afghanistan. If North Korea could strike the continental United States with a nuclear missile, the North Korean thinking went, that just might be enough to deter U.S. officials from attacking and invading North Korea.
The strategy certainly worked in Cuba. As part of the deal for removing Soviet missiles installed in Cuba, President Kennedy vowed that the Pentagon and the CIA would not invade Cuba again (which was partly why the national security establishment considered him a coward, appeaser, and traitor).
Here’s the rub though: While later U.S. officials have complied with JFK’s vow insofar as Cuba is concerned, they have broken their word in other areas. That raises the critical question: How do North Koreans trust the U.S. government to keep its word after they have destroyed the one thing that is serving as a deterrent to a U.S. military regime-change operation?
Consider Libya. U.S. officials led Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to believe that if he just gave up his nuclear capability, he would be safe and secure. He fell for the deal, and U.S. officials double-crossed him. He was made the target of a regime-change operation that left him not only removed from power but also dead.
Look at Iran. President Trump has just reneged on an agreement in which Iran gave up its nuclear program in return for normalized relations (i.e., no more sanctions) with the United States and Europe. Having fallen for the deal, the Iranians have now been double-crossed. They now have no nuclear program and yet they are now being made, once again,the target of brutal sanctions, which are intended to bring starvation and death to the Iranian people as a way to get regime change in Iran.
So, the question is this: Why would North Korea give up the one thing that might deter a U.S. regime-change operation when the U.S. government cannot be trusted to keep its part of the bargain? Even if Trump says he’ll keep his word, who’s to say that a subsequent president will keep Trump’s word? Trump certainly isn’t keeping President Obama’s word with respect to the Iran agreement.
And then there is the matter of U.S. troops in South Korea. The Pentagon is not about to permit Trump to pull them out. They need Korea to be a flashpoint, one that helps those ever-increasing military budgets coming out of Congress. But from the standpoint of North Korea, as long as the U.S. military remains in South Korea, it will easily be able to come up with some bogus excuse for initiating a massive bombing campaign, just as it did with Iraq.
Maybe Trump and his Trumpsters are right. Maybe the president will get his Nobel Peace Prize after all. Maybe North Korea will, in fact, end up trusting U.S. officials and destroy the one thing that might deter a U.S. attack on North Korea. Anything is possible. It certainly could happen.
Color me skeptical. As I have repeatedly stated, the solution to the Korea situation is for the U.S. government to simply butt out, lift its sanctions, bring all U.S. troops home, and leave Korea to the Koreans, something that U.S. officials should have done almost 70 years ago.