You are about to see the latest political rendition of Muhammad Ali´s famous “rope-a-dope” strategy.
A smaller weaker fighter leans against the ropes and concentrates on protecting himself while his stronger opponent delivers punch after punch. In the later rounds, when the stronger fighter has worn himself out, the weaker fighter unexpectedly mounts a knock-out offense.
North Korea knows who is the smaller weaker fighter -- North Korea. In a face-to-face all-out war, the United States would win hands down. But North Korea also knows that in an important way, the stronger fighter´s time is strictly limited. To wit:
Trump will be in power a maximum of six more years. If Kim Jong-un lives into his eighties as did his grandfather, he will still be in power 50 years from now. Kim´s perspective of timing is totally different from Trump´s, indeed, from that of Americans in general.
All Kim needs to do to win is three things:
(i) outlast Trump, which is a given.
(ii) land a few solid blows now and then, whereas Trump must content himself with delivering mostly blocked, symbolic punches -- symbolic because they look good but cause no decisive damage.
An important part of the rope-a-dope strategy is to hold Trump, the stronger fighter, close, depriving him of leverage; his blows lack power. Also, lean on him so that he must support his own weight and Kim´s too. More on this subject below.
(iii) Launch a devastating offense in the later rounds when Trump is arm-weary and has no gas left in the tank.
We will reveal that offense in a moment.
* * *
Let´s pick up where our prior post, "North Korea´s Game Plan," left off:
A colleague of mine at the University of Florida was for many years an army intelligence officer. He told me that the Russians work with a model for American politics: "Indicators of Fascism." When the indicators are high, so is the risk of war; the Russian Government would back off, become conciliatory, moderate. After the indicators decline, the Kremlin then went back to business as usual.
I am sure North Korea has much the same model.
The objective is not substantive change. Rather, it is to buy time until U.S. fascist tendencies subside and the danger is gone. You can bet that North Korea´s "Indicators of Fascism" right now are flying off the top of the political Richter scale.
Trump stated on June 1 that the summit on June 12, is a getting-to-know-you meeting. "I never said it goes in one meeting. I think It´s going to be a process," he noted. Years and years of hostility are involved.
Years and years. Call it what you will, it still remains the same: attrition. Trump naively fell into Kim´s trap.
The dope was roped.
* * *
We know Kim´s motive for the meeting: stall for time. He will wait for Trump to be out of office, for the "Indicators of Fascism" to subside and the danger of war to pass -- then go back to business as usual. His grandfather and father before him were war-based; the legitimacy of their dynasty depended almost entirely on the threat from America and its allies. Kim can live with that.
So much for Kim. Now, why does Trump want the June 12 meeting? What´s in it for him?
Answer: maybe, everything.
Backstage to all Trump´s jerking around with North Korea is the Mueller investigation of Trump´s campaign ties with Russia. Trump is using the prospect of peace in Korea as a diversion to weaken Mueller. Gosh, our president is achieving the end to the Korean War and to the North Korean nuclear threat to America. It would be reprehensible, indeed, despicable, to attack him now.
We will know soon enough if Mueller falls for the gambit, pulls his punches, lets a few small fry, aka Paul Manafort, take the fall while Trump walks free.
We think that outcome is likely. Here´s why:
Our post "DONALD TRUMP: JE T´ACCUSE" (December 1, 2017) posted a BBC video that caught the Trump Administration red-handed in Raqqa, Syria. Trump let over 3,000 surrounded ISIS terrorists and their families escape to murder and maim another day.
Forget collusion with the Russians in the 2016 campaign; it is a sideshow. By allowing the Raqqa ISIS fighters to go free, Donald Trump committed a much higher crime about which Mueller, the Democrats and the rest of Washington remain strangely moon-rock silent:
18 U.S. Code § 2381 - Treason:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason...
If ISIS does not qualify as an enemy of the United States, who does? If escorting them in a convoy away from certain death and defeat to safety does not constitute aid and comfort, what does?
We come to what is at the end of the Kim-Trump trail that begins at Singapore:
Both Kim and Trump survive. Nothing more. For that reason, let´s go ahead and call the June 12 meeting what it is: a dumb idea whose time has come.
