There is much talk recently about history. Making it and repeating it. Neither man nor media defines such events. The ultimate arbiter of history is time. And, regardless if it is years or ages that pass, that final judgment may all hinge on whether this past week is credit due or credit risk.
It’s not just about North Korea, though Trump’s administration would surely like to make it so. No, the entire week may be historic, or not, for all that has ensued. Let’s examine.
Trump spent a great deal of time on the campaign making bold promises. He banks upon his reputation as “the great deal maker”. If we assume that his claims are based in fact, this past week reflects serious promise fulfillment.
– Fair trade. A signature argument that Trump has made for decades is that America is taken advantage of by its allies. So, he took the time at the recent meeting of allies in an economic forum (known as the G7) to state America will no longer tolerate tariffs on its goods.
– America first. In concordance with the above, Trump also made good his promise to punish those countries that “unfairly” trade with us. All of these previous trade agreements, he says, are bad deals for America. So, he has halted some and threatened others.
– North Korea. Trump appreciates being the “best” at anything. To be the first man to “bring peace” to the Korean peninsula is a record-breaking accomplishment. Just a few months ago, we were talking nuclear war (admittedly exacerbated by Trump’s own bellicose language). Now we are at least talking diplomacy.
All this in a single week. Remarkable.
Trump has indeed fancied himself as a great deal maker. Unfortunately, he has torn up more deals (TPP, Paris Accord, Iran nuclear agreement) than he has made (none). So, it makes sense he would be desperate for an image-boosting deal.
– Allies. This would be a no-win for Trump. Agreeing to someone else’s deals doesn’t get him any credit. Better to “blow it up” by alienating our allies and call them names. And 70 years of world order brokered after the horrors of a World War are disintegrated 280 characters at a time.
– Trade wars. First, Trump claims they are easy to win. Then, he claims we’re not really in one. Finally, he slaps tariffs on friend and foe without distinction, leading to counter-tariff threats. Trump is writing checks he will not have to pay. That will fall on all the citizens of the free world.
– North Korea. The leader of North Korea is a confirmed murderer, torturer, abuser and enslaver. Trump gave this man the following:
– Worldwide legitimacy equal to the (formerly) greatest nation on earth
– Statements from the holder of the office of the presidency of the United States that he was honored to meet North Korea’s leader. Honored!
– An invitation to the White House
– A promise to cease joint military exercises along the Korean border
The great deal maker got back this in return:
– A piece of paper saying North Korea would be “firm and unwavering” in pursuing denuclearization
That’s it. That’s the great deal. And he thought Iran’s deal was one-sided!
The leader of North Korea (murderer, torturer, abuser and enslaver) signed a paper with no details saying he was going to get around to denuclearizing. Someday (since no date was stipulated).
It’s not a stretch to think that the leader of North Korea (murderer, torturer, abuser and enslaver) might not be telling the truth. It would be the least of his sins.
Trump accomplished this all in a single week. Remarkable.
Such events do exist within history. If you do not recognize the man in the picture above, his name is Neville Chamberlain. Look either him or the word “appeasement” up. Time has not judged the moment well.
And, once again, time will have its say. Whether we have just witnessed history anew, history repeating itself or even no history at all, time will be the judge. And that judgment may well hinge on whether there is credit due or credit risk.