US officially tells UN it wants out of Paris climate deal

By Seth Borenstein | AP

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday officially told the United Nations that the U.S. intends to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate pact.

But the State Department’s announcement doesn’t formally start the process of the U.S. getting out of the voluntary agreement. That’s still to come.

Still, the department described its communication as a “strong message” to the world, following President Donald Trump’s decision in June to leave the accord.

“The State Department is telling the U.N. what the president already told the world on June 1 and it has no legal effect,” said Nigel Purvis, who directed U.S. climate diplomacy during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

Purvis said countries can’t withdraw from new international agreements, including the Paris climate one, until three years after they go into effect. The Paris agreement went into effect on Nov. 4, 2016.

Then the process takes a year.

The State Department cited the same timeline, saying it can officially start withdrawing as soon as November 2019. That means the earliest the U.S. can be out of the climate agreement is Nov. 4, 2020 — the day after the next presidential election.

In a statement, the State Department said the U.S. will continue to participate in international meetings and negotiations on current and future climate change deals. The next meeting is in Bonn, Germany, in November.

Trump is “open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the United States can identify terms that are more favorable to it, its business, its workers, its people and its taxpayers,” the department said.

Under the agreement, countries set their own national plans for cutting climate emissions. That means Trump can come up with different targets for the United States than those set by President Barack Obama. But Trump can’t unilaterally change the text of the Paris deal.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received “a communication” from U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley “expressing the intention of the United States to exercise its right to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, as soon as it is eligible to do so under the Agreement, unless it identifies suitable terms for reengagement.”

“The secretary-general welcomes any effort to re-engage in the Paris Agreement by the United States,” he said.

Dujarric reiterated Guterres’ June 1 statement calling the U.S. decision to withdraw “a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.”

“It is crucial that the United States remains a leader on climate and sustainable development,” Dujarric said. “Climate change is impacting now. He looks forward to engaging with the American government and all other actors in the United States and around the world to build the sustainable future for our children and future generations.”

Under Obama, the U.S. agreed to reduce polluting emissions more than a quarter from 2005 levels by the year 2025. There is no climate court. All that’s required in the agreement is a plan and reporting on progress toward reaching self-set goals.

No matter what the U.S. does, the Paris agreement remains in effect because enough other countries ratified it.

The Paris agreement aims to prevent the Earth from heating up by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial age.

The world has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution. The overwhelming majority of scientists say the burning of coal, oil and gas is causing the Earth’s climate to change because of heat-trapping gases.

Edited for

Trump Supports Bill That Would Cut Legal Immigration by Half


WASHINGTON — President Trump embraced legislation on Wednesday that would cut legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of American citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.

Arguing that the United States has taken in too many low-skilled immigrants for too long, Mr. Trump invited two Republican senators to the White House to put his weight behind their bill that would judge applicants for legal residency on the basis of education, language ability and job abilities that would benefit the country.

“This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Mr. Trump said.

“This legislation,” he added, “will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”

The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, would reduce overall legal immigration by 41 percent in its first year and by 50 percent by its 10th year, according to projections cited by its authors. The reductions would come almost entirely from those brought in through family ties. The number of immigrants granted legal residency on the basis of job skills, about 140,000, would remain roughly the same, though a much higher proportion of the reduced overall number.

The proposal revives an idea that was included in broader immigration legislation supported by President George W. Bush in 2007 but that failed in Congress. Republican supporters argued that it would modernize immigration policy that had not been updated significantly in half a century, but critics in both parties contended it would harm the economy by keeping out workers who filled low-wage jobs that Americans did not want.

Under the current system, most legal immigrants are admitted to the United States based on family ties. American citizens can sponsor spouses, parents and minor children for visas that are not subject to any numerical caps, while siblings and adult children get preferences for a limited number of visas available to them. Legal permanent residents holding green cards can also sponsor spouses and children.

