Unseating Erdoğan

Cartoon by Marian Kamensky

Turkey's Islamists and secularists join forces in bid to unseat Erdoğan 

The Guardian: The leader of Turkey’s largest Islamist party rattled off what he believes to be the failures of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government: a high unemployment rate, a widening trade deficit, a chaotic foreign policy, a stalled European Union membership application and a state of emergency since the failed 2016 coup – all of which have damaged fundamental rights and freedoms.

Temel Karamollaoğlu, the Manchester-educated head of the Saadet (Felicity) party, says it is for these reasons and more that he is running for president. He has also allied with staunch secularists in the race for parliament – a coalition that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.

Although Erdoğan remains the most powerful and popular politician in Turkey, his opponents have performed exceptionally well in opinion polls, with recent ones suggesting the legislative hold of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) could be broken.

In an environment of declining freedom of expression and purges of dissidents as well as growing displays of public piety in a country where secularism is enshrined in its founding principles, a consistent voice of opposition has emerged from an unlikely quarter.

Islamists, who were once ideological allies of the president, have joined the alliance trying to weaken his hold on power.

“The policies that Erdoğan or his government are following do not help Turkey stand up on her own feet in almost all aspects and policies, whether economic or foreign policies,” Karamollaoğlu told the Guardian. “His method of approach, the discourse, causes polarisation in Turkey. He is in great extent disrespectful to the upholding of law.”

Karamollaoğlu’s party was once led by Necmettin Erbakan, the father of Turkey’s modern political Islamist movement, one-time prime minister and former mentor of Erdoğan.

Erdoğan and other key figures in the movement, who were seen as more reform-minded at the time, split off to form the AKP, which has ruled Turkey since 2002.

Turkey’s president likes to portray himself as the global defender of Islam and has sought to position himself as a champion of Muslim causes and a leader of a solidarity movement for the oppressed faithful around the world, another stance that plays well with conservative voters.

Karamollaoğlu said his party’s vision for Turkey is one of UK-style secularism in which religion and the state can co-exist peaceably, a self-sufficient economy and a foreign policy based on dialogue and diplomacy, with closer ties to Muslim nations. He wants to abandon the pursuit of EU membership in favour of a special status agreement, as well as the strategic alliance with the US that is already frayed under Erdoğan >>>

America is better than this

Cartoon by Dr. Seues, 1941

‘America is better than this’: What a doctor saw in a Texas shelter for migrant children

by Kristine Phillips

The Washington Post, June 16, 2018 

The small shelter along the Texas border to Mexico held 60 beds and a little playground for children. Rooms were equipped with toys, books and crayons. To Colleen Kraft, this shelter looked, in many ways, like a friendly environment for children, a place where they could be happy.

But the first child who caught the prominent pediatrician’s attention during a recent visit was anything but happy. Inside a room dedicated to toddlers was a little girl no older than 2, screaming and pounding her fists on a mat. One woman tried to give her toys and books to calm her down, but even that shelter worker seemed frustrated, Kraft told The Washington Post, because as much as she wanted to console the little girl, she couldn’t touch, hold or pick her up to let her know everything would be all right. That was the rule, Kraft said she was told: They’re not allowed to touch the children.

“The really devastating thing was that we all knew what was going on with this child. We all knew what the problem was,” Kraft said. “She didn’t have her mother, and none of us can fix that.”

The girl had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to this shelter that had been redecorated for children under age 12, Kraft said staffers told her.

The little girl is among the multitude of immigrant children who have been separated from their family as part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, meaning any adult who crosses the border illegally will face criminal prosecution. That also means parents were taken to federal jails while their children were sent to shelters.

Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents during six weeks in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said colleagues who were alarmed by what was going on at the border invited her to see for herself, so she visited a shelter run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“We needed to see what was happening and tell the country and the world about it,” she said.

One thing immediately became clear to Kraft: Those who work at this shelter, whom she declined to name for privacy reasons, were doing what they could to make sure the children’s needs are met. The children were fed; they had beds, toys, a playground and people who change their diapers. But there are limits to what workers could do. Not only could they not pick up or touch the children; they could not get their parents for them.

“The really basic, foundational needs of having trust in adults as a young child was not being met. That contradicts everything we know that the kids need to build their health,” Kraft said.

Such a situation could have long-term, devastating effects on young children, who are likely to develop what is called toxic stress in their brain once separated from caregivers or parents they trusted. It disrupts a child’s brain development and increases the levels of fight-or-flight hormones in their bodies, Kraft said. This kind of emotional trauma could eventually lead to health problems, such as heart disease and substance abuse disorders.

