Nobel Prizes have been influenced by the affections and peculiarities of this and the last century, but let that not prevent the next peace prize from being awarded to three deserving men: Kim Jong Un, Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump. Obama’s prize was for a speech. Trump’s will be for a deed, if the prize is to mean anything at all. There will be sniping and worse emanating from the angry left in media and entertainment, many members of which have been entirely unable to see Trump as anything but some sort of grotesque monster and throwback, lacking in every department imaginable, not even a caricature but a Mr. Hyde or Dorian Gray portrait.
Trump’s agenda includes peace as a major objective, and he has brought his own methods to the presidency to achieve it with success. If North Korean peace arrives and the pact is fulfilled over the next few years, new possibilities for peace arise in other regions of the world. With Kim and Moon, Trump has now created options for resolving or alleviating relations with Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Russia and China.
Trump has outflanked and disarmed his critics. Robert De Niro may as well beat his head against the wall. Trump’s win is our win. It measurably gives him the power to extend the gains for peace. Trump’s modus operandi includes gaining independence of action which translates into political power and influence, that is, a capacity to move in new political directions. He has achieved credible independence by such actions as withdrawing from the TPP, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, imposing tariffs, standing up to the media, and standing up to the G-7. His blunt talk is another key component of his method.
How well can Trump exploit the new configuration of political forces that he has helped create? That remains to be seen. There are downsides as well as upsides, there are pitfalls of many kinds, and there are opposing forces, so that worldwide peace is not an immediate prospect.
It should not be difficult to bring Russia back into reasonable relations with the U.S. Trump has already launched that effort and alluded to accepting Crimean annexation as a fait accompli. Iran seems a tough nut to crack, but the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is very intelligent and articulate, has already clarified Iran’s position on Israel. He has shrewdly suggested a referendum, which is a democratic device. This in no way whatsoever resolves the key issues, but it at least shows a desire to address those issues in a peaceful way. Syria presents a picture of divided U.S. policies. On the one hand, Trump has stated he wants out; on the other hand, Mattis says withdrawal is a strategic blunder; but this seems to be part of jockeying toward a political redrawing of Syria’s map. Peace and disentanglement of the U.S. have no clear roadmap in other regions such as Afghanistan and Yemen, although the Taliban and the Afghan government have had a three-day truce, unobserved by the Islamic State. How to deal with growing military strength of China and its pressuring of its neighbors, such as Vietnam, is yet another challenge.
The inherent difficulty of a policy of peace through U.S. strength is that the state’s power will be misused, such as by attempts to create peace by: making war, removing dictators, controlling weapons buildups, installing democracies, nation-building, securing pipeline routes, maintaining dollar hegemony, and securing a favored nation. Peace among states has to be a limited concept. It cannot be transformed into the goal of unlimited security without endangering peace. Peace in a world of states means no war between two states or among several. It does not mean securing peace within every state. It does not mean removing every threat to peace.
In the past 24 years, under Clinton, Bush and Obama, the U.S. misused its power egregiously in one war after another. Trump is moving in a different direction. However, there is no guarantee that he will not himself misuse his power, and we already can find instances of that. Future presidents of our country and leaders of other states face the same dangers and temptations to misuse power. What can change that? At a minimum, what would help is a clearly understood non-aggression ethos that is backed up by a clear understanding of self-defense and its limits. No state and no non-state organization should believe in its right to either preventive or preemptive war. The rights of both secession and revolution should be clarified. Economic extortion by means of political-military threats should be seen clearly as aggressive acts. The necessity to the peace of private property and its clear definitions and boundaries needs constantly to be emphasized. A peace ethos draws significantly from the libertarian ethos.
9:08 am on June 12, 2018
Email Michael S. Rozeff