In 2014, 64 percent of more than one million immigrants admitted with legal residency were immediate relatives of American citizens or sponsored by family members. Just 15 percent entered on the basis of employment-based preferences, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent research organization. But that does not mean that those who came in on family ties were necessarily low skilled or uneducated.

The projections cited by the sponsors said legal immigration would decrease to 637,960 after a year and to 539,958 after a decade.

The legislation would establish a system of skills points based on education, English speaking ability, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. But while it would still allow the spouses and minor children of Americans and legal residents to come in, it would eliminate preference for other relatives, like siblings and adult children. The bill would create a renewable temporary visa for elderly parents who come for caretaking purposes.

The legislation would limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 a year and eliminate a diversity visa lottery that the sponsors said does not promote diversity. The senators said their bill is meant to emulate “merit-based” systems in Canada and Australia.

“Our current system does not work,” Mr. Perdue said. “It keeps America from being competitive.”

Mr. Cotton rejected the notion that the current system was a symbol of American compassion. “It’s a symbol that we’re not committed to working-class Americans and we need to change that,” he said.

But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, criticized the measure, noting that agriculture is his state’s No. 1 industry and tourism is No. 2. “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant work force,” he said.

“Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers,” he added, “will tell you this proposal to cut legal immigration in half would put their business in peril.”

Here’s What That Vote on Single-Payer Health Care Really Meant

The Senate voted down a stunt proposal to create single-payer health care on Thursday in a move that revealed where the Democratic Party may be headed. As part of the legislative process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, senators from both parties were free to force their colleagues to vote on various health care measures.…

via Here’s What That Vote on Single-Payer Health Care Really Meant — TIME

Nativism and the Foundations of US Xenophobia

Nativism. KKK rally.

An Old Doctrine of Hatred and Bigotry Reemerges

Some have debated whether we should view the groundswell of support for Donald Trump through the lens of white supremacy or fascism, but we can also understand it through the framework of nativism, the doctrine of prioritizing the interests of the native-born over those of immigrants. Nativism has a long and ugly history in the United States, in which the ascendency of Donald Trump and his supporters is just the latest chapter. Here, to counter the jingoism of the 4th of July, we study nativism from its origins to the current day, tracing the common threads that connect all the ways the rich have preyed on the fears and prejudices of the exploited to turn them against those worse off than themselves.

Early US nativism was characterized by three elements. First, hostility towards immigrants for the ways they were perceived to be different, culturally or otherwise, and anxiety that they would take “American” jobs. Second, fear of radicals who were not content with American democracy, who did not recognize America as the supreme source of freedom. Finally, anti-Catholic bigotry: Catholics had allegiance to institutions outside the US that were seen as fundamentally anti-American.

We can see all of these elements emerging again today in updated forms. The first is deployed against Latino and Latina immigrants. All three apply to Muslim-perceived immigrants, as Islam is denigrated as both a radical threat and a mysterious, un-American religion that generates loyalties to foreign institutions and beliefs. There are other, slightly more obscure twists: the re-emergence of patrician nativism, this time the domain of Silicon Valley tech lords who dream of a meritocracy that remains largely Aryan.

The America First Committee, organized in the 1940s to keep the U.S. out of the Second World War, was known for its anti-Semitic membership; Trump uses the same slogan today.

The Structure of US Nativism

Nativism flourishes when the class gaps widen that divide the poorest from the rest of society and the richest from the rest of society. Both the poor and the rich become protective of their positions, and cast suspicious eyes on any who seem likely to take what little they have or threaten their place at the very top. Nativism broke out in the economic crashes of the 1880s, particularly in response to the “end of the frontier,” a natural resource that had previously seemed infinite. Immigrants seemed “both symbols and agents of the widening gulf between capital and labor,” in the words of John Higham, the author of all the quotes in this text not otherwise attributed. In fact, many foreign workers brought to Pennsylvania during the 1880s were brought specifically to scab. This hardly endeared them to local workers, and several were killed during riots.