Kraft and her organization are not alone in this opinion.

“While not all of the children we are ripping from their parents will suffer the full consequences of toxic stress, many may,” child psychologist Megan Gunnar of the University of Minnesota told BuzzFeed News.

“The age of the child matters,” Gunnar said. Children under age 10 are of deep concern, she said. “Those under 5 should get us all running around with our hair on fire to get this practice stopped.”

Nearly 4,600 mental-health professionals and 90 organizations have joined a petition urging President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several elected officials to stop the policy of separating children from their parents. The petition says:

    These children are thrust into detention centers often without an advocate or an attorney and possibly even without the presence of any adult who can speak their language. We want you to imagine for a moment what this might be like for a child: to flee the place you have called your home because it is not safe to stay and then embark on a dangerous journey to an unknown destination, only to be ripped apart from your sole sense of security with no understanding of what just happened to you or if you will ever see your family again. And that the only thing you have done to deserve this, is to do what children do: stay close to the adults in their lives for security.

It further says: “To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma.”

As of Thursday, 11,432 migrant children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, up from 9,000 at the beginning of May. These numbers include minors who arrived at the border without a relative and children separated from their parents.

The policy so far has pushed shelters to their capacity. Administration officials had started making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases. On Thursday, the Trump administration said it will house children in tents in the desert outside El Paso.

Though the policy has been enacted and touted by his own administration, Trump has avoided publicly owning it and, instead, blamed Democrats on Twitter for “forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.”

Health and Human Services blames Congress, saying its inability to pass legislation on border security “created perverse and dangerous incentives for illegal border crossings and child smuggling.”

For Kraft, lost in the partisan wrangling and finger-pointing was the long-term impact on children.

“As partisan and as divisive as the whole topic of immigration is, we need to start with what’s right,” she said. “Can we start with just keeping parents and children together while we figure out some of the other details?”

“The kids need to come first,” she added. “America is better than this.”

To the last drop

Reza Rish

Iran's water crisis

Nike: We just did it!

From Leila Sajjadi on Facebook.

Military Industrial Drain

Cartoon by Joel Pett

The Military Industrial Drain – OpEd

Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley

Eurasia Review: As Trump stokes tensions around the world, he’s adding fuel to the fire by demanding even more Pentagon spending. It’s a dangerous military buildup intended to underwrite endless wars and enrich defense contractors, while draining money from investment in the American people.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower once noted, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Eisenhower was a Republican and a former general who helped win World War II for the allies, yet he understood America’s true priorities. But Washington–and especially Trump–have lost sight of these basic tradeoffs.

Since 2001, the Pentagon budget has soared from $456 billion–in today’s dollars–to $700 billion, including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security expenses. All told, when you include spending on the military and war, veterans’ benefits, and homeland security, military-related spending now eats up 67 percent of all federal  discretionary spending.

According to the 2018 Military Balance report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the United States already spends more on the military than the next 10 nations combined. Even if the Pentagon budget were cut in half, the United States would still outspend China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea combined.

The military budget has become bloated with waste and abuse. According to the Pentagon’s own internal figures, the department could save at least $125 billion by reducing operational overhead.

Out-of-control defense contractors also drive up spending. In the coming years, cost overruns alone are projected to reach an estimated $484 billion. Meanwhile, the CEOs of the top 5 defense firms took home $97.4 million in compensation last year.

Despite all this, some still argue that military spending is necessary to support good-paying jobs and economic growth. Baloney. America would be much better served by a jobs program that invested in things we really need – like modern roads and highways, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and clean energy – not weapons systems.

The biggest reason for increases in Pentagon spending is the incredible clout of the military-industrial complex – Eisenhower’s term. Every year, defense contractors spend millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions to keep federal dollars flowing their way. More than 80 percent of top Pentagon officials have worked for the defense industry at some point in their careers, and many will go back to work in the defense industry.

Since taking office, Trump has increased military spending by more than $200 billion. Let’s take a second to look at how else that $200 billion could be spent.  We could, for example:

Offer free public colleges and universities, as proposed by Bernie Sanders.

And fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

And expand broadband Internet access to rural America.

And meet the growing needs for low-income housing, providing safe living conditions for families and the elderly.

And help repair the physical devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Spending more on bombs and military machinery funnels money away from the American people and into wars. It’s time to rein in Pentagon spending and this endless war machine, and demand investment in America.

