President Trump astonished both his supporters and Washngton insiders in the weeks preceding the failure of his effort to repeal and replace Obamacare: He acknowledged that healthcare was much more complicated than he thought. The list of hotspots and issues that are incredibly complicated is actually pretty long and candidate Trump provided scant details as he pummeled President Obama and Hillary Clinton on all of them throughout the campaign. The most challenging issues include
- ISIS and Syria
- Tax Reform
- Trade Deals (especially with China)
- Reviving Manufacturing and Job Growth
And then there’s North Korea.
In an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend, President Trump engaged in some very tough talk, putting both the Chinese and North Koreans on notice that all options are on the table when it comes to solving the problem of North Korea: “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you,” claimed the President.
Donald Trump has demonstrated remarkable aptitude when it comes to talking tough about most of the issues listed above. His track record on actionable solutions, however, remains lackluster and spotty. Here are three reasons we should be concerned about the Trump administration’s Korea strategy:
- Donald Trump never really understood his “friends” in the Freedom Caucus – does he understand an unstable, rogue dictator in an isolated country any better? Does he understand the complex historical, economic, and political issues at the heart of the Chinese and North Korean relationship? Rather than building coalitions to solve problems, Trump has an American entrepreneur’s inclination to go it alone when he meets resistance. Solving North Korea alone is not where we want to be as a nation.
- With Trump’s strong inclination to fill key administration positions based on loyalty rather than capacity or experience (see Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner), a newly drafted plan that has been hurriedly devised in advance of Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week may not be fully vetted or ready for prime time.
- Rex Tillerson, a reluctant Secretary of State with little experience in diplomacy, is reportedly being eclipsed by both UN Secretary Nikki Haley and the White House advisers in the National Security Council. The United States foreign policy team is not fully staffed and is in a state of disarray.
One of the reasons that the Obamacare replacement effort failed so miserably, according to multiple sources, is the President’s poor command of details. When it came time to negotiate with members of his own party, Trump was not master of the finer points of the complex bill he was advancing. It’s unknown if President Trump has taken the time and effort to fully understand the players and the moving pieces when it comes to North Korea and China.
Without a doubt President Xi Jinping will have complete command of the details when he meets Trump at Mar a Lago later this week – and the Chinese have been perfecting the art of the deal for a couple more millennia than Americans have.