Military vs. Economic Persuasion

The US and its leaders are in a unique position to influence world events. They have the ability to use either economic or military persuasion. The question is which one should be used in specific circumstances. It’s often a life and death decision.

Donald Trump favors economic sanctions over military force for the most part. In fact he’s actively trying to decrease the presence of our military around the world and take our soldiers out of harm’s way. It was a campaign promise he made in 2016.

Currently he’s wielding sanctions against the largest and most powerful opponents of America, Russia and China. Since outright military aggression is not an option against the aforementioned countries, because it could possibly lead to a nuclear showdown, the president is wise to eschew the use of any violent strategy.

Ronald Reagan brilliantly out maneuvered the Soviet Union in the late 20th century. He artfully combined economic pressure and military threats that ultimately resulted in the bankruptcy of the Soviets. The communist regime could not compete with the US’s ability to build both nuclear and conventional arsenals at a break neck speed. By attempting to match our weapons development, the Soviet Union crumbled financially.

Today the US must contend with a megalomaniac-governed empire that dreams of the days when it had much more influence throughout the world.

Because military confrontation is out of the question, Trump has exerted economic sanctions against Russia and attacked the powerful class of oligarchs, the country’s business leaders, many of its largest companies and most importantly its banking system. Slowly, the US is once again bankrupting Russia. The result is shortages of food and other basic needs and curtailed government services as Russian leaders spend more and more on armaments and foolish military expeditions into remote parts of the world, such as Syria.

China is a similar story except its economy is much stronger. Trump reacted to Chinese misbehavior with extraordinary economic sanctions that have stopped China in its tracks and markedly reduced its industrial growth.

China sells over $350 billion of goods to the US annually, while the US sells about $100 billion to China. Tit for tat tariffs have hurt China far worse than tariffs on US goods. The leadership of China will be in jeopardy if the sanctions are not rescinded soon. This is why Trump is making progress in his negotiations with China to end unfair trade practices and the theft of US technologies.

Unemployment lines in China will begin to grow if the US sanctions do not end. Xi is under pressure to make the turmoil end in the short term. The expectation that China will “eat the US’s lunch” economically is misleading and untrue, especially because our economy is so much larger than China’s.

Sanctions have also been effective against North Korea and its nuclear aspirations. Kim cannot continue to spend so much of his country’s cash flow on nuclear and conventional weapons. He will ultimately accede to US demands or face regime change.

Similarly the aggression of Iran will end as sanctions are tightened. Iran will have to accept much tougher restrictions on its nuclear arsenal or face regime issues that will follow food shortages and civil unrest.

The shrewd use of economic sanctions rather than military engagement is wise. However some dysfunctional regimes throughout the world only understand military might. The US should be prepared to use its power exclusively when all other avenues have been exhausted.

America must act decisively in situations that threaten US security and our allies. Additionally, crimes against humanity, genocide and actions by nations that result in famine and displacement of groups of people, need to be dealt with apace.

Trump’s perspective on the strategy to use military and economic force has been effective to this point.

How’s Trump Doing?

It’s going to drive liberal Trump haters insane to hear that the president is scoring huge victories in spite of his frightful attitude and undiplomatic demeanor. The biggest issue, relating to the election, is the surging US economy.

The stock market hit new highs on Friday. There are competing influences impacting the markets, but generally there’s a lot of positive momentum. However, Federal Reserve Chief, Jerome Powell, said the following “. . . trade tension and a weaker global economy [are] weighing on the outlook and [he] said the Fed was prepared to act.”

Some economists think Powell is intentionally ignoring the strong jobs report and the potential ‘trade truce’ with China. Currently most are expecting a move by the Fed at its next meeting. Critics of such an action say it is an accommodation to Trump. Others point out that problems in Europe, including Brexit, and an economic slowdown in China justify some loosening by the Fed. Who says the Fed is apolitical?

In the meantime inflation is not a pressing problem and consumers are spending at a rapid clip. The former gives license to the Fed to keep interest rates down.

The old adage, “It’s the economy, stupid” is apropos. Trump is going to get a boost in the election if the economy continues to improve, unemployment stays under control and wages for the middle class increase.

