Friday, March 22, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He let North Korea—and China—out of sanctions that had been in place for less than a day.

Trump has met in person with North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un twice in the last nine months. He has given Kim enormous diplomatic victories, helped Kim strengthen his grip on power, and made unreciprocated military concessions. In exchange, Kim has refused to even pretend to be willing to give up his nuclear arsenal, has been caught planning to fool nuclear inspectors, and has accelerated his missile program

Yesterday, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on North Korea and two Chinese companies that were helping to violate the economic embargo on the Kim regime.

Today, in a tweet, Trump rescinded them—apparently without telling anyone in his own government first.

The tweet did not say why Trump intervened on North Korea and China's behalf. Pressed for comment, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "President Trump likes Chairman Kim."

That doesn't explain much, but it is obviously true. Trump has said that he and Kim "fell in love" because of the "beautiful letters" that Kim sent him. But even early in Trump's term, when he seemed to be trying to goad North Korea into open warfare, he was open in his admiration for Kim, saying:

I can tell you this, and a lot of people don’t like when I say it, but he was a young man of 26 or 27 when he took over from his father, when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.

Kim has kept power through some of the worst human rights abuses since World War II, including murder, punitive rape, mass incarceration, torture, hostage-taking (including Americans), collective punishment of dissidents' families, intentional starvation, total censorship, forced abortions, cyber-warfare (including against the United States) and enslavement.

So what?

  • Presidents should know what their own administrations are doing on matters of major national security.
  • Neither China nor North Korea has the United States' best interests at heart.
  • A murderous totalitarian dictator who threatens the United States with nuclear weapons is not someone the president should have warm feelings for.