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Cheap Seats 2018

Gamesmenship - 03/14

By Rich Trzupek
  A few weeks after The Donald was sworn into office (a.k.a. the Day the Left’s World Ended) I found myself on a plane sitting next to a very, very worried young woman. She was a native of South Korea and, like many others, found the rhetoric that President Trump was directing toward North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un very disturbing.
  She believed that the president was leading the nation down the path to nuclear war. There was no doubt in my mind that she legitimately and sincerely believed that. Trump was behaving in a way that no American president this side of Andrew Jackson has behaved, eschewing political correctness in favor of a bluntness that was at once both distressing and refreshing.
  I understood her concern, but I didn’t share it. From my point of view, Trump was adopting a negotiating position designed to ultimately box Kim into a corner. I didn’t see nuclear war in our future, I rather saw a potential meaningful nuclear deal and said so. My airplane pal said that she hoped I was right, but clearly held out little hope.
  With a Trump-Kim meeting now in the making, I can’t help but wonder what my buddy is thinking now. There is – clearly – no guarantee that the first meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean dictator will result in a denuclearized North Korea, but it’s hard to argue that this is not a step in the right direction.
  This story has reminded me, in a lot of ways, of the course of events that transformed me from a starry-eyed liberal to a reality-based conservative during the Reagan administration. I recounted the events in my latest tome:
  “Of the many things Reagan accomplished, one in particular left an indelible mark on me, the way I view the mainstream media, and the importance that political professionals place on messaging: the modernization of America’s medium-range nuclear deterrent in Europe.
  By 1979, the Soviets had deployed a force of 130 modern, medium-range SS-20 missiles, equipped with 390 nuclear warheads targeted at Western Europe. This naturally concerned our allies there. In late 1979, representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and West Germany got together and decided to implement a dual-track strategy to counter the Soviet threat. One track was essentially a carrot: if you get rid of your intermediate-range missiles Ivan, so will we. The other was all stick: if you refuse to dismantle those missiles, we’ll upgrade our intermediate-range nuclear force with missiles that are much better and far more accurate than what you managed to throw together. A deadline was set: 1983. If the Soviets hadn’t junked their SS-20s by then, the US would modernize its European nuclear weaponry.
  This strategy, developed during the Carter years, was passed on to Reagan. He accepted it, believing that the dual track approach made all kinds of sense. He doubted the Soviets would agree to get rid of all intermediate-range nukes (the so-called zero option) but he never took it off the table. Reagan knew his enemy, and understood promises could never trump actions when dealing with tyrants.
  There are a lot of twists and turns to this story, but the bottom line is that by 1983 it was clear the Soviets weren’t going to retire their SS-20s. Reagan did what he had to do: he pulled the trigger and proceeded to install modern, upgraded Pershing II missiles carrying nuclear warheads, and ground-based cruise missiles also carrying nuclear warheads, in bases in the UK and the Netherlands.
  The left and much of the mainstream media absolutely freaked out. Armageddon, they assured us, was just around the corner. Supposed concerned scientists jumped out of bed to push the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. Our worst nightmares were about to come true. Leftist protestors in America and Europe screamed, screeched, and shrieked. The world, they said, was on the verge of a nuclear war that would result in the end of life as we know it.
  That’s heady stuff. The annihilation of humanity is a consequence that definitely makes one pause. But, there’s a flipside to that kind of argument: if the disaster scenario ultimately is shown to be spurious, then anyone associated with the discredited position sacrifices credibility along with a great deal (but sadly not all) of their audience forevermore. Once again, Americans had reached a decision point.
  Astute readers may remember that life on earth did not vanish due to a nuclear holocaust during the eighties. Instead, in 1987 Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the first treaty actually to reduce nuclear arsenals rather than place limits on their growth. The Soviets dismantled over 1,700 missiles and the United States over 800 missiles, most of these located in Europe. Reagan had been right and the fear-mongers had been wrong. Not that many of the fear-mongers would admit that. Much of the press covered the historic INF Treaty as if their shrieks from four-years previous had never happened.”
  Will Trump duplicate Reagan’s disarmament accomplishment? Perhaps. This remains to be seen.
  Will the left duplicate their desperate efforts to deny and delegitimize Trump’s achievement if he gets Kim to back down?
  No doubt.




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