Our guest today, Bruce Bennett of the RAND Corporation where he researches questions of national security and global strategy and keeps a particularly close eye on the Koreas, North and South, recently wrote this of President Trump’s visit in the DMZ with Kim Jong Un: “Many pundits have concluded that this was political grandstanding. But they may be missing the significance of this act. … “
What the observers on the media grandstand seem to have missed, Bennett says, is the meaning of the Twitter-packaged pageant: The plot: President Trump was going to be in the neighborhood and thought he might drop by to just say hello.
It’s a social gesture every American would understand, a clear sign of friendship, and Bennett wrote, a signal that Donald Trump “considers Kim Jong Un to be a friend.”
All that was missing was the gift cake, the babka from Seinfeld.
It is axiomatic: rulers have friends and nations have interests, and the assumption of conventional diplomacy, not to mention political science, has long been that the national interest should take priority over friendships.
Never in our history have we had a president whose need for faux-friendships has compelled him to abandon the national interest and besmirch the national reputation by defending the election intrusions of Vladimir Putin and the brutal murders of the odious Saudi Arabian Prince Mohamed bin Sultan.
So, what is one to make of Donald Trump’s “friendship” with Kin Jong Un?
Bruce W. Bennett is a senior international/defense researcher at the RAND Corporation who works primarily on research topics such as strategy, force planning, and counterproliferation within the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center and the RAND Arroyo Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program.
Bennett’s work applies war gaming, risk management, deterrence-based strategy, competitive strategies, and military simulation and analysis. He specializes in “asymmetric threats” such as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and how to counter those threats with new strategies, operational concepts, and technologies. He is an expert in Northeast Asian military issues, having visited the region about 120 times and written much about Korean security issues. He has also done work on the Persian/Arab Gulf region.
His Northeast Asian research has addressed issues such as future ROK military force requirements, understanding and shaping the ongoing Korean crisis, Korean unification, the Korean military balance, counters to North Korean chemical and biological weapon threats in Korea and Japan, potential Chinese intervention in Korean contingencies, changes in the Northeast Asia security environment, and deterrence of nuclear threats (including strengthening the U.S. nuclear umbrella). He has worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, U.S. Forces Korea and Japan, the U.S. Pacific Command and Central Command, the ROK and Japanese militaries, and the ROK National Assembly.