Federal oversight of immigration only began in 1882; until then, the states receiving immigrants set their own regulations and collected fees from the ships that brought them over. Federal regulators shifted the burden of payment onto the individuals themselves and denied admission to “convicts, lunatics, idiots, and persons likely to become a public charge.” In 1891, when the first legal provisions for deportation were established, nativists immediately began organizing to make a literacy test part of the immigration process with the explicit aim of excluding Southern Europeans. Federal control of immigration introduced unprecedented border surveillance. At the same time, it created the illegal alien as a new political and legal subject.

In rhetoric that is familiar again today, the general manager of the American Iron and Steel Association insisted that the depression of the 1880s was aggravated “by the presence among us of thousands of idle and vicious foreigners who do not come here to work for a living but to stir up strife and commit crime.” This predecessor of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen is hardly unique in capitalizing on economic failure to divide the working class—Hitler did the same a few decades later. Nativism is always present among the xenophobic and privileged; it becomes most vicious when a large number of people are swayed to look for someone weaker than themselves to blame.

The US economy has been recovering over the last seven years; unauthorized immigration is not increasing; Obama deported 2.5 million people, far more than any previous president. None of these facts matter. Nativists can appeal to those disenfranchised even in the face of market growth—the real problem they are capitalizing on is not the limits of the economy, but the economic inequalities that result when the rich profit on the poor. It is no coincidence that we find dramatic economic inequality in every country that is experiencing a turn towards nativism and fascism.

American Identity Crisis

It was a Jewish-American poet “aroused by Russian pogroms to a consciousness of America’s mission” who wrote the passage now displayed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This stands as one pole of America’s historical attitude towards immigrants. The other is an anxiety produced by precarity and the loss of homogeneity that gives rise to xenophobia. We can identify two narratives here: America as refuge and America as fortress.

When US capitalists feel threatened, the country retreats into fortress mode: immigrant labor is described as a threat to “American” labor, just as Muslims as a whole are blamed for the September 11 attacks. This strategy doesn’t necessarily serve the interests of individual capitalists:

In conversations with nearly a dozen farmers, most of whom voted for Mr. Trump, each acknowledged that they relied on workers who provided false documents. And if the administration were to weed out illegal workers, farmers say their businesses would be crippled… Farmers here have faced a persistent labor shortage for years, in part because of increased policing at the border and the rising prices charged by smugglers who help people sneak across. The once-steady stream of people coming from rural towns in southern Mexico has nearly stopped entirely. The existing field workers are aging, and many of their children find higher-paying jobs outside agriculture.

But what is at stake here is not a matter of mere material interests. Nativists have long described the US as an Anglo-Saxon nation, portraying that ethnicity as fundamentally freedom-loving. In the first phase of the development of racism in the United States, there was a long process of clarifying what whiteness was in the first place.

Racism and xenophobia are necessary to stabilize capitalism by dividing the exploited, but they can also become obstacles when the market needs to expand. During eras of capitalist confidence, capitalists may represent immigrants as sources of potential profit, as in the case of Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs’ father was an immigrant meme.

The most apparently affirmative version of US isolationism preaches that the US represents the greatest realization of freedom in the world to date. A century ago, nationalists could claim that the US offered “the free, rational life of which Europe dreamed but which Europe denied. To fulfill their cosmopolitan task it behooved them to provide for others a haven from Europe’s oppressions. Thus Americans could enlist in the cause of general human liberty without actively intervening anywhere.” This myth “shores up the national narrative of liberal consensual citizenship, allowing a disaffected citizenry to experience its regime as choiceworthy, to see it through the eyes of still-enchanted newcomers whose choice to come here reenacts liberalism’s fictive foundation in individual acts of uncoerced consent,” in the words of Bonnie Honig. The needs of pluralistic liberal democracy make this position appear to be the middle ground, with open borders to the left and closed borders to the right.

