Friday, April 21, 2017 at 7:53 AM

‘Leading from Behind’ – Trump Depending on China to Protect US from North Korea

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

President Obama reportedly warned President-Elect Trump that dealing with a belligerent North Korea will be his most urgent and vexing foreign-policy challenge.

Sure enough, the consensus among world leaders today is that North Korea poses an existential threat not just to its neighbors but even to the United States.

The Kremlin has sent Russian troops to the border of North Korea as a precautionary measure should armed conflict break out.

The move apparently follows Beijing’s deployment of 150,000 soldiers to the China’s frontier with the rogue state.

(Asia Times, April 21, 2017 2:20 AM UTC+8)

Therefore, you’d think Trump would seize this opportunity to demonstrate the strong leadership he boasts about, which he repeatedly accused Obama of failing to demonstrate throughout his presidency.

Instead, Trump is making a mockery of America’s much vaunted leadership by bartering with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ensure the safety and security of the mighty United States.

Here is a little of the word-salad response he gave to a question about dealing with North Korea during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni at the White House earlier today:

As far as North Korea is concerned, we are in very good shape, we’re building our military rapidly, a lot of things have happened over the last short period of time, been here for approximately 91 days we’re doing a lotta work. … I can’t answer your question [about Kim Jong-un’s mental stability], I hope the answer is a positive one not a negative one, but hopefully that will be something that gets taken care of.

I have great respect for the president of China … we got to know each other and I think like each other, I can say from my stand point that I liked him very much, I respect him very much and I think he’s working very hard. …

I actually told him, I said, ‘You’ll make a much better deal on trade if you get rid of this menace or do something about the menace of North Korea, because that’s what it is, it’s a menace right now.’

(WhiteHouse.gov, April 20, 2017)

Now just imagine the torrent of criticism if this were Obama offering China trade concessions to protect the United States from a North Korean nuclear attack. Hell, Republicans were accusing him of treason for merely forging an agreement with other nuclear powers to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. And, unsurprisingly, Trump was in the vanguard of those tweeting damning criticisms.

But really, what kind of profile in leadership would JFK have demonstrated if he had tried to solve the Cuban Missile Crisis by offering the Soviet Union trade concessions to remove those nukes?

So, where’s the outrage?

Frankly, I’m beginning to feel like the proverbial John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness about Trump’s hypocrisy in this respect. “Trump ‘Leading from Behind’ as World Reacts to (Latest) North Korean Nuclear Test,” February 14, 2017, is a testament my abiding outrage.

That said, a key feature of Trump’s “art of the deal” seems to be stroking egos and begging for favors. This was on full display during Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s recent visit to the White House. Bear in mind that Obama found this president’s human rights abuses so abhorrent, he refused to invite him. Trump showed no such scruples. In fact, he lavished so much praise on al-Sisi, you’d be forgiven for thinking Trump regarded him as a latterday Winston Churchill.

Of course, Trump would argue that this was all part of a deal to get al-Sisi to do things, including redoubling efforts to combat ISIS and releasing American aid worker Aya Hijazi from an Egyptian prison. Significantly, she languished for three years as al-Sisi snubbed Obama’s self-righteous overtures to secure her release.

Trump could argue further that every president has sacrificed a settled democratic principle for an expedient political goal at one point or another. And, the Faustian bargain successive US presidents, including Obama, struck with the constitutionally undemocratic leaders of Saudi Arabia would support his contention.

The difference with Trump, however, is that there seems to be no principle he would not sacrifice to strike a deal with any foreign leader – no matter how lofty the principle, insignificant the deal, or unsavory the leader. The all too foreseeable consequences of his willingness to do so are untenable. That is especially so in this case — given that Xi is playing him for a fool with hollow promises and Jong-un is adding danger to this mockery by ramping up his nuclear brinkmanship.

Related commentaries:
Trump leading from behind
North Korea potemkin military parade

* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 8:12 p.m.

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