This new diplomatic proclamation reminds me of something a Twitter pal (can’t remember who) said after this legendary Trump tweet last week:
Given Trump’s track record of threatening nuclear annihilation of North Korea only to end up bro-hugging Kim Jong Un in Singapore, said the Twitter pal, his tweet-threat to Iran is actually the most hopeful sign of Republican diplomacy with the mullahs in ages.
And now here we are:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 30, 2018
“I remember when talking with Iran without preconditions was bad,” sniffed Ben Shapiro, pointing to this famous clip from a 2007 Democratic primary debate. Me too. Right-wing media dined out on Obama’s support for that position for days after the debate, for good reason. As the more powerful party to the negotiation, the United States should demand concessions from Iran simply to get us to the table. Now that President Deals has blessed the approach, though, it’s instantly right-wing orthodoxy.
And so, a thought experiment: How will Republicans affect outrage the next time there’s a Democrat in the White House who wants to go this route? I tried to put a positive spin on Trump’s Iran comments this afternoon by posting a tweet of my own: “Anyone who thinks the GOP is too bellicose (which is a lot of people) should take some solace in Trump’s outreach to NK and Iran. After this, Republicans will never again be able to attack a Dem for wanting to meet with enemies w/o preconditions.” And immediately I was hammered by leftists insisting that of course Republicans will attack a Democratic president for wanting to do this. It’s ludicrous to expect an ounce of intellectual consistency. We spent eight years complaining about Obama’s golfing only to have Trump on the links nearly every weekend now, and no one says boo. Right, but my point wasn’t that Republicans won’t try to attack Democrats for diplomacy without preconditions. It was that today’s invitation to Iran plus the Singapore summit gives Dems unimpeachable evidence that the GOP is just fine with this approach. If Ted Cruz tries to get chesty with the left in 2024 for being too willing to talk to bad guys, they’ll grind his face in the clips of Trump.
…But it’s not that simple, is it? That’s what I mean by my thought experiment — clearly Cruz and others will come armed with arguments to explain why Trump agreeing to meet without preconditions was pure MAGA awesomeness while Obama agreeing to do it was Cuck Central. The obvious, and strongest, one will point to the relative strength of their bargaining positions. Obama signaled willingness to meet even before taking office; Trump signaled it only after threatening each country with nuclear war. It’s one thing to meet without preconditions when the enemy knows you’ll avoid war at all costs, it’s another to do it when they think you just might be crazy enough to launch. And it’s not as if Trump has been all talk on Iran. He tore up Obama’s nuclear deal to show that he’s willing to place the two countries back on more of a war footing.
Yet the fact remains that, absent preconditions, these summits can and will be interpreted as rewards for bad behavior:
POTUS ready to reward the largest state sponsor of terror w/ the legitimacy of a presidential summit. It’s the foreign policy Obama ran on in 2008. => https://t.co/V9q0by7dVC
— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) July 30, 2018
Ideally a presidential audience is what you get after you’ve renounced certain bad behavior and stuck to it. Trump might frame the North Korea summit that way, in fact — they scaled back nuclear and missile tests for several months so they got a biscuit from the U.S. But of course they never would have gotten that biscuit if they hadn’t advanced to becoming a true nuclear threat in the first place. Iran’s likely to learn a lesson from that. Hold off on a summit for now, work quietly towards nuclear breakout, and then invite Trump to meet when the balance of power between the two sides is more equal. Meeting now and having diplomacy fall apart would be risky for Iran since Trump might conclude that talks are pointless, which might make him more inclined to attack. The smartest approach for them, I think, would be to string him along for as long as possible, teasing just enough interest in diplomacy to keep the U.S. military at bay until Iran has a nuclear deterrent. I’m sure Bibi Netanyahu would be a good sport and let that play out on Iran’s timetable, no?
Update: Well, here we are. Is North Korea already following the string-him-along approach?
U.S. spy agencies are seeing signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, according to officials familiar with the intelligence.
Newly obtained evidence, including satellite photos taken in recent weeks, indicates that work is underway on at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs at a large research facility in Sanumdong, on the outskirts of Pyongyang, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe classified intelligence.