Religion and Radicalism

At times, Christianity has reduced xenophobia by emphasizing the common brotherhood of man. It has also served to promote xenophobia, fomenting hatred and violence against those who are not Christian or not the right sort of Christian. A century ago, nativists framed Catholicism as evidence of disloyalty, a refusal to assimilate. This has given way to a hatred and fear of Muslims, which is justified on both moral and practical grounds by many Christians—and by nativists who are not particularly religious but understand Christianity as the religion of white America. By constantly asserting that Muslims are engaged in a holy war against Christians, the West, and American culture in particular—and sometimes women and gay people, as well—nativists engage all the emotional attachments of the chauvinist white American against Muslims.

Catholic war scare newspaper.

Earlier anti-Semites tended to depict Jews as mysterious, unassimilable, objectionably dirty people, “the very personification of avarice and cunning.” Communism, socialism, and anarchism were all derided as fundamentally Semitic politics, unfit for white Americans; black and Asian Americans were not even part of the discussion at that point. The history of state controls on immigration reflects this view: the Alien and Sedition Acts grew out of fear of the French Revolution. The Paris Commune of 1871 helped U.S. conservatives to “associate working-class aspirations with revolutionary violence”; a few years later, in 1886, the Haymarket Massacre deepened that association. In 1903, immigration law explicitly targeted anarchists for exclusion and deportation; this was the first time political opinion had been made a legal basis of discrimination in immigration since 1798. A daily newspaper reacting to Haymarket declared, “There is no such thing as an American anarchist… The American character has in it no element which can under any circumstances be won to uses so mistaken and pernicious.”

Radicalism undermines the claim that the American Revolution was all the revolution anyone could ever need. This is why nativists are forced to mobilize against it, to pretend it is something foreign.


The founding of the United States upon the mass genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of Africans meant that, for years, nativism debated only the immigration of Southern and Western Europeans. That people from other parts of the world were not humans worthy of consideration went without saying; rather, the battle was over who could be incorporated into whiteness, the fundamental condition of being American. Among other AfropessimistsFrank Wilderson has written at length about the impossibility of black assimilation into US civil society. Perceived “failure” to assimilate sparks fears of disloyalty; assimilation has often meant cultural death.

Higham, our primary source in this text, distinguishes between sentiment against various immigrants of European descent—now almost entirely assimilated into the umbrella term of privilege, “whiteness”—and sentiment against immigrants of African or Asian descent and Native Americans:

No variety of anti-European sentiment has ever approached the violent extremes to which anti-Chinese agitation went in the 1870s and 1880s. Lynchings, boycotts, and mass expulsions still harassed the Chinese after the federal government yielded to the clamor for their exclusion in 1882. At a time when the Chinese question had virtually disappeared as a political issue, a labor union could still refer to that patient people [sic] as “more slavish and brutish than the beasts that roam the fields. They are groveling worms.” Americans have never maintained that every European endangers American civilization; attacks have centered on the “scum” or “dregs” of Europe, thereby allowing for at least some implicit exceptions. But opponents of Oriental [sic] folk have tended to reject them one and all.

Racism was still evolving throughout this time. Some cited the Bible to justify it; the emergence of social Darwinism on the coattails of its scientific cousin gave others a more contemporary excuse. In this narrative, Anglo-Saxon success in the “New World” was not the result of luck and privilege, nor of the slave labor and genocide that made it possible; it was an expression of natural justice. Nativist intellectuals began spreading fear about “unassimilated” communities in cities; this was particularly convincing to those who had the least experience with new immigrants. Today, we might think of Trump voters who claimed to be concerned about the southern border… yet have no immigrant or Latino communities anywhere near them. This is an old story: “The Catholic war scare had greatest impact,” Higham explains, “in Midwestern rural areas where ‘flesh-and-blood’ Catholics were virtually non-existent and the enemy lay far away in the cities. Illinois farmers feared to leave home lest Romanists burn their barns and houses. A rural schoolteacher in Minnesota went about heavily armed for weeks to defend himself against the anticipated massacre.”

By the beginning of the 20th century, nativism had coalesced as an intersection of racist and nationalistic atttitudes. Social disorder caused by class division and mechanization was assigned firmly as the fault of blacks, Asians, and fresh European immigrants. These people were described as fundamentally disorderly, in contrast with the supposed order of the Anglo-Saxon American past. Said one writer, “[A]narchy is a blood disease from which the English have never suffered.”

