“International Relations” in the trump administration
It was recently reported that for much of the past year, President Donald Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world. That my have been the reason Gordon Chang reported “vice president Pence made the world’s worst regime look friendly, handing North Korea multiple propaganda victories. Call it what it is: a failure of American diplomacy.”
Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, delivered an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to attend a summit in Pyongyang. A Moon spokesman said the president wants to meet “at an early date.”
As Fletcher School professor Lee Sung-Yoon told The Daily Beast, inter-Korean summits occur because the South agrees to pay off the North. “How much admission fee will Kim charge Moon for the privilege of his Pyongyang pilgrimage?” Lee asked. “In 2000, it was $500 million.”
North Korea’s youthful leader, Kim Jong-un, might seem an unlikely candidate to out-maneuver a seasoned politician like South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Yet that’s exactly what has happened over the past month.
Given Trump’s inattentiveness to the President’s Daily Brief it’s most likely he doesn’t even appreciate the intricacies associated with these developments, intricacies he needs to appreciate to make the types of Presidential decisions that often come down to developments bending one way or another. In the case of my twenty years of dealing with Asian cultures those bends are likely to go in many more ways than one. Like the dramatic improve in China’s military ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-43036302 )
Regardless of the national or cultural characteristics of participants involved in an international contest all developments are cloaked in, what A.F.K. Organski called, “power transitions”. According to Dr. Organski, a renowned scholar of international Relations at the University of Michigan, Power Transition theory is a model for analyzing fundamental shifts in global power and one with which professional Foreign Service Officers, who staff the U.S. State Department, for which trump has also shown disdain, are very very familiar. It’ s almost a certainty that if trump would take the time to read the President’s Daily Brief there are a number of discussions of how the Koreans, both South and North, are behaving exactly as Dr. Organski predicted, predictions Trump and Pence could use to out-maneuver U.S. adversaries if they would only do their jobs!
As a foreign policy tool, Dr. Organski’s theory has created historical signposts pointing toward tectonic shifts in nation state and alliance power profiles, signposts and shifts taking place throughout the Korean Peninsula, into China and likely across China’s boarder with Russia. Power Transition deals with the pattern of changing power relationships in world politics. Power Transition focuses on differential growth rates across nations.
On any given day, some countries, like North Korea, are gaining power, some, like Japan and South Korea, are losing power, and some, like the United States and China are standing still. It’s the relative change in power that produces new relationships among nations.
One byproduct of differential growth rates, like that among the Koreas, China and the United States, is the potential for conflict when a challenger and dominant nation reach the stage of power parity. At parity, the odds of winning or losing a war are even. When the challenger, (e.g. North Korea and China) is dissatisfied with the status quo, the risk of war rises.
When the challenger is satisfied, (e.g. South Korea) a peaceful transition takes place. Power Transition is a better tool for anticipating the outcomes of asymmetric conflicts like Vietnam or Afghanistan, where the United States and the USSR unsuccessfully intervened, despite overwhelming power preponderance. That same lack of success could very well occur on the Korean Peninsula.
If either President trump or Vice President Pence had the interest they could get an informed update on what’s going-on on the Korean Peninsula by reading either Dr. Organski’s seminal 1950’s book World Politics, in which he introduced the power Transition theory, or Power Transitions: Strategies for the 21st Century in which a number of International Relations scholars discuss today’s application of Power Transitions and specifically “The Asian Challenge”.
We shouldn’t be surprised if both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have copies of both books on their night stands. That’s probably too much to expect of trump and Pence, however. After all, there’s golf to be played at Mar a Largo and glazed doughnuts, from Long’s Bakery, to be eaten at the Indy 500. You could never say this administration doesn’t have it’s priorities straight. The hell with all that sissy reading stuff!
- Countering North Korea’s Political Warfare | The Diplomat
Originally published at neutec.wordpress.com on February 12, 2018.