Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all engaged with North Korea as victims of a shake down artist. The North Koreans would promise, repeatedly, to end their nuclear programs and then saber rattle. The United States would send them money. North Korea would continue starving its people while going back to its nuclear program. The United States, it seems, subsidized their program.
Donald Trump decided to do something different. North Korea saber rattled and President Trump decided to reciprocate with threats of war. It was something no one would have expected given past American precedent. It was something new. And the result was forcing North Korea to the table with South Korea and with us. There are lots of liberal complaints and claims that this meant more or less than it did. But Trump forced new actions on North Korea's part by taking new actions himself.
He deserves credit for that.
The problem I have with this is that President Trump gives a monster way more credibility than he should have. Claiming the North Korean people love the monster is too much. President Trump loves to engage in diplomacy by flattery and I think he crossed the line here. Republicans would absolutely be outraged if Obama had done this and they should be here. The North Korean monster imprisons, tortures, and murders his people and does so to a greater degree than any other dictator on the planet right now.
We handed the North Korean leader a huge propaganda victory and treated him better than we treat our own allies. The President said far nicer things about the monster who rules North Korea than about the Canadian Prime Minister. That's just wrong in my mind. The latter is actually an ally and the former would love to send us up in a radioactive fireball.
All that said, if the President can get North Korea to disarm, good. Barack Obama tried several new tactics on the world stage and they ended badly. I'm okay with Trump trying new things too and hope then work out better than with Obama. Our pre-existing North Korean policies have done nothing to stop the advancement of their nuclear weapons program. Perhaps this will.
There is something to be said for getting the little monster to a table to talk. Trump did that. He deserves credit for that. He deserves credit for trying. But I cannot help but think we came away with nothing except more of the same while we handed North Korea more legitimacy than that nation deserves. On top of that, State Department and White House officials say the President did not address human rights issues or the persecution of Christians in North Korea.
Honestly, I would be far more reassured by what happened if I thought there was anyone among the President's base willing to speak out if things go wrong. But I suspect if we do get nothing and North Korea feels emboldened that all the President's seal clappers will clap, just like Obama's team did with Iran.
At least we aren't sending North Korea a pile of cash.