I’m writing this just as Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un is wrapping up. So far as we know things went very well. Summing up at the conclusion, Trump said, “We both want to do something. We both are going to do something. And we have developed a very special bond.”
Personal bonds between parties are among the strongest forces for deals to get done. If Trump’s dictatorial, “take no prisoners”, grandiose, bellicose, even obnoxious personal tactics actually resonate with Kim’s same style and gets this deal done than, thank God – we have a Man for Our Times and a Man of the Hour. And sincerely so.
Trump once told “Little Rocket Man” we had bigger nukes than he and implied we wouldn’t hesitate to use them. Perhaps dictator-style bullying with giant nukes against petty dictators with little atom bombs is what it takes to get things moving. I can’t second guess that.
What we do know is that a “statement is signed” and the statement in and of itself deescalates a whole bunch of bad feelings and provocative actions and who knows but in five years your next Samsung TV will ship out of North Korea and quality cheap sneakers will cost five bucks thanks to Trump and Kim doing man-hugs. You might even someday be driving a North Korean electric car and imagine that?
Truly, if this goes down right, Trump gets mucho credit and no one can take it away. There’s no “buts” on this.
There are however, “Ands.”
And, this same week, we saw and heard the same Donald Trump malign not only Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada but all the other G-7 leaders, who seem to be quickly becoming the G-6 plus one. That the Canadian Prime Minister is “weak and a liar.” That, “Trudeau had “stabbed Trump in the back.”
Trump maligned other G-7 members of betraying the U.S. and of poor dealing. He threatened Germany about cars. Canada about dairy cars. Trump ditched the G-7 meeting early and moved on to bask in the spotlight in Singapore.
During that summit, Donald Trump said of his new North Korean dictator friend, “He is very talented,” citing Kim’s ability to, “take over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and run it, and run it tough.” Yeah run it tough, like an international crime organization and murderous mafia family. Yet of the Prime Minister of one of the world’s finest democracies, Trump says, “Very dishonest and weak.”
Germany’s Angela Merkel commented that Germany may no longer be able to count on its U.S. ally. France’s Macron said, “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6-country agreement if need be. Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it…”
Trump alienates our best allies while all but makes love to dictators Putin and Kim. Birds of a feather?
Meanwhile, this very same week, Carrie and I visited Berlin. We saw the Wall that separated families for decades. We saw the communist East German guard posts from which citizens were murdered. We studied the Berlin Blockade and the Allies’ responding Berlin Airlift, when England, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.S. sent a continuous stream of cargo planes to West Berlin at up to 20 flights per hour for 14 straight months, keeping 2 million Berliners alive and functioning until the Soviets relented on their own bullying attempts.
Later, these same allied nations fought in the wars the U.S. decided to wage, like Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and Iraq II – often when they had little self interest in it other than to repay the U.S. for when we stood up for them. We all gave and gave alike. Friendships and bonds forged in friendship, blood, money, effort, give and take over decades.
Perhaps Trump should take a long tour through Europe before he unleashes his loose tongue again. Perhaps he should visit Berlin instead of Moscow. He should see the wall his Russian friends built. He should study the Berlin Airlift. He might consider what the Soviets did to Germany and to Eastern Europe and have done again to the Ukraine before he heaps so much continuous praise on Russia, urging their inclusion back into the leading group of democratic industrial nations when they are neither democratic nor a leading industrial nation. He should study history and learn from it before the bull in the China shop act actually breaks something very valuable.
Our fathers and grandfathers fought and bled and gave and took to build what became the G-7 nations, united in democracy and liberal economics. We jointly stood against dictatorships and repression of rights.
Today Trump is very correct to open channels with North Korea and build peace. And kudos if he gets it done. Yet, he is very wrong to minimize and trivialize our brothers in both values and in arms, while praising the actions and values of dictators like Putin and Kim.
President Trump: Remember walls and gulags and torture and repression. Hold our friends in higher esteem than our enemies. We don’t strengthen our values by maligning our allies while promoting leaders with values so very contradictory to our own. Remember the bonds that were established long before you and hopefully will last long after. This, along with new friendships and hopefully newly freed peoples you are working towards.
Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column, “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.