The dark path

Cartoon by Ed Hall

Trump likely doesn’t realize the dark path he’s taking his country down

The National Post: Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland raised some eyebrows when she quoted Adolf Hitler in a conversation devoted to the current political realities in Washington.

It’s rarely a good idea to reference the Nazi dictator. Few humans, with the arguable exception of Joseph Stalin, rival his crimes. Comparing anyone or anything to Hitler usually serves only to identify the accuser as lacking perspective or historical knowledge, and undermines whatever cause they’re arguing by demonstrating that fault.

Freeland’s case may be an exception, however. The foreign minister, who easily holds the most difficult portfolio in Canada, encompassing both the NAFTA trade talks and the general chaos engendered by the Trump White House, made her remarks in an interview with The New York Times. That alone would be enough to have heads exploding in conservative circles, as the Times has plunged into a single-minded jihad against all things Trump.

In the article, Freeland quotes Hitler boasting of the secret to his rise to power: “Our political problems appeared complicated. The German people could make nothing of them. … I, on the other hand … reduced them to the simplest terms. The masses realized this and followed me.”

Freeland, reported the Times, “leaned forward, a look of concern in her eyes. ‘How do you attract voters and public support compared with the flashiness of exciting, chaotic, fact-ignoring populism?’ she asked. ‘The reason Hitler won was because all of the other politicians were giving complicated and difficult explanations about difficult things. Hitler just told people simple things that they wanted to hear.’ ”

She didn’t specifically identify the U.S. president, but the inference is clear. Trump’s rise relates directly to his success at dismissing complex issues and relations as simple matters he can easily fix. His aggressive nature impresses angry audiences as strength and determination. He encourages a vision of America against the world, of a right-thinking nation surrounded by enemies. So virulent is the danger, apparently, that even Canada can be presented as a threat. As a Wall Street Journal article noted this week: “It finally happened: U.S. President Donald Trump picked a fight with the nicest people on Earth.”

Trump’s Washington isn’t anything like the Nazi horror, of course, but Freeland wasn’t suggesting it was. It just happened Hitler was the one who made the remarks she’d come across. Her allusion was to the danger of demagoguery, to the abandonment of standards of political discourse and international engagement, to the deep problems that ensue when one rule book is thrown out for no rules at all.

Freeland is no neophyte in these things. She has an extensive understanding of the dangers that occur when democratic norms are challenged, both from her years as a journalist, and personally from her family’s experience in Ukraine, a country devastated by Nazis and communists alike. Her maternal grandfather worked on a Nazi-operated newspaper in Krakow during the war, a publication that reportedly identified Poland as “infected by the Jews.” She denies charges he was a Nazi collaborator, insisting his actions have been distorted by Russian efforts to destabilize democracy and undermine elected representatives like herself.

I have no idea where the truth lays in that matter, but it evidently inspired in Freeland an intense awareness of the dangers of demagoguery and the forces it unleashes where democracy is weak. Wikipedia defines demagoguery as “a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation.” That precisely sums up Donald Trump, a demagogue who has become increasingly reckless as he grows in confidence as president. He reduces the most complex issues to the most simplistic of terms. He felt no need to prepare much for his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, convinced he could wing it on a problem that has evaded solution for 60 years and 11 presidents. He happily sneers at other leaders, belittles them in public, mocks their countries, dismisses less fortunate nations as “shitholes,” shatters relationships that have taken decades to forge with allies that have time and again come to America’s aid.

His imperiousness appeals to a certain American hunger for a time when it bestrode the world as unchallenged leader. After the Soviet collapse, the U.S. was supposed to be the world’s sole superpower, but it hasn’t been feeling very super-powery. Syria’s president audaciously crosses America’s red line and suffers little for it. Terrorists leave it feeling threatened in its own home. Someone apparently forgot to inform China and Russia of their subordinate status. If Americans can’t run the world, they can still enjoy Trump swaggering around as if he did, breaking treaties, disregarding agreements, insulting friends and allies. It may result in long-term damage as trust in America erodes, admiration fades and friends begin to treat it as a problem to be contained rather than an ally to support. But what matter is that in the short run, against “the flashiness of exciting, chaotic, fact-ignoring populism?”

