Modestly disclaiming credit for himself, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that if anyone deserves a Nobel prize for bringing peace to Korea, it’s Donald Trump. You don’t need to have watched Fox News; you can just imagine the giddy delight with which the Fox folk received this idea. Trump, barely in office for a year and a candidate for the Nobel at the suggestion of one of our major allies! Of course, the liberal elite will never give him the credit for it, but Trump done it! He finally got tough on North Korea and they folded.
Maybe I turned Fox off too soon (I can only stand to watch it for so long) but I didn’t hear any of its commentators offer the obvious explanation for Moon’s remark. Like Macron, like the Saudis, and like anybody else who’s paying attention, Moon knows that the way to Trump’s favor is through flattery. Keep stroking his ego and maybe, hopefully, Trump won’t screw up this chance for peace.
But am I just one of those elite liberals who won’t give Trump credit for anything? Actually, I do give Trump a little bit of credit. He could have kept his word and refused to talk to Kim Jong-un until the latter nuke-disarmed unilaterally. Instead, he is now planning to meet Kim. We can’t know the outcome of that meeting, assuming it does come off, but it’s a positive step. It opens up a possibility of progress, and even just a possibility is a good thing.
But that’s it. The idea that Kim finally came round because he was cowed by Trump is nonsense. As Kevin Drum shows, the US and the international community have been ratcheting up pressure on North Korea for years. Trump turned the heat up some more, but the increase was incremental rather than dramatic. Trump’s only original contribution to the incipient Korean peace process was to threaten to incinerate North Korea and to trade adolescent insults with its leader. That hardly seems like a basis for a Nobel peace prize.
And, while we’re talking about the benefits of toughness, maybe we have to give credit to Kim Jong-un. Build some nukes, show you can even maybe deliver them some day, and the tough-talking Americans will come running to the bargaining table! So, I suppose you could say: if anyone deserves a Nobel for bringing peace to Korea….