Kim, however, will have the upper hand...
Assuming the summit takes place, Trump will be at a manifest disadvantage. The proof will be in the pudding: Kim´s only concessions will be symbolic acts and words – dismantling more of his nuclear site; promises of peace; pledges to do this, to not do that – in exchange for real tangible concessions from the U.S., notably the cancellation of UN economic sanctions.
For a perfect example of words-symbols versus reality-concrete, look no further than May 20th headlines. China says it will substantially reduce the annual $335-billion U.S. trade deficit by buying more goods and services from America. America, in exchange, put its much ballyhooed punitive trade tariffs against China “on hold.” Every day they are delayed, China pockets millions of real, not symbolic, dollars.
The kicker: the Chinese never provided precise figures or dates for their increase in purchases from the U.S. The American punitive tariffs, to the contrary, are specific, detailed.
To sum up: China sold Trump acres of blue sky. You can look for Kim to do the same thing.
Sidebar: why do Trump, Obama, Clinton, etc., settle for symbolic rewards? Why are they so easily conned?
Answer: they are playing to the American audience. Unlike the leaders of China and North Korea, American presidents´ goals are strictly short-term: re-election, favorable media reports, image manipulation -- certainly not substantive change that will benefit America. They have a hard time looking 50 minutes down the road, much less 50 years.
As mentioned, for Trump the Singapore meeting will substitute issues, i.e., the Mueller investigation of Trump´s collusion with Russia will be marginalized by the prospect of peace in Korea. Also as mentioned, like other recent presidents before him, Trump cares about what will get him through to the end of the day. Nothing more.
Blue smoke and mirrors (read: horseshit and gun smoke): the American mass media fall for it every time. In long run terms, only when Americans learn to distinguish symbolic rewards from real ones will Washington change course and do what needs to be done to protect the long-term interests of America.
China, North Korea´s puppet master, also knows time is on its side. That is why not only did President Xi Jinping approve of the Kim-Trump meeting, according to Trump he aided and abetted it.
Kim and Xi are waiting for later rounds, for the precise moment to launch their surprise, overwhelming offense.
As for what that offense is...
* * *
Cross my fingers,
cross my toes;
hope nobody´s lookin´,
Unlike America, China and North Korea definitely are looking and know exactly what is coming.
In 1961, China and North Korea signed the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Co-Operation Friendship Treaty.
Ssshhh. It is the quiet little treaty nobody is talking about, and for a reason.
“Article 2: The Contracting Parties undertake to take all measures jointly to prevent any State from aggression against either party to the contracting parties. Once the contracting party is armed by any one or several States, and in the state of war, the other Contracting Party shall, as soon as practicable, give military and other assistance.”
You read correctly. China is obligated to give “military and other assistance” to North Korea in case of U.S. “aggression” against North Korea. Make no mistake: we are staring in the face the prospect of World War III over North Korea.
But are we?
The Treaty continues:
“Article 3: Neither Contracting Party shall enter into any alliance against the Contracting Parties and shall not participate in any group and any action or measure against the Contracting Parties.”
China was a signatory to the latest UN sanctions imposed on North Korea, thus making the Friendship Treaty a dead letter.
Or did it?
Formally, yes. Informally, no. Everybody knows Chinese contraband shipments continue to North Korea.
You don´t have to look far to see a lot of nodding and winking going on.
A momentous change has occurred in China since 1961. It went from an poor backwater nation to a key world player with the world´s second largest economy. It is through and through a capitalist economy with capitalists who have not only influence but power. Those capitalists will not tolerate any Great Leap Backward.
America needs to stop playing the ga-game, to stop nodding and winking. It needs to make China live in one world or the other. Make China uphold or tear up the Friendship Treaty.
(i) If China upholds the Treaty, it irrevocably ties its destiny to Kim Jong-un. China slinks back to Cold War China, the poor China, the totalitarian China, the isolated China. The Chinese also irrevocably accept responsibility for Kim´s conduct – all of it, with the potentially horrendous consequences that commitment entails -- see below.
If China adheres to the treaty, President Xi will have to watch his back. China´s newly-created capitalists won´t accept the consequences lying down. Like Kim, Xi will sleep with a pistol under the pillow.
