Wednesday, April 18, 2018

1.5 cheers for direct talks with Kim Jong-Un

If Donald Trump weren't president, I would think this is a clearly positive development. I have never bought the claim that talking to bad people is bad. In fact, I have long maintained that the U.S. should talk to everyone, even terrible human-rights abusing people.

It also makes no difference to me that Trump sent the CIA Director and not someone from the State Department for that secret meeting with Kim. Pompeo is practically Secretary of State (he is nominated but not yet confirmed, and I have little doubt he will be confirmed even if the Senate Foreign Relations Committee doesn't give him a favorable recommendation). It's not like CIA Directors haven't made secret diplomatic visits for other administrations. Plus, even if Trump wanted to use a diplomat for the trip, who would he use? We don't have a Secretary of State right now, eight of the top ten State Department posts are vacant, Trump hasn't bothered to nominate anyone to be Assistant Secretary of Far Eastern Affairs, or Ambassador to South Korea. There really isn't anyone else to make a trip like that other than the Director of the CIA/likely next Secretary of State.

One thing I'm curious about though: what happened to all those people who assumed that talking meant surrendering back in 2008 when Obama was running for president and had the temerity to suggest he would talk to bad actors? It used to be a common conservative objection to any attempt to find a non-war solution to a foreign policy issue. Talking isn't surrendering. Or at least it doesn't have to be if you have a good negotiator. I just wish we didn't have such a terrible negotiator right now.