Dad and I got to watch Elizabeth Warren on Meet the Press this morning when I dropped by. We both loved that she stuck to her guns on going after Democrats that backed banking deregulation. ‘Nobody is tougher on the banks’ my dad said. She then began criticizing President Trump for being willing to meet face to face with Kim Jong Un. She was specifically worried he would be ‘taken advantage of’.
She went on to modify her initially strong criticism by saying she favors diplomacy, that Trump should not have gutted the State Department, and that his military threats made the situation worse. That said, I was initially dumbfounded that one of the smarter moves Trump has made on foreign policy was treated with such skepticism by someone as smart as Elizabeth Warren.
I was also struck that otherwise sensible liberals like David Ignatius were calling on Trump to do more in Syria. The logic that America needs to do more in the Middle East despite our nearly two decade record of failure in influencing the region for the better is lost on me. It is lost on most of America, particularly the parts of the country outside the Acela Corridor that due the bulk of the fighting and dying for Washington’s wars. Wars that always seem to have more bipartisan cheerleaders than regulating Wall Street or reforming the American health care system.
Warren’s remarks on the North Korea gambit seemed to fall into that same camp. A view that diplomacy and peaceful solutions are naive, and only sanctions (which the UN Charter considers an act of economic warfare) backed by the threat of military force are the mark of a serious American foreign policy. The reality is, America can live with North Korean nuclear weapons. The 60 or so bombs the regime is bankrupting and starving itself to produce are no match for the 7,200 or so warheads our country commands at it’s disposal. A system about to undergo a half a trillion dollar modernization program started under President Obama and doubled by President Trump.
The Kims are evil, but they are not suicidal. Their nuclear weapons are purely an insurance policy against American regime change. Rather than the work of an evil mad man, as even mainstream media outlets and liberal opinion makers make him out to be, they are the work of a calculating politician who recognizes that America rewarded Iraq and Libyan disarmament with unilateral regime change. That the Iranian regime has to rely on an unreliable American partner to live up to its ever changing word on their nuclear disarmament deal.
It is in this climate that the prospect of Trump cutting a deal actually makes some sense. Kim wants international legitimacy, which he got through the joint Olympic moves and will get from a summit. He wants Western investment in his starving country, which he could get from an Iran style disarmament agreement. He has a cooperative South willing to come to a deal. A Japan more focused on Chinese aggression than his regime. A China that is increasingly impatient with subsidizing its junior partner. A Russia more focused on Europe and the Near East than its East Asian backyard. The American left should be cheerleading this overture to realism and common sense, rather than embracing the skepticism of the failed Washington establishment that force is always preferable to engagement.