When I read the title of Eli Lake’s post at Bloomberg View, “The Alternative to Nuclear War Is a Revolution”, I immediately turned to it. Somewhat to my surprise he meant in North Korea rather than here:
The most depressing aspect of the current North Korean crisis is that even if Donald Trump wins, he loses.
Despite doubling down on his rhetoric of “fire and fury” and deriding his predecessors for failed negotiations, Trump looks like he wants to eventually strike a deal with the nation’s tyrant, Kim Jong Un. Just look at what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is doing. Trump threatens war and Tillerson promises no regime change. Remember it was only a few months ago that Trump said he would be honored to meet with Kim. The president’s recent bellicosity aims for deterrence and leverage.
In substance, if not style, this is very similar to how past administrations have approached the Hermit Kingdom: threaten, cajole and bargain. “This is Obama plus,” Michael Auslin, a Korea expert at the Hoover Institution, told me. “It’s the same path of enhanced sanctions with the potential carrot of direct negotiations and trying to reassure our allies. There is not much different here.”
He calls for patience and imagination in our dealings with North Korea:
The imaginative part is to continue to give North Koreans a glimpse of a better future. Tom Malinowski, who served as President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, wrote in Politico in June that the U.S. should continue to flood North Korea with information. This may sound strange. But in recent years, the state’s ability to control information has waned. More and more Koreans living there have access to portable DVD players and cell phones, which are tools to break the state’s control over the minds of their citizens.
That’s actually the argument for normalizing relations with North Korea as quickly and as much as possible, sometimes called the “blue jeans strategy”. It has been claimed that one of the factors behind the fall of the Soviet Union was due to Western visitors bringing blue jeans and other consumer goods in plenty on their trips to the Soviet Union. It gave the lie to the Kremlin’s propaganda claims.
I think he’s underestimating how totalitarian the Kim regime is.