Making it more disheartening for Trump naysayers is the possibility that the president may actually negotiate a favorable trade deal with the Chinese. I’ve been saying all along that the US can have a great impact on the Chinese economy. Tariffs are one way to exert this advantage. The US buys far more products from China than China from the US. Tariffs will decrease the current trade imbalance, and this will increase worker furloughs and bankruptcies in China.

One of the most important issues for Xi Jinping is keeping Chinese industry running at full speed and keeping workers on the job. Frankly it’s more important for Xi, personally, to smooth relations with the US regarding trade than any other area of disagreement between the countries.

What can the US gain from negotiations with the Chinese? One thing is respect. US economic strength is far more influential than military might, although America is still, by far, the most powerful nation in the world. China needs favorable economic conditions. Many of its industries are highly leveraged, especially banks, which cannot deal with large credit losses.

Moving to other areas, Trump is going to make a deal with Kim Jung-un. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if a nuclear disarmament treaty is indirectly a part of a US trade deal with China. If I were Trump I would make a NOKO accommodation a required element of the trade negotiations.

Kim is in a position to solidify his regime for decades but he needs desperately to end economic sanctions and to have US become a trading partner. This can only happen if Kim gives up the nukes. If he walks away, economic sanctions will eventually be his downfall. Once again the US’s economic might can ultimately be more powerful and be less expensive than going to war.

The ayatollahs of Iran are on a road to oblivion. By continuing to threaten commerce in the Straits of Hormuz and stoking terror elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran is losing support of the European Union, especially Great Britain. Attacking oil tankers is a stupid and unproductive strategy that my earn Iran a few hundred cruise missiles as a warning. Similar to other countries mentioned above, US economic sanctions are disseminating Iran.

Trump was absolutely justified in abrogating the Iran nuclear deal. Most importantly it gave Iran a pathway to nuclear arms in about a decade.

Domestically, the majority of Americans are not enamored by the actions of Trump. In fact so many despise him that they will not give him credit for his successes. And further, too many Americans would be happy to see the president fail even if the country suffers. This group includes the liberal press.

But Trump presses forward with aggressive comments and distortion of the truth. He seems to relish opportunities to slam his opponents in fiery rallies and on social media. These are unproductive, but Trump says he must defend himself from fake news and unfair treatment by his opponents.

All this is a sideshow to the main attraction, the 2020 elections. Trump looks like a winner mostly because Democrats have moved too far left. A socialist will not be elected in America, at least not yet. Also, Americas will grow to understand that every entitlement can’t be free. The country cannot provide new entitlements without cutting critical services elsewhere, no matter how much they increase taxes. American voters will understand this problem as the debates and the political rhetoric continues to ramp up.

A North Korean Deal Is Still Possible

Maybe there’s a ray of hope for the president to evolve into a statesman and a diplomat. Most of his critics expected him to sign any deal with North Korea to register a political win. Trump wisely resisted.

Now all of the political back seat drivers are saying that Trump is not negotiating with Kim Jong-un in an appropriate manner. Traditionally summits are preceded by intense negotiations between lower level diplomats. And when the principals get together, it’s a mere formality.

This form of negotiation enables the parties to have an additional chance to make a deal. If the underlings are stymied, the heads of state can sometimes find a way to close.

But we must appreciate the nature of the principals trying to craft a nuclear proliferation arrangement that is important to the world.

First of all Kim is the undisputed leader of his country. His underlings are mere sycophants with no real decision-making power. North Korea does not have an extensive diplomatic corps because it only has relations with a few countries. Kim is the only person who matters and his aides are petrified about overstepping their limited authority. It could easily cause them to be demoted at best or to lose their lives at worst. You must deal directly with Kim to advance a deal.

Of course we know that Trump thinks he’s the king of deal making. After all he wrote a book on the subject. Yet his negotiating acumen is really the only relevant thing when dealing with Kim. Sending in subordinates would have no impact on a deal of such great magnitude.

It’s ironic that liberals in Congress, who could not even negotiate their way past a $5 billion immigration expenditure, are critical of Trump who is negotiating a deal that could prevent a nuclear World War III.

It was smart for Trump to politely say the options afforded to him by Kim were not satisfactory. It should be clear that North Korea is going to be subjected to harmful economic sanction until it relents and agrees to denuclearization with verification.