Trump is interested in the world only as it affects him. He surrounds himself with toadies and opportunists, flatterers and yes-men. He identifies more with the likes of Putin and Kim than Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel. He shares their instincts, their disregard for truth and the rule of law, their overweening dedication to their own interests above all else, their belief in the power of aggression. He has an ability to rouse dark instincts and give them a target. He probably lacks the depth to appreciate whose steps he’s following in, and the long history of disaster demagoguery has wrought. That’s probably part of what alarms Canada’s foreign minister, with good reason.

I'm all alone

Reza Delrish

I'm all alone - I'm all alone in the midst of a deluge of sorrows


A breakthrough for Kim

Cartoon by Jim Morin

Trump really has achieved a historic breakthrough – for the Kim dynasty 

Jonathan Freedland

The Guardian: A useful way to test the deal Donald Trump has reached with Kim Jong-un is to imagine what Trump himself would have said had it been Barack Obama rather than him who shook hands with the North Korean dictator. Trump and his echo chamber on Fox News and elsewhere would have poured buckets of derision on Obama for the piece of paper he signed with Kim, for the fawning praise he lavished on a brutal tyrant, and for the paltry non-concessions he got in return. He would have branded the agreement a “horrible deal” and condemned Obama as a sucker for signing it.

Look first at what Kim got from the encounter. Once ostracised as a pariah, Kim was treated as a world statesman on a par with the president of the United States, the two meeting on equal terms, right down to the equal numbers of flags behind them as they shook hands. The tyrant now has a showreel of images – including his walkabout in Singapore, where he was mobbed by what the BBC called “fans” seeking selfies – which will feature in propaganda videos for months, if not years.

What’s more, Trump lauded Kim as “a very talented man … who loves his country very much,” a man the US president admired for his ability to take over North Korea at such a young age and to “run it tough”, as he put it in a later press conference. There was not so much as even a rote condemnation of the brutality of the Kim regime – indeed Trump reserved the word “regime” for the Clinton administration of the 1990s. And when asked if he had even mentioned human rights in their talks, he said it had only been discussed “briefly”. The harshest words he had for a country that starved its own people in a famine that cost up to three million lives, were: “It’s a rough situation there … it’s rough in a lot of places by the way.”

So Kim leaves Singapore having gained much of the international legitimacy the dynastic dictatorship has sought for decades. But the gifts from Trump did not end there. He also announced an end to US military exercises in the Korean peninsula – the “war games” which he said were costly and, deploying language Pyongyang itself might have used, “very provocative”. Trump also hinted at an eventual withdrawal of the 28,000 US troops stationed in the Korean peninsula.

And what did Kim give Trump in return for this bulging bag of goodies? The key concession, the one Trump repeatedly invoked, was a promise of “complete denuclearisation”. Trump held this aloft as if it were a North Korean commitment to dismantle its arsenal, with work beginning right away. To be sure, such a commitment would be a major prize, one that would merit all the congratulation a beaming Trump was heaping on himself. But this is where you need to look at the small print.

First, the text itself says merely: “The DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” Kim has promised not “complete denuclearisation” but simply “to work toward” that end. Negotiators the world over know is the fudging language you use when you’ve extracted something less than a real commitment. Kim has offered only an aspiration, with no deadline or timetable, not a concrete plan.

Still, even if Kim had pledged “compete denuclearisation” that too would be less than a genuine breakthrough. The longstanding goal of US policy has been CVID: complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear arsenal. The words “verifiable” and “irreversible” are entirely absent from the agreement.

Again, think of what candidate Trump would have said about that. The Iran deal, which he regularly denounced as “horrible” and from which he withdrew last month, consisted of 110 pages of detailed arrangements – including the deployment of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, cameras, seals and the like – to verify Tehran’s fulfilment of its nuclear promises. The Singapore text, which barely runs to a page and a half, does not so much as breathe the word “verifiable”. Indeed, Trump could not even get a commitment from Kim to basic transparency, to disclose the scope of North Korea’s current nuclear capacity, both the weapons it has and its manufacturing capability. How can the world know what Pyongyang has got rid of if it doesn’t know what it has?

But the heart of the matter is the word “denuclearisation” itself. The problem here is that that word does not mean to Kim what Trump thinks it means. To North Korea, it is not shorthand for unilaterally scrapping its arsenal, but a vague aspiration for a nuclear-free region (a move that would, incidentally, require the US to withdraw its nuclear forces from Asia and remove South Korea from the protection of its nuclear umbrella). It would be like misreading the speeches Obama often made calling for a nuclear-free world as a firm US commitment to ditch its nukes. That’s not what they meant at all.

