They wailed at the possibility of warfare when Kim jong-un was launching missiles and President Trump was warning about the fire and fury of a nuclear attack by America. Now they’re sneering at some of Trump’s quotes that came out of the Singapore Summit. And it’s rather easy to single out a few quotes by the president to find something absurd or provocative, or narcissistic.

But the right question to ask is if the summit itself was absurd, or instead a first step towards some comprehensive-enough peace plan for the peninsula. Everybody wants to make this about Trump. Including – perhaps especially – the president himself.

It isn’t however.

It might have taken an iconoclast (we shouldn’t be so high-minded as not to use the term with the president, because it’s a surprisingly fitting description for him) like President Trump to actually produce a meeting with Kim, or perhaps to respond to Kim’s combination of threats and promises with his own bundle of threats and promises, and thereby come up with the 2 men smiling and strolling in Singapore’s manicured tropical elegance. Trump hates the foreign policy establishment and they consider him unworthy of the Oval Office. So it must have been a particularly poignant pleasure for him to have managed to pull off this meeting.

So what?

This is the point  – as Byron York recently pointed out in the Washington Examiner. Nothing else has worked to detain the DPRK’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and then the missiles needed to turn them into true bargaining chips. Several generations of American presidents have been helpless to do anything other than protect South Korea from an invasion by the North. While the DPRK has terrorized its own people, kidnapped Japanese and South Koreans, tortured American soldiers and sailors, and threatened the peace and stability of East Asia.

What do you do?

Invoke a full-scale war that threatens to draw in China – and even Russia – in order to wipe the Kim family from the face of the earth as well as thousands or hundreds of thousands of Koreans both from the North and South? Give in to North Korea and treat it as a nuclear power in order to sign a deal that leaves South Korea without the guarantees that have kept it (mostly) free and capitalist? Or threaten the first option in order to avoid having to deal with the second option?

By the time Reagan sat down with Gorbachev, Stalin had been dead for over 30 years. The horrors of his purges, the millions starved to death, the show trials, the Siberian concentration camps, were a generation or two (mostly) back in history. Unfortunately, we don’t have that evolution with North Korea. We do have the same economic pressure – the cost of the DPRK’s armed forces and nuclear programs have been bankrupting the nation and are likely the main reason Kim was willing to meet with Trump. But a torturer is still running the country.

Do you deal with him?

In an astonishing gamble, Trump has made his move. Korea, North and South, deserves peace. But it will have to be a peace with Kim Jong-un still running half the peninsula. That could mean a turning away from a small-l liberal global order willing to send Americans to their death in the name of nation-building in feudal countries like Afghanistan, and towards something that looks more like the Great Powers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Does the current state of the world invite this sort of gamble? That’s hard to tell.

The global order is still very much in place. But President Trump is turning his back on them and turning towards China and potentially Russia, despite the rather strong actions on the ground – both financial and military – that America has taken towards the Kremlin under Trump’s administration. Is it goodbye little Justin Trudeau and hello little Kim?

Or is this just a brief break from the world order in order to try and solve the Korean question?

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