Smash-and-grab diplomacy

Published: June 13, 2018
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President Donald Trump has not only brought an almost nihilistic iconoclasm to the White House striking fear into traditionalists that see diplomacy as a gently flowing stream; he is beginning to make institutional chaos look like a viable option. Trump is not tearing up the rule book because he came to the presidency not having read one, never mind owned a personal copy. There is to be a meeting between Trump and King Jong-un of North Korea in Singapore on June 12th. The detail is yet to be fleshed out but if the meeting takes place at all it is a considerable coup for a president better known for breaking things than fixing them. Further, if there is any substantive and verifiable progress towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula then the world is going to undeniably be a better and safer place, and a Nobel Peace Prize for the president a matter of consideration rather than unbridled contempt and mirth.

Entering the job at a shambolic canter Trump has put rocks through windows on a regular basis. At the same time as his Secretary of State Pompeo was meeting and greeting Kim Jon-un in Pyongyang, Trump was pulling the plug on the Iran nuclear deal and the Israelis gearing up for fisticuffs — duly commenced in Syria within 24 hours of the pullout.

Critical analysis of this most unconventional presidency is premature as much of what has passed in terms of foreign policy thus far has yet to work through to clear conclusions. Some moves that appeared “final” may not be so at all and open for refinement or negotiation. In purely diplomatic terms the Singapore Summit has been arranged without any of the preparatory work that usually accompanies such events, the months of negotiation that produce an agenda the outcome of which is largely pre-ordained and agreed. This is Terra Incognita. No map and an outline script. We can but wish this venture well. Bon voyage!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2018.

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