Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
President Trump has shaken the establishment foreign relations world to its very core by agreeing to meet “mano a mano” with Kim Jung Un, the dictator of North Korea. My God, how can he do that? First there must be months and months of tedious diplomatic niceties that result in tiny, even infinitesimal baby steps towards a small set of concessions that demonstrate both sides “good faith” and “dedication to peace and prosperity for all of mankind”. Volumes of briefing papers must be prepared and dissected.Allies must be “consulted” and stroked; Congress has to be “brought on board”.Then there must be endless wrangling over the language of the agreed-upon demarche to be issued after the historic summit. The location of the historic gathering must be determined based upon the latest reading of appropriate tea leaves. My heavens, where will the glorious leaders stand for the picture? A meeting in May? Preposterous. May of 2019, maybe.
So, what is all the hand wringing about? Are all the self-proclaimed experts afraid that the President and the Dictator might actually agree on something concrete and beneficial? What about all the nuances? Action is risky; baby steps place no one at risk. What good could possibly come out of having two leaders of their respective countries sit down and talk about how to get along?
In case you have been in a coma for the last 18 months, President Trump is not your father’s, or grandfather’s president. Nor is he a member of the foreign policy establishment. He is an abrasive, bullying, arrogant builder, used to getting his way one way or another. The Deal is what matters; how you get there is ancient history. You either jump on board, or get left behind. I would venture a guess that one answer to any question truly drives him up the wall is – :Because that’s the way we always do ___.”
For at least 25 years, efforts to engage the North Koreans have followed the traditional kibuki dance of diplomacy. The result – North Korea is an acknowledged nuclear weaponry power. Einstein is credited with saying (and I paraphrase) “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result”. Perhaps it is time to try something different. After all, Reagan and Gorbachev met in Iceland for several hours past the scheduled departure time, just the two of them, and came within a nat’s hair of agreeing to ban ALL nuclear weapons. From all reports , they did agree on such a ban until Gorbachev through into the mix ending Star Wars, the US missile defense program, which Reagan would not agree to. No foreign policy experts, no briefing papers; just two men trying to find a way out of the nuclear box.
Do I expect anything earth shattering to come out of the Un/Trump meeting, assuming it actually happens. Not really. But at least they would be talking and placing their personal prestige on the line for some positive movement. And, you never know. Maybe President Trump truly is a master deal maker.
Today Secretary of State Tillerson was fired by President Trump. Actually, his position was just taken away,. Tillerson has been a non-player almost from the get-go. He has been shunted aside and left out of ALL the major foreign policy issues and decisions since his confirmation. He never developed any sort of positive relationship or rapport with the President, a situation that is absolutely essential for success by any Secretary of State. I was initially very pleased with the appointment. However, as I watched Tillerson flounder and intentionally denigrate and distance himself from the professionals that are there to assist him, I came to realize it was a bad appointment. Being the unbelievable successful CEO of EXXON does not transfer to running the State Department. If he leaves a legacy of anything other than ineptitude, it will be the intentional destruction of our diplomatic corps and efforts. RIP, Rex Tillerson, and Good Riddance
STAY TUNED[In full transparencey, I am a proud former Foreign Service Officer]