On the contrary, analysts say that the Singapore text’s reference to the Panmunjom declaration of April this year – when the leaders of North and South Korea met for the first time in over a decade – is a further signal that Pyongyang sees the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula as part of a wider process of global disarmament. Put simply, Kim is saying he’ll get rid of his nuclear weapons only when Russia, China, the US and everyone else gets rid of theirs.

In his press conference, Trump praised himself for achieving a historic milestone that had eluded his predecessors. But it turns out that Pyongyang already offered very similar pledges in agreements it signed with the US in the early 1990s and in 2005. In fact, those earlier accords pushed the North Koreans much further: the former included an inspection regime, the latter a verification process. As the former US negotiator with North Korea, ambassador Wendy Sherman, told MSNBC, “Not only have we been here before, we’ve been here before with much greater specificity.”

Small wonder that the Seoul-based analyst Andrei Lankov declared of the agreement: “It has zero practical value. The US could have extracted serious concessions, but it was not done. N Korea will be emboldened and the US got nothing.” Other experts chorused that the deal was even “thinner” and “looser” than they’d feared.

Of course it is better for the world that Trump and Kim are shaking hands rather than hurling insults and threatening nuclear war. For that we should be grateful. It’s also possible that US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, might now get stuck into the detail and work to fill the yawning gaps. But for now, this is only a historic breakthrough for the Kim dynasty, whose rule over an enslaved nation has been given a huge boost. They will be celebrating. For the rest of us, it is further cause to grieve that the world’s most powerful nation is in such incapable hands.

Singapore Summit

Cartoon by Brady McNulty

The Singapore summit is a global exercise in Donald Trump damage limitation 

Richard Wolffe, Guardian columnist

The Guardian: Let’s be honest. The sight of high-level talks with a bellicose, incoherent, nuclear-armed world leader is far better than the alternative. What good can come from isolating an impetuous man suffering from delusions of grandeur?

Yes, it’s a relief to see the world trying to talk sense to Donald J Trump, even if those talks are doomed to fail.

The imperative for the world’s leaders is how to manage the risks posed by an American president who can’t be trusted to keep his word or to distinguish his friends from his foes. What the world watched aghast at the G7 summit is the same dynamic it now sees in Singapore: a global exercise in damage limitation of Donald Trump.

So far, so good in Singapore. Before he could begin talking to Kim Jong-un, Trump already declared his talks “tremendously successful” and the outcome of “a terrific relationship.” He also described his meeting with the world’s worst dictator as “my honor.”

You shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the condemnation of this belittling of the American presidency from the same conservatives who were disgusted by President Obama’s greeting of the Japanese emperor.

Then again, who cares? As long as Trump can cool his own saber-rattling, the good citizens of South Korea can sleep soundly at night.
The best photos from Kim and Trump's Singapore summit

After all, when North Korean fears reached fever pitch a few months ago, it wasn’t because of a spike in Pyongyang’s rhetoric. That has long been at a level of fire and fury that most of its neighbors choose to ignore. In 2010 a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship, and three years later, it threatened to fire on US bases after B2 stealth bombers flew over the peninsula.

What changed this year? The threats of fire and fury came from the American president, not the North Korean dictator. Suddenly the world was unsettled by Washington and a hotheaded leader who insisted his nuclear button was bigger than anyone else’s.

So we should understand what the world is hoping for when we look at the Singapore summit, and appreciate the little wins that will keep war at bay. At the top of that list is a path to managing the unhinged conduct of the president of the United States.

As for managing North Korea, we have been here before. The Stalinist state has been a nuclear power for more than a decade, with enough conventional firepower and long-range missiles to inflict mass civilian deaths on our allies in South Korea and Japan.

President Clinton was close to a summit in 2000 after years of diplomacy and deals that his political opponents scorned. Republicans in those days were rightly distrustful of the North Koreans, who cheated on the Clinton deal. Still, President Bush joined the six-party talks and came to a deal, which the North Koreans promptly blew up with their own nuclear test.

Presidential summits were of no value to Trump’s predecessors because they wanted to enhance the deal, not their own image. They chose not to meet with the North Korean leadership because there was no upside for them. Those deals hinged on sanctions and nuclear talks: the normal language of diplomacy and national security.

For this president, the calculation is entirely different for all sides. Trump speaks the language of personal enrichment because, well, that’s who he is.

When asked in the Oval Office last month whether North Korea was heading for a Libyan outcome, as his national security adviser suggested, Trump disagreed. “This would be with Kim Jong-un,” he explained, “something where he’d be there, he’d be in his country, he’d be running his country. His country would be very rich.”

