Foreign Policy

Trump Retires Peace at Any Price Doctrine

Those reflexively invested in criticizing Trump's approach to foreign policy will remain skeptical.

Arnold Ahlert · May 29, 2018

No doubt to the chagrin of many progressives and their Leftmedia allies, “peace at any price” is no longer the operative concept at the White House.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, released last Thursday. “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

After that, Trump made it clear that certain realities remain immutable. “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he added.

The rest of the letter was quite conciliatory. Trump wrote he was still looking forward to meeting Kim, and thanked him for the release of the hostages, a move he characterized as a “beautiful gesture” that was “very much appreciated.” He also left the door open for Kim to change his mind, calling this “missed opportunity” a “truly sad moment in history.”

By contrast, Democrats couldn’t contain their happiness at having another opportunity to bash Trump. “I think that the president’s attitude that somehow we’re bigger and stronger and you’re not is something that you would expect from a kindergarten child, but not from the president of the United States,” stated New York Congressman Eliot Engel, top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Nancy Pelosi declared that Kim “must be having a giggle fit right there in North Korea,” and asserted that the summit’s cancellation made Kim “the big winner.” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisted Trump had “weakened and further isolated the United States,” and that “mercurial diplomacy will only damage U.S. partnerships in the region and jeopardize our national security.”

These duplicitous phonies and their fellow travelers have conveniently short memories. Here are a few words, courtesy of former president Bill Clinton, to refresh them. “This agreement will help achieve a longstanding and vital American objective — an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula,” Clinton stated on Oct. 18, 1994. “This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world.”

Not exactly. Despite Clinton promising more than $4 billion in energy aid, and providing supplies of heavy oil to North Korea to freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program, the hard-line Communist regime continued pursuing nuclear weapons. Moreover, presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were equally ineffective in changing the trajectory of the Hermit Kingdom. Thus the notion that Trump has messed things up, or legitimized Kim Jong-un, is absurd.

In fact it was North Korea that apparently believed it had another American president so invested in making a deal he would abide threats and insults to do so. Thus when North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs Choe Son Hui referred to Vice President Mike Pence as “a political dummy” for suggesting Libya was a possible model for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program — and warned that Pyongyang could “make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined” — those for whom diplomacy and appeasement are interchangeable terms expected the Trump administration to ignore the outburst.

That’s because the same appeasers championed the Iran deal, despite the nation’s mullahs routinely firing up the masses with chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” They were fine when the Obama administration made a $400 million cash payment — soon thereafter revealed to be a staggering $1.7 billion payment — to the regime in exchange for hostages. They also bought the administration’s lie that it wasn’t a ransom payment, even though it was conditioned on the release of those hostages.

The Left has focused on the aforementioned assertion, first made by National Security Advisor John Bolton, that the so-called “Libya model” for relinquishing nukes was the deal-breaker, omitting the inconvenient facts that the Bush administration won that concession, while the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya led to the murder of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi. A murder former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found amusing. “We came, we saw, he died,” she joked at the time.

Nonetheless, Trump made it clear the Libya model isn’t part of the equation. As for Bolton, columnist Eli Lake has the right take, noting that he “knows the nuclear file and rogue states better than almost anyone else in the foreign policy establishment.” Lake adds, “If anyone will know a tough nuclear agreement, it’s the man who has spent the last three years trying to get America out of the weak one Barack Obama cut with Iran.”

That deal epitomized peace at any price — a reality emphasized when Obama himself admitted it would only delay, not prevent, Iran’s entry into the nuclear weapons club.

Thankfully, Trump appears committed to getting a real deal, not one where Kim gets a host of incentives such as diplomatic recognition, an end to the sanctions and a peace treaty before giving up his nukes. Columnist Harry J. Kazianis explains why, writing, “North Korea will always be North Korea, and Kim Jong Un is a brutal, lying dictator who can’t be trusted.”

And as Lake reminds us, referencing Ronald Reagan’s refusal to terminate America’s Strategic Defense Initiative anti-missile defense system when he met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, “sometimes you win by walking away.”

Reagan was roundly criticized for that move. Three years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.

Over the holiday weekend it became even more apparent Trump’s no-nonsense approach was bearing fruit. On Saturday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim convened for an unannounced summit. On Sunday, Moon insisted Kim had reaffirmed his commitment to “completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula” and that the meeting’s details were “conveyed to the U.S.” Also on Saturday, Trump himself stated plans for the June 12 summit were “moving along pretty well.”

In another unrelated (or is it?) development that occurred over the weekend, Joshua Holt, an American accusing of spying for the CIA and jailed in Venezuela as a result, was freed by President Nicolás Maduro’s anti-American government. And while Trump appreciated the gesture, he made it clear it would not precipitate a change in policy: Maduro’s recent reelection is still viewed as “illegitimate,” and oil sanctions against the Maduro regime are still on the table.

Regardless, those reflexively invested in criticizing Trump’s approach to foreign policy will remain skeptical. Perhaps they might explore another president’s take on the subject: “There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.” That was George Washington, Dec. 3, 1793.

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