Talk isn’t cheap, but dialogue is priceless.
For all the talk of diplomatic progress, month-long peace talks, first-time meetings canceled and rescheduled, even the proposed (and apparently falsified) dissolution of the North Korean nuclear program, there is still more tension than optimism surrounding the future of the Korean peninsula.
Our situation has nothing to do with nuclear weapons or military border drills. We need to find what Kim wants. The solution to this back and forth is not to threaten the entire DPRK but rather to find a middle ground. What we are doing and have always done is not going to get us anywhere.
Not much has changed rhetorically between the United States and Kim Jong Un’s regime even in the weeks since the historic peace summits began. After threats and posturing from both sides, it seems this week that the once-canceled Singapore meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim is back on, but each passing day brings complications. Although the meeting is historic, the United States is approaching it as we have approached every other facet of political interaction with the DPRK for the last few decades.
Often our leaders refer to the “Lybia model” of diplomacy in North Korea, a grave rhetorical blunder that insinuates Kim’s eventual demise, originally uttered by John Bolton, President Trump’s National security advisor. Bolton has personally authored a published defense of illegally striking North Korea, without provocation, and rightly scares Kim.
It is uncreative and illogical to assume this will work.
Whether President Trump and John Bolton know it, they are engaged in a game of “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” with the Communist dictator. This is basic diplomacy. Kim is trapped between his failing economy and his position as a wanted man to the outside world. Frankly, he has nowhere to turn but towards peace. If we don’t accept that Kim is bargaining only for himself, we cannot help the Korean people.
Proposed solution: we use diplomacy and good ol’ fashioned bribery to placate him and save a quarter of a million people from despotic rule. A carrot, if you will, to match the stick.
We offer him a life more luxurious than the one he juices his population for. The cost of sustaining a despots perpetual vacation is bound to cost less than the price we pay to keep our multi-billion dollar military aimed at him. All told sustaining (and feeding!) the dictator is expensive, but it certainly wouldn’t break the bank. He can have a Chinese style artificial private island in the South China Sea for all it matters.
Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, was offered over $20 million to step aside in the late 80’s. Although Noriega never accepted, and Congress made things difficult, the Noriega Resignation Pact model is worth a fair shake when dealing with North Korea. This gives Kim an out. He will not be strung up in the streets, while firmly asserting our desire and intention to remove him from his hostage nation… one way or the other.
To distrust Kim is sensible; however, to misunderstand him to be ideological would be a grave mistake. To lose faith in Kim’s desire for self-preservation so completely that we forfeit the assurance of our own, would-be catastrophic considering China’s obligation to come to the aid of North Korea in case of an unprovoked attack.
Separate him from his people, weapons, and power with the earthly splendor he loves so much and the long life he is constantly close to losing.
We seem to be playing the game of poker where we should be practicing diplomacy. Though the U.S. is certainly an unrivaled military power, the chips we gamble with are the lives of our young men and women.
Our leaders’ threats have become petty at best, comparing button size rather than exploring of the possibilities for peace— all at the world’s peril. If we consider only a winner take all solution, we will get exactly that: the land between Seoul and China, and millions of misled, dead North Koreans.
Let’s not forget the horrors of war while we threaten the world with a new one. Let us respect our fallen defenders enough to not make many thousands more. Backyard barbeques are much less enjoyable when you spend them remembering young people that should have been there. There is no need for a second Korean War.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.