Personal enrichment is something the North Korean leadership understands as much as the Trump family. The Bush administration discovered this by chance when it blacklisted a Macao bank that turned into its greatest leverage over the North Koreans. It turned out that the bank held $25m belonging to just 52 people close to the Pyongyang regime. Freeing up that cash became a critical part of the Bush-era nuclear deal with North Korea.

This is where the G7 allies are speaking a different language from the man who currently tweets about cable television from the executive mansion of the White House. They want to talk about communiqués, the rules of global trade and how to treat your allies like they’re your friends.

They hold meetings about women’s empowerment and expect Trump to turn up on time. They agree the language of a joint statement and expect Trump to stay true to that agreement from morning to afternoon. They look at an American trade surplus with Canada and are shocked when he talks about a deficit.

The sooner they understand that Trump cannot grow into a normal world leader, the better.

Before conservatives cheer this moment in global politics, they should realize they are happy that Trump is finally taking on the great Canadian threat to our national security. Whatever will he protect us from next? Perhaps it’s time he challenged the international evil that is Switzerland.
History of US-North Korea deals shows hard part is making them stick
Read more

If there is a Trump doctrine, it’s certainly not America First. That might just involve promoting America’s interests by maintaining the largest number of powerful allies. No, the Trump doctrine is to create the Age of Outrage: a constant churn of outrageous statements designed to disrupt and distract.

Some of that outrage is intentional, and some of it is just incompetence. For now, the permanently startled press corps can only ask the most serious questions of this least serious president.

Before he flounced out of the G7 summit, Trump was asked how long it would take him to figure out if the North Korean leader was serious.

“That’s a good question,” said the commander-in-chief. “How long will it take? I think within the first minute I’ll know.”

“How?” asked the dumbfounded reporter.

“Just my touch, my feel. That’s what I do.”

That’s what Trump does: he gropes his way to his foreign policy, while the rest of the world just looks shocked. As long as he’s happy, we can rationalize his bad behavior as being good for the world. As long as he doesn’t grope his way to war, we might just have a chance to rebuild America’s alliances in 2021.

North Korea Iran Deal

Cartoon by Tom Toles

Before Kim Meets Trump, China Gets Jittery About North Korea’s Intentions

The New York Times

BEIJING — In the sudden rush of diplomacy involving North Korea, China has appeared to have the upper hand, hosting the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, twice before his long-anticipated Singapore summit meeting with President Trump even begins.

Yet as Mr. Kim prepares to finally meet Mr. Trump in Singapore on Tuesday, some analysts say Beijing appears to be getting a sudden case of the jitters.

They say the Chinese leaders, who are unused to being on the outside looking in, are growing anxious about whether they can keep their Cold War-era ally firmly in its current orbit around China. Leaders in Beijing are worried, experts say, that Mr. Kim might try to counterbalance China’s influence by embracing the United States, North Korea’s longtime enemy.

According to analysts, Mr. Kim may seek to do this by offering Mr. Trump some sort of deal, which would probably include some pledge to scrap his nuclear arsenal in exchange for American help to reduce or even eliminate North Korea’s near total dependence on China.

“If you look at history, North Korea is not sure of China, and has a kind of revenge mentality,” said Shen Zhihua, a prominent Chinese historian on North Korea. “The worst outcome is that the United States, South Korea and North Korea all get together and China gets knocked out.”

Analysts said China worried that the United States could also use the Singapore meeting to engineer a united Korean Peninsula that joins the North with South Korea, one of Washington’s closest allies. For China, that raises the uncomfortable specter of American troops on China’s doorstep, erasing North Korea’s traditional role as a buffer.

There is even the remote possibility that North Korea could flip allegiances, just as China did in 1972. When President Richard Nixon visited Beijing that year, Mao Zedong further distanced China from the Soviet Union in favor of friendship with the United States.

Some analysts ask whether the United States could now flip North Korea to its side and away from China.

“China can see some shocking resemblance to Nixon coming to China with Trump and North Korea,” said Yun Sun, a China analyst at the Washington-based Stimson Center. “If China could do it, why not North Korea?”

Experts say the more preferable outcome for China would be for Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim to sign a peace treaty that formally ends the Korean War and paves the way for the eventual withdrawal of the 28,500 American troops in South Korea.

That would leave the entire peninsula open to China’s influence, while eroding the confidence of American allies in Asia regarding Washington’s commitment to the region >>>