Donald Trump’s praise of Kim Jong-un reveals an America tired of leadership



June 13, 2018 10:50:34

I took a deep breath when I saw that handshake: Donald Trump coming face to face with Kim Jong-un.

We never expected to see a North Korean leader sit down one-on-one as an equal with an American president; the collapse of the Kim regime had seemed a more likely scenario.

But that powerful image and talk of a “special bond” between the two men cannot mask the flimsy outcome of the talks.

North Korea has not said it will give up its nuclear weapons; in fact Kim Jong-un gave up very little in these talks and gained legitimacy, praise and a pledge from President Trump to end the “war games” with South Korea.

But that handshake told us something else: it marked a significant and symbolic moment in what has been called “the post-American world”.

‘Not US’s job’ to clean up the world’s mess

This is an America that is tired of leadership; an America retreating behind its borders; an America turning on friends and allies; an America weary of conflict and burdened by the responsibility and cost of keeping the global peace.

Donald Trump is not a President who speaks of the global order, or upholding the principles of liberalism and democracy, who defends free trade.

His mantra is America first, and it is a smaller America.

Bookshops are groaning with titles like The Suicide of the West, The End of Liberalism, How Democracy Ends.

There are books that tell of a coming war with China; the fracturing of Europe; the threat of a resurgent Russia; of jobs lost to robots.

Donald Trump may be right about one thing, as he says “the world is a mess”, but as the latest Economist magazine makes clear he believes it is “no longer America’s job to clean up that mess”.

The Economist titled its essay Present at the Destruction, and it quotes numerous experts in international affairs who reach the conclusion Mr Trump does not believe the order America has preserved.

He doesn’t believe the ideas that made America great in the first place.

There is a reason no previous president met a North Korean leader. They would not spend the prestige of their office so cheaply.

‘All that is good requires work’

Writer and scholar Jonah Goldberg, who wrote Suicide of the West, reminds us that the values of The Enlightenment that give us liberty and the rights of individuals, that underpinned democracy is a “miracle”.

Goldberg says it is the goose that laid the golden egg; that has given the world riches and freedoms previously unimagined in all of human history; but like the old parable we are finding new ways to kill the goose.

He reminds us how fragile our system is.

“Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is written,” he says.

Goldberg tells us: “All that is good in the world requires work.”

A hastily compiled agreement after a one-day meeting with a brutal dictator is not the kind of work Jonah Goldberg would have in mind.

China would be smiling

This week, Mr Trump has mocked and argued with leaders of nations who have fought in wars alongside America, yet talks of being “honoured” to meet a man who holds his people in fear and secrecy and threatens to unleash his nuclear weapons on the world.

He has given Kim Jong-un a diplomatic and propaganda coup, while leaving US ally South Korea pondering a future without the security of the American military.

China, America’s emerging great power rival, would be looking on smiling.

Mr Trump may still yet deliver a stable, lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula.

Right now, China and North Korea are benefitting from the defining story of our age: the retreat of America.

Matter of Fact with Stan Grant is on the ABC News Channel at 9pm, Monday to Thursday.









First posted

June 13, 2018 10:39:23

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