The real problem with the negotiations may be that Trump and his negotiating team are not appropriately emphasizing the most important issues facing North Korea if it does not sign an accord.

Sanctions are a good starting point. North Korea is experiencing great economic stress every day because of sanctions imposed by the US. The country’s economy is crashing and the people are suffering through shortages of food and energy. The country will not be able to advance economically until it agrees to end its nuclear program. The ramifications of this dilemma are monstrous for Kim. At some point his people will revolt and his regime will fall.

Kim doesn’t seem to have a good perspective about ownership of nuclear weapons. He mistakenly believes that nukes give him staying power against aggressive actions by the US and even China. This is dead wrong. North Korea could be obliterated in a few hours by either of these countries. In fact the nukes in reality are an existential threat to Kim personally and to his country.

And finally Kim is discounting the rewards of having the US as an ally. An economic arrangement with the US could enable Kim to build a truly viable and thriving country and decrease North Korea’s dependence on China and its own military. The money spent on the latter could be diverted to great programs to benefit North Koreans. This alone would entrench his regime and protect it from internal strife.

The efforts to denuclearize North Korea are still in the early stages. The problems of moving forward are easy to identify, but difficult to solve. Trump must convince Kim that he and North Korea will be much stronger without nukes than with them.

The US and North Korea Will Likely Make A Deal For Peace

Kim Jung-un reached out to President Trump to schedule another summit meeting. Is it a ploy to stall for more time to build out North Korea’s nuclear arsenal? Or, is Kim really prepared to give up his nuclear program for a peace treaty with the US?

This essay will explore the possibilities and the issue relating to a North Korean deal.

I have no diplomatic experience, but I recognize the potential for a good deal when I see it. From my vantage point, Trump has all the cards in the impending game of chicken with Kim. There is no conceivable reason, other than ego or stupidity, why a deal for peace should not become a reality in the near future. It will be good for all parties concerned including South Korea, Japan and even China.

Keeping its nukes will bring nothing less than misery and regime change to North Korea. If Kim does not accede, the US will increase economic sanctions and continue to threaten military action.

The people of North Korea are experiencing great hardships. The country is crumbling economically as North Korea continues to spend inordinate amounts of money on its offensive weapons and its huge standing army.

China has begun to support its neighbor to the south, but not enough to offset the economic pressure being applied by the US. North Korea’s standard of living is deteriorating every day because of shortages of food and other supplies, and at some point North Koreans will rebel.

What will happen if Kim’s government falls? Many North Koreans will attempt to leave the country in the fallout. South Korea will likely close its borders as will China. Neither wants a refugee problem or increased costs associated with caring for displaced North Koreans. After a failure of the government, the unauthorized movement of nukes from North Korea could pose a very significant problem for the region, especially if the weapons fall into the hands terrorists or regimes that support them.

Most importantly is Kim’s fate if his regime falls. His life will be threatened if he is unable to find sanctuary elsewhere.

A deal with the US would ameliorate North Korea’s pressing issues and assure Kim a long tenure as its leader. By giving up and/or destroying its nukes, and agreeing to end human rights violations, Kim would bring long lasting peace and prosperity to his country.

What are the benefits to North Korea if it makes peace with the US? Here is a partial list:

 

-The US would agree to officially end the Korean War.

-North Korea would be welcomed into the international community of nations.

-The US would guarantee the security of North Korea. In effect, Kim’s regime would be protected from any outside forces.

-North Korea’s reliance on China would decrease, giving the country more diplomatic and economic options.

-North Korea would no longer need to spend significant amounts of money to finance its nukes and standing army.

-North Korea’s relationships (social, economic and military) with South Korea would flourish.

-All economic sanctions would end immediately.

-North Korea could begin to develop its industrial capabilities.

 

Of great importance is that the US flatly refuses to ease sanctions unless the nukes are disposed of. This is the critical issue, and it will decrease the odds that North Korea does a bait and switch as it has in past negotiations.

It’s imperative that US negotiators clearly indicate that Kim’s regime will be defended with a peace treaty. Kim’s security and longevity are paramount to him.

Diplomatic negotiations are tricky. Many things can sidetrack talks including egos and false expectations. Yet this deal is doable and there is no reason it should not be consummated within a year.