Here are some good quotes from an essay by Stephen M. Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University. He is by no means a progressive but belongs to the so-called ‘realist’ school of politics that says that the US should adopt policies that are in its own long-term interests and based on a rational weighing of evidence and not be driven by ideological motivations such as neo-conservatism or neoliberal interventionism that has got the US involved in so many unwinnable wars and locked into reflexive support for any and all of Israel’s awful polices.
His essay looks at the way that the media portrays Kim and other people who have been designated as adversaries.
“The most significant development in Singapore was to complete the transformation of Kim himself from a secretive, slightly comical, definitely murderous, and possibly irrational leader of a ‘Hermit Kingdom’ into a serious and engaged world leader of some stature,” he added.
“America’s self-defeating tendency [is] to portray adversaries as irrational, crazy, deluded, risk-seeking, suicidal, or just plain nuts,” he wrote. “Instead of seeing foreign-policy disputes as the product of straightforward conflicts of interest or clashing political values, even well- experienced U.S. officials and knowledgeable pundits are prone to seeing them as a reflection of personality defects, paranoia, or distorted views of reality.”
“Similarly, many Americans continue to view international terrorists as deeply disturbed, irrational, deluded, or simply crazy individuals, instead of seeing them as politically motivated, calculating, and more or less rational actors who have adopted a particular tactic (sometimes including the use of suicide bombers) because they believe (with some basis) that it offers the best chance of realizing their political aims,” he added.
He then wrote, “Some of the individual attackers may indeed by driven by wholly fictitious beliefs, but to dismiss these groups and their leaders as simply crazy underestimates their own resilience, strategic behavior, and capacity to adapt.”
“And while we’re talking about perceived irrational behavior, Americans might want to be a bit more self-reflective. We like to portray our enemies as irrational and foolhardy, but we’ve been guilty of no small amount of crazy behavior ourselves,” he continued.
He also turns a critical eye on Trump’s behavior and what it might suggest to other world leaders about how they should treat the US.
“Lastly but by no means least, what are other states to make of a president who can’t get through a day without telling a bald-faced lie (or several), insults the leaders of our closest allies not just once but repeatedly, and who changes course so frequently that neither friends nor foes can be confident that an agreement reached today will be abided tomorrow,” he wrote.
“Unlike some of his critics, I don’t think President Trump is crazy or in the early stages of dementia (although reading the clinical description of narcissistic personality disorder is more than a little worrisome). But based on his performance thus far, it’s easy to see why major world leaders might conclude that there was no point in trying to accommodate, mollify, appeal to, or compromise with a leader as capricious and vindictive as Trump,” he suggested.
“Kim Jong Un seems to have demonstrated that one gets more respect from Trump by defying him than trying to get along. If other leaders reach the same conclusion, they will devote less effort to remaining on good terms with the United States and concentrate instead on building cooperative arrangements with each other,” he warned before concluding, “At this point, they’d be crazy not to.”
The US has achieved global dominance not just because of its military and economic power but because it has built alliances of nations (NATO, G7, G20, etc.) that have been willing to let the US set the agenda and follow along. If those alliances crumble, then the economic power may soon follow suit, leaving the US with only military dominance. And history has many lessons about nations that had only military power without a supporting economic foundation.