Macron’s German Challenge, What America Should Attempt in Syria

Emmanuel Macron Alexis Tsipras Angela Merkel
French president Emmanuel Macron, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak during a NATO summit in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

Eric Maurice writes in EUobserver that French president Emmanuel Macron’s biggest challenges comes from Berlin, where Angela Merkel and her conservative party are skeptical of plans to create a European Monetary Fund and establish a European deposit insurance scheme to protect savers:

Although the two plans were initiated by the EU before Macron took them, their rejection would signal a clear rebuttal of the French president’s more ambitious proposals for the longer term.

Merkel hasn’t ruled out a European Monetary Fund, but — like the Dutch and other deficit hawks in the north of Europe — she wants it to be an “intergovernmental”, as opposed to an EU-led, institution.

Germany isn’t in favor of creating a eurozone budget and finance minister either.

I predicted in September that these would be the most difficult items on Macron’s wishlist, but other things are still doable: harmonizing corporate tax rates and asylum procedures, creating an EU military intervention force, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. Read more “Macron’s German Challenge, What America Should Attempt in Syria”

Trump Agrees to Meet Kim, Trans Pacific Partnership Continues Without Him

Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un to meet one-on-one. It would be the first time a sitting American president met with the North Korean dictator.

North Korea craves international legitimacy, which the United States have deliberately withheld. Trump’s break with decades of policy is risky — but it’s not if existing policy has worked. North Korea remains a rogue state. It has only continued its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The challenge now, as Fred Kaplan writes in Slate, is organizing a careful diplomacy that includes coordinating common negotiating positions with Japan and South Korea.

Unfortunately, Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to Seoul. The State Department’s top North Korea expert has resigned. None of the three top foreign-policy officials in Trump’s government — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — have much experience in Asia.

Also read this thread by Robert E. Kelly about why Korea hands are skeptical. Read more “Trump Agrees to Meet Kim, Trans Pacific Partnership Continues Without Him”

Don’t Risk War with North Korea: Experts

American F-16 fighter jet
American F-16 fighter jet at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, May 4, 2016 (USAF/Nick Wilson)

American president Donald Trump’s advisors have floated the possibility of what they call a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal reports that officials are “quietly debating whether it’s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.”

Experts doubt it. Read more “Don’t Risk War with North Korea: Experts”

Trump Contradicts Chief Diplomat on North Korea

American president Donald Trump has publicly undermined his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for the nth time.

On Tuesday, Tillerson announced a new North Korea policy when he said the United States were prepared to start talks without preconditions.

“Let’s just meet and let’s — we can talk about the weather if you want,” he said.

The White House immediately put out a statement that contradicted him: “The president’s views on North Korea have not changed.”

The administration has said it won’t speak with North Korea unless the regime is willing to discuss curbing its nuclear program.

A spokeswoman for Tillerson’s own State Department even tweeted:

We remain open to dialogue when North Korea is willing to conduct a serious and credible dialogue on the peaceful denuclearization, but that time is not now.

Needless to say, this sort of ambiguity at the highest levels of government will do little to defuse the crisis. Read more “Trump Contradicts Chief Diplomat on North Korea”

Worry More About Iran Than North Korea

North Korea’s nuclear program is more advanced than Iran’s yet it is not the one that should keep Americans up at night, argues Adam Garfinkle, a foreign-policy expert.

President Donald Trump has threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea continues to provoke the United States.

Garfinkle doesn’t share his sense of alarm. Read more “Worry More About Iran Than North Korea”

Trump’s Big Mouth Fails to Impress the World

Not only is Donald Trump aching for a conflict with Iran; the American president also seems to be keen on a war with North Korea.

His latest threat, to meet further North Korean provocations with “fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” is disconcerting for two reasons:

  1. Who believes him? Certainly not the North Koreans, who responded to Trump’s bluster by threatening to strike the American island of Guam.
  2. North Korea never backs down. It is the superpower, not an impoverished country with an army from the Stalin era, that is supposed to act responsibly and deescalate. Read more “Trump’s Big Mouth Fails to Impress the World”

Trump Discovers That Bluster Is Not a Foreign Policy

Donald Trump
Donald Trump gives a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump is finding out that tough talk doesn’t get you anywhere in the real world.

He tweeted in January, before taking office, that he would not allow North Korea to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States.

As president, he pressured China to rein in the nuclear ambitions of its client state, threatening commercial reprisals if it didn’t.

Neither appears to have been impressed. Read more “Trump Discovers That Bluster Is Not a Foreign Policy”

North Korea in the Next Five Years

The Korean War, fought from 1950-53, was a result of two earlier wars in the 1940s: the American-Japanese War, which ended with the destruction and occupation of Japan in 1945, and the Chinese Civil War, which ended in a Communist victory (and Nationalist retreat to Taiwan) in 1950.

With the Communists and Americans as the only powers in East Asia following these wars, the Korean Peninsula was split in two, each side taking a piece for itself.

When the United States triumphed over the Soviet Union around 1990, many expected the North Koreans to fix their broken ties with South Korea. That this did not occur was partly the result of inertia, partly the result of Kim Il-sung’s living until 1994 and partly the result of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis, which kept the South Koreans too poor to want to bear the cost of investing in North Korean infrastructure or labor.

It was also partly the result of a miscalculation on behalf of North Korea in 1987, 24 months before the Berlin Wall came down. Seeking to ruin the South’s first-ever Olympics in 1988, the North blew up a commercial airplane. It was by far the deadliest attack on the South since the armistice began in 1953. South Korea’s anger and mistrust of North Korea as a result of this deed persisted during the 90s. Read more “North Korea in the Next Five Years”

Imagining the End Game: How North Korea May Collapse

There are few things that touch off more firestorms than speculation. Speculation is easy; any drunk hanging out in front of a local Dunkin Donuts can do it.

But that shouldn’t automatically invalidate all speculation. You can, for instance, look at the clouds in the evening and guess you’ll need an umbrella in the morning. That’s not the mad-cap rantings of a person ideologically committed to morning umbrellas but the rational thought process of someone who’d rather not get wet on the way to work.

You can apply such rationality to geopolitical speculation as well. It’s important not to get too specific — assigning timelines and trying to foretell specific events is invariably doomed to failure. Just as you might guess the next morning will have rain based on the clouds in the evening, you also probably know better than to go bandying about how rain will arrive at 7:13 AM. You know a general forecast; that’s good enough to make a rational decision. Read more “Imagining the End Game: How North Korea May Collapse”