The G-20 Summit and the visit to North Korea may finally signal the turning point for President Donald Trump versus his hawkish advisers. In Osaka, Trump was clearly in command with productive discussions with Xi Jingping and Vladimir Putin. He suspended tariffs on China and made it clear that Russia was not our enemy. Certainly his foray in the demiliarized zone and in North Korea was a rebuke to his hawkish National Security Chief John Bolton, who was a hardliner in Hanoi.
Moreover, his approach to Putin was surprising given the Mueller investigation. He seemed to express regret over sanctions and allowed Turkey to purchase Russian missiles despite American pressure to prevent the Erdogan government from doing just that. As well, Trump decried the Huawei incident and hailed Sino-American relations. Put the Kim Jong Un visit into the mix and it was quite a weekend.
Also despite the administration’s claim it was spontaneous it bore all the marks of careful planning. The week before Trump canceled an air-strike on Iran along with Xi Jingping’s visit to Pyongyang to visit Kim gave evidence of a serious engagement with America’s rivals. Unlike other summits where Trump has aimed rude digs to his allies, he appeared professional and prepared. And unlike past summits his reviews were good. Even when it came to Iran, he began to show the same disposition that he displayed with North Korea, harsh at the outset, but heading gradually to a softer conclusion. Maybe the lovers of style were disappointed but not those who favor substance.
Of course the usual critics decry that Trump is too soft on Putin. But at the same time they decry Trump’s sometimes rough “fire and fury” rhetoric. The denizens or ex-denizens of the CIA, FBI, NSC and those who sit on the council on foreign relations act a as if Trump is out of the main stream. Yet they applauded George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s more duplicitous methods of making an agreement and slowly tried to destabilize the government they struck the bargain with. These so called experts seem to think that shaking hands and creating failed states is the better way to go. Their record is not promising. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya all bear testament to just how benevolent that crowd is.
Trump has had to fight both groups. Many former George W. Bush officials and those who served Barack Obama are united in opposing Trump. The small groups of Republican insurgents believe they can hijack the Democratic Party on foreign policy. It is a fools errand, but they desperately want to belong to an administration and start up the war machine. After all, did not Obama place Bush associate Robert Gates as a secretary of defense? Perhaps they already hijacked a Democratic administration and few noticed. If Democrats follow neo-Conservatives down that road, they deserve defeat in 2020.
Despite his rough ways and uncertain manners, Trump has so far been a man of peace. He backed off Venezuela, North Korea, China, Russia and in the future maybe Iran will be added to that list. His approach surely is superior to the moralism of the past.