By GP ACHARYA – President Trump’s decision of firing his hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton resembles that Trump does not want war in the Middle-East and Korean Peninsula right now. Bolton, reportedly, was aggressive to push war and subsequently advised his boss to use “Libya Model” of unilateral denuclearization template for North Korea, and “Iraq Method” for Iran. But, Trump rejected both the outrageous prospects and avoided the war. Instead, he emphasized for peace talks using “New Method” which consequently reflects Trump’s 2020 political vision.
However, Trump’s frequent coercive and irrational languages on erratic tweets such as “Fire and Fury”, “Totally Destroy”, “Locked and Loaded”, or “Who is our bigger enemy…or Chairman Xi?” among others make the adversaries cynical on Trump’s emotional intelligence and diplomatic avenues. He is, perhaps, assuming that Nixon-Kissinger model of “Madman Theory”- “Act mad and other countries won’t dare trifle with you” could likely work. Yet, the truth is, Trump does not want war at least for the moment.
Why Trump does not want war?
Trump is not marching ahead into the war, perhaps because of some of the following reasons:
First, war could damage his 2020 election prospects. Second, Trump wants to contain China. If America plunged into the war, China will momentously rise, Trump worries. May be, he want to provoke his allies and compel them to purchase arms and ammunitions, and missiles and fighter jets worth trillions of dollars.
Third, Trump is worried that war could bring huge loss to the business under Trump organization. Fourth, he does not want to take risk of expanded conflagration and invite catastrophe. Fifth, Trump has witnessed the cost and consequences of America induced war and the corresponding debacle in American Foreign Policy. Sixth, he pretends to be liberal and peace loving and wants to prove that he is one of the peace loving presidents in the US history, perhaps aiming for Nobel Peace Prize. Anyway, he has already been nominated for it. Seventh, Trump wants to “Make America Greater” in 2020 than it was “Make America Great” in 2016!
However, Trump neither wants war nor absolute peace because the prospects between “not war” and “not peace” are more beneficial to him, accuse the critics. He vows to bring economic reform at any cost as promised in 2016 just because he has to win 2020 election. America, a nation that loudly touts for press freedom and human rights, for instance, is defending Saudi Arabia even its de-facto ruler has openly confessed of killing of American-Saudi journalist/writer- which is just to safeguard relation with Saudi Arabia to confront Iran, to secure oil supplies and to increase arms sale, blame the opponents.
On the other side, Iran claims itself as a powerful nation (than Iraq was) and is equipped with retaliation strength for any strikes against it. Similarly, Tehran has maintained good relations with Kremlin, Beijing and Ankara which makes Washington feel weaker than all the former four combined. North Korea is equally marshalling the clout of Missile and Nuclear Technology and showcasing Washington that Pyongyang is not either alone in the world politics which has been strongly backed-up by Beijing and Kremlin. North Korea and China are “as close as lips and teeth”, communist brothers in-arms…, once Mao Zedong has put. Strategically, Pyongyang and Tehran assume that they both are equally strong as Washington. Meanwhile, the US is creating huge gap of trust with allies and multilateral community. So, its adversaries claim that American strength is gradually waning.
Nonetheless, Trump’s decision of not entering into the war with Iran and North Korea must be admired and applauded loudly. The rest of the world neither wants war. So, at this moment of defining juncture, Trump has to live-up and continue his commitment of not wanting war and transform this stature into peace prospect to prove the entire world that President Trump wants absolute peace.
Act rational for absolute peace
If Trump desperately wants absolute peace, he has to begin peace talks from Beijing. So far, the validation of Pyongyang peace talks depends upon the mode of the smoothness of Beijing’s trade. So, Trump has to first make significant progress towards resolving trade and tariffs disputes over China. Yet, despite of intensifying geo-political friction between the US and China, they have had deep economic ties. And, it has to be rejuvenated promptly.
Since, politics and geo-politics alike are the art of relationship, it would be wise for both the US and China to leave something concrete on the table and resolve the blistering trade conflicts. Accordingly, political and diplomatic avenues need to be exercised rationally in US-North Korea and US-Iran negotiations. Nothing is impossible in diplomacy. “There are no permanent friends or enemies in foreign policy, there are only permanent interest”. There has to be interest of peace and prosperity, moreover, the interest of goodwill and global harmony.
Trump administration is not either unaware that China, Russia and some other powers are strongly backing-up North Korea and Iran. And, Trump must have realized that the North Korean denuclearization process is nearly impossible without resolving the US-China trade war and lifting of US sanctions on North Korea. Presumably, the momentum of US-China or US-Russia relations will define the US relations with North Korea and Iran. Then only the “New Method” proposed by Trump and Kim’s corresponding implication “Step-by-step solution starting with the things feasible first while building trust in each other would be the best option” would likely to be materialized.
Otherwise, it will be just a political illusion that a country possessing nuclear strengths could so easily give-up its nuke and weaken self. Can the US or other nuclear nations do so? Perhaps, North Korea does not so easily give-up the nukes. After all, the US can’t compel and coerce North Korea and push into “Libya Model” or Iran to “Iraq Method” as suggested by Bolton. It would be greatest ever blunder in world history if the US adopt the template of 2003 Iraq invasion or 2004 disarmament of Libya. Yet, Trump has largely understood that Khameni/Rouhani and Kim are not same as Saddam and Gadhafi respectively.
Still, the dramatic form of “Carrots and Sticks” induced by increasing pressure may not work, today. Washington, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang all, however, have to be equipped with conviction, knowledge, intelligence and ability to pursue each other. They have to sit time and again with common strategic and transparent framework as like Churchill once said, “If I could dine with Stalin once a week, there would be no trouble at all. We get on like house on fire”.
None of the countries can leverage by making others uncertain and miraculous. May be erratic tweets and irresponsible public statements are making it hard to predict Trump’s diplomatic strategies for China, North Korea and Iran. Likewise, Kim’s strategy of diplomatic hedging followed by frequent missile testing-challenges, and Iran’s continuous threat on oil tankers/facilities certainly are not trustworthy acts.
Amity of Greatness
America, a great power, has to show its generosity of greatness and should not play any dramatic games, if any, when it comes to sensitive international affairs. Doing so would be especially short-sightedness when it’s trying to convince the world. America should not squander its international influence and give its adversaries greater space, some foreign policy experts argue.
America, however, can preserve its greatness only through the diplomatic path and should not make any mistakes again by emboldening Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Turkey or others.
Nonetheless, President Trump has to passionately work for absolute peace. And, without any provoking actions he has to deliberately drag down tensions into peace prospects. If Trump wants absolute peace, he has to largely avoid the escalating tensions and has to re-establish the past multilateral agreements which are genuinely peace driven. He has to work restore American credibility by minimizing the gap of trust with its allies and international community despite of himself being dogged down and boxed into controversies including the tumult of impeachment proceedings. America has to see the larger landscape rather than focusing on immediate benefits. Yet, President Trump has to take pragmatic steps to preserve the legacy of American institution and make America great and responsible global power with amity of greatness.
GP Acharya is a researcher and analyst based in Kathmandu, Nepal.