OPINION | Ken Pittman: Summit Success is Measured Differently
Last night and deep into this morning, I dedicated quite a bit of time watching the historic summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, in Singapore. Of course, with the event taking place on the other side of the world, the times to watch were difficult.
I purposely switched from network to network, really focusing on the opposite views of CNN and Fox News. As usual, it was hard to believe the story they were covering was the same.
Early in the night and then later the following early morning, Sean Hannity was typically exuberant and almost bloviated about the pride we should all feel in the efforts put forth in this summit, and what he described as accomplishments of President Trump last night.
My feelings on that were: tap the brakes. Nothing is in stone. But, things couldn’t have worked out better for expectations. While denuclearizing agreements are not accomplishing the actual task, the first step actually went really well.
So, on Fox, I got pretty much what I expected: a series of shows that were agreeable to the President’s embracing of Kim Jong Un and to the thoughtful steps taken to this point.
One channel up is an entirely different universe.
“This is CNN….”
Here, what I listened to, was a different conversation. For weeks, the contributors on their shows had predicted a collapse before the summit ever took place, or a terrible outcome before the summit ended. Neither of these things, which were almost guaranteed to occur, happened.
Much like the night of November 8, 2016, the CNN hosts and panelists looked shocked, if not dismayed, as the news trickled in. Trump and Kim had actually met, Trump and Kim seemed to like each other! Trump and Kim have publicly agreed to denuclearize the North Korean nation of all their bombs and missiles. America conceded nothing but the assurance that we would forgive all the past sins of our enemy of 68 years. Trump also assured Kim Jong Un that America was going to help finance the transformation of this rogue state into a vibrant economic partner.
A win-win….so far.
At first, the liberal talking heads tried to put on a brave face, as if they were “of course happy about the development," but it’s something that cannot be faked.
I sat amused as the conversation went from shock and eventually, after finding some composure, to steal Trump’s sunlight to throw some rain into the information forecast for their viewers.
“The fact that he’s (Kim Jong Un) meeting President Trump is a huge victory for him and whatever happens he will go away with a huge victory.” — CNN’s Christiane Amanpour
Once again, the left had it all wrong. Now they’d much rather you go back to last week to the G7 meetings, ignore what happened today and obsess over the butthurt feelings of our "bestie," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Be ready for five buckets a day on that kind of talk.
The anything-but-traditional style of politicking of Donald J. Trump dared to be just zany enough for Kim Jong Un to both like and fear. This seems to be the exact combination required for him to begin the transformation from a bizarre, isolated Communist totalitarian regime toward a free (more free) state that would in theory, be opened up to modern free markets and other freedoms not ever enjoyed for the people there since before 90 percent of them were ever born.
In fact, North Koreans didn’t even know their leader was in Singapore negotiating for peace with President Trump until several hours ago. They aren’t allowed to have communication devices of any kind to have any understanding of what is going on in the rest of the world, on the other side of their barbed wire fences, borders loaded with mine fields and machine gun nests protecting (and trapping those within) the edges of their nation.
They are a cult of a sort. I have my reservations about how this incredible morphing of 25 million North Koreans will work. How will they react when they are shown the riches of South Korea, Japan and the United States?
For decades they have been taught by this controlling and restricting government of theirs that, as bad as it is there, things were much more desolate on the other side of that barbed wire. Dennis Rodman was the reason the fence was up!
These are basically 25 million prisoners.
Will they become angry knowing that they suffered without cause? Millions of North Korean citizens have been used for free labor in Russia and China, in factories and remote lumber “gulags."
Punishments by this strict, super controlling government have been handed down, affecting almost every citizen at one time or another. Spies in every neighborhood, farm and factory report on any and all non-conformity. Severe consequences go to those who even dare whisper to challenge this governmental system only to be detected by the always-watching government. I doubt it is lost on Kim Jong Un that he may face strong hostilities from within. There also may be powerful military leaders there who do not wish to relent their system and the power they themselves have attained and, from their perspective, give in to the enemy.
And what of the military itself? There are 950,000 active, 600,000 reserve and almost six million paramilitary citizen soldiers there. Every male serves three years minimum in the military, and many females are required to as well. The youth take part in four-hour combat drills every Saturday to prepare for "the inevitable war" with America and South Korean 'traitors." The debriefing of the military will be about the toughest component of this process.
Kim has a lot to worry about in this bold step. He was born into this position. He has murdered family members and many, many others to maintain complete control of the rogue state. He is responsible for the deaths of American prisoners who were accused of spying. North Korea had been constantly seizing peaceful Japanese fishing vessels in international waters, and snatching crews on them for many years, where many today sit in prison, if they are even alive at all.
In March of 2010, 46 South Korean Navy members were murdered by a torpedo when it struck a small frigate near a disputed island on the west coast near the DMZ. The vessel Cheonan sank, killing all aboard, and South Korea has shut down nearly all trade since, causing even further strains to the flow of food going into the horribly poor nation. That action was ultimately handed down by his father Kim Jong Il.
Much forgiveness will need to be found in the Japanese, South Koreans and Americans in the months and years ahead. Much forgiveness will also be required of the suddenly enlightened North Korean populace.
So much is going to need to be watched closely as this unfolds, with so many moving parts and each one capable of breaking down and stopping this whole metamorphosis of a nation about to be thrust into the 21st century. It can’t happen at all without this first step monumental summit, successfully orchestrated by President Trump’s administration. I also point to the great apparent work by our new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The information battle is about to begin on yet another front in America. Trump warned America all week that this summit was only the beginning of many steps yet to be taken. That has not stopped the MSM from pumping out the poo-pooing of the summit’s lack of tangible and substantive progress.
Surely if Obama had the wherewithal to get that far before January 20, 2017, the confetti would have fallen onto the white hairs of Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer.
If Kim Jong Un is sincere, he may be looked at in history as a bold and brave man undergoing a transformation of his own. He was born into a dictator’s role through no fault of his own. He was taught and trained from day one by his father and state officials with professional propaganda skills and psychological expertise who tirelessly molded him to rule with an iron fist. Perhaps now he is moving from that, to an unclenching of said fist, to shake the hand of an enemy in a great leap of faith, all in the name of peace and prosperity.
It's a lot to hope for, but it's also the only chance for this kind of change without using a lot of force and at a great cost in human life and the taxpayer money.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.