No Deal Summit; Sometimes You Have to Walk

CNN has an interesting piece, What the pundits are getting wrong about the Trump-Kim summit. Since I think the writers also got some things wrong,  I thought of responding. But, too subtle. Now the news has handed me the kicker.  While  authors

The authors are professional diplomats. As well as credentials, the profession encompasses a system of thought, which is to say, they think like diplomats. Diplomacy in particular is vulnerable to systemic thought. A nation-state is the largest entity ruled by law. Attempting to bridge the lawless void that divides nations, diplomacy is a set of procedures without law. It tries to compensate for this lack with a very elaborate system. This is why diplomacy has often been a target of ridicule, and why, in the 20th century, foreign policy authority devolved away from the State Department, and to the inner counsels of the presidency.

Yes, sometimes you have to walk. This outcome was not anticipated by article authors because they are diplomats, and diplomacy is an aspirational profession. You aspire to make an agreement. The formal tools of diplomacy are used to facilitate, but the formalities do not characterize the personalities.

Diplomacy is aspirational; intelligence work is predictive. The two communities are as intellectually isolated as one could expect from this divergence. The direct  implication of the intelligence community’ for the Trump-Kim meeting could have been taken as “Don’t even try. Don’t waste your time.”

Though the intelligence community has been vindicated, the diplomats won’t recognize it as humiliation, because they did what their system requires,.  And Trump made no mistake.

Even though the result was highly predictable, does this mean that diplomacy should never be tried? Have a look at the triumphs of Henry Kissinger, which may have no equal in the 20th century. In both SALT and Middle East shuttle diplomacy, both sides wanted an agreement. Kissinger’s agency isolated the participants from personal friction, engendering thoughtful responses. We live with these benefits of diplomacy today.

There was a lot to argue with in the CNN article by . But I held my tongue, because the points of our disagreement were too subtle for impact. Now I can say it with a zinger:

They got too fancy too fast.




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