If China upholds the treaty, the JFK-derived Chispas Doctrine outlined below is America´s appropriate response.
(ii) If China rips up the Friendship Treaty, then all nations should welcome China as a bone fide member of the world community, viz., the community that unanimously endorsed sanctions against North Korea. Kim is thus abandoned to his fate.
Today, America and China are participating in a make-believe world. A not really world.
An as-if world.
As if sanctions will stop North Korea´s nuclear arms program.
As if China is not responsible for North Korea´s development of missiles and H-bombs.
As if China has no control over North Korea.
Most important of all, as if the Friendship Treaty doesn´t exist.
In fact in the entire scenario only one thing is not as if: the bombs that fall, the missiles that fly, the millions who die.
* * *
We will always support an open-door policy for talks. That includes everyone, including North Korea.
However, to be truly meaningful those talks must always be placed in a context. The particular context needed for real -- not symbolic -- North Korea discussions fruitful for U.S. interests is entirely lacking at the moment.
That lack makes all the difference. Indeed, it is how the dope was roped.
JFK understood the context that is needed today. He put it into practice in 1962.
The Soviet Union secretly moved long-range missiles into Cuba. The American military favored bombing the island. Cooler heads prevailed, which may be why we are still here.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was not the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK dissolved the charade in an historic speech delivered on October 22, 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the Soviet Union Crisis in which Cuba was lower than a bit player -- an extra.
JFK: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any missile launched from Cuba against any ally of the United States as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.
Those words smoked out the puppet master from behind the curtain. Khrushchev stepped into the spotlight and started dealing directly with Kennedy. Between them, the crisis was resolved peacefully.
It must be stressed that not once did Kennedy talk with the Cuban Government. The idea of JFK-Fidel Castro negotiations, a meeting, an encounter, a summit, whatever, was never considered by the Kennedy White House. Not once. Fidel Castro did not exist.
What happened: Khrushchev was forced -- not asked, much less begged -- to be responsible for his actions. The JFK doctrine simply made manifest what had been latent.
To resolve the Korean crisis, not a meeting with Kim but a JFK-derived doctrine is needed for America:
It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any missile launched from North Korea against any ally of the United States as an attack by China on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon China.
China must be forced -- not asked, much less begged -- to be what it is: responsible for Kim.
I will put the matter in commonsense terms.
Kim is their boy; they´re stuck with him.
* * *
To start the road to making China responsible for North Korea, a magnificent, once-in-a-generation opportunity just presented itself.
The issue: Kim wants other people to pay for his luxury $6,000-a-night hotel room in Singapore. The United States is looking for a way to pick up Kim´s tab.
Ah nooo. We have said it before. We will say it again. Trump is as politically ignorant as the people he has surrounded himself with. For that reason, I will explain the Kim hotel issue not in political terms but in everyday ones to which even Trump can relate...
Remember when you were a kid and went on a family vacation? You stayed in a hotel somewhere in route or at your destination.
Question: who paid for the hotel?
It wasn´t you, the kid. No kid pays for his family´s hotel room. That goes with being a kid.
Answer: your dad.
Daddy paid for the hotel room.
So, the question of Kim´s hotel room comes down to this:
Who is Kim´s daddy?
It follows that China -- not the U.S., not Singapore -- must be made (not asked, much less begged) to pay for Kim´s $6,000-a-night stay. If China refuses -- perfect: call off the meeting. The world will stare, wonder.
Laugh at the new dope that was roped.
Update: June 6. Trump´s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed Kim was so desperate for the Singapore meeting that he "got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in."
Giuliani unwittingly strengthened the hand of Kim´s hardliners back home. A trainload of generals and secret police agents are dependent on a war-footing with America for their positions and privileges. They will argue that North Korea must insist on being respected and should cancel the meeting. If Kim attends the meeting, he will explain to the hardliners that he is playing for time, that´s all, waiting for the indicators of fascism in America to fall.
We will see Kim´s response shortly. If he abandons the meeting he abandons Trump to the Mueller investigation.
P. S. To watch a classic display of Muhammad Ali´s rope-a-dope strategy, click here.