Apart from the lower-class nativists, a group of “patrician” traditionalist nativists, mainly from New England, began to theorize race. Frances Walker, a president of MIT, summarized their ideology thus: the new immigrants “are beaten men from beaten races; representing the worst failures in the struggle for existence… they have none of the ideas and aptitudes which… belong to those who are descended from the tribes that met under the oak trees of old Germany to make laws and choose chieftains.” Whereas European immigrants had previously been seen as the best of the best, destined to biologically improve the country they arrived in, Walker argued that the dwindling birthrate of Anglo-Saxon US citizens was a deliberate and practical response to being underbid, in terms of labor, by European immigrants. This meant, according to Walker, that American Anglo-Saxons were effectively committing race suicide. Sound familiar? Today, the burden of guilt has been shifted—white nationalists refer to roughly the same concept as “white genocide.”

The origins of federal oversight of immigration in the United States bear witness to its fundamental racism. In 1917, immigrants from Afghanistan to the Pacific were banned; in 1924, Asian immigrants were legally described as “racially ineligible” for citizenship by federal law. Meanwhile, southern border enforcement defined people of Mexican descent as illegal immigrants or alien citizens. Here we see racism working hand in hand with capitalism: cheap agricultural labor has been needed for several decades, so Latino immigrants were allowed in by lax enforcement, but kept in a state of rightlessness. After the Bracero agreement, which simultaneously allowed workers to come from Mexico between 1942 and 1964 as agricultural laborers and provided the terrain for the infamous “Operation Wetback” deportation efforts, immigration continued on an informal basis that kept immigrant workers precarious in order to discourage labor organizing among the poorest sectors of the workforce.

Now that agricultural labor is less necessary, protecting “white jobs” from the brown menace is suddenly a public concern again—although the latest statistics show that, while Latinos hold 50% of farm laborer jobs, very few Latinos hold management positions. White citizens simply don’t want low-paying agricultural work.

Field workers picking strawberries in California.

Meanwhile, the door has opened to Asian immigrants, who are now portrayed as highly-skilled contributors to American society. This is not to say that they do not face racism, particularly if they are Muslim. Still, the economy drives the stakes of the conversation. Park MacDougald’s devastating overview of Nick Lan’s contribution to the neo-reactionist movement in the tech industry, “The Darkness Before The Right”, describes how “race realism” is establishing Asian and Indian tech workers as the worthiest in the modern tech racial hierarchy in a way reminiscent of Hitler’s obsession with the supposed Aryan race. This form of “positive” racialization is only the corollary of the harassment and disenfranchisement less technologically skilled or situationally advantaged members of the same ethnicities experience in the United States. It is reminiscent of the “patrician” nativism theorized in New England in the early 1900s: mystically-minded, privileged race theorists, seeking isolated feudal states comprised of the “best and brightest.” Everyone else will be left to starve—but this is simply pragmatism, they assert, as the deserving members of humanity accelerate towards their final ascension.

Mae Ngai introduces the concept of “alien citizens” in her 2005 text Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Within the framework of white supremacy, citizens who are members of ethnic or religious groups seen as suspect—Italians and Chinese in the early 1900s, Latinos and Muslims today—are presumed foreign and dangerous, unassimilable. In Europe and the United Kingdom as well as in the United States, the majority of immigrants come from places colonized by these decaying powers, at once displaced and given conditional access. The ripples of colonial acts of invasion and coercive governance wash up on our shores from Laos, India, and Mexico, and the same racism that justified that colonization makes it possible to regard immigrants with fear and disdain. Before people of Japanese descent—two-thirds of them citizens—were interned in camps during World War II, 400,000 people of Mexican descent, half of them US citizens, were “repatriated” to Mexico during the Great Depression. If borders exist only to sift human lives into the fragmented forms most suitable for exploitation, then colonialism is the grinding agent—be it the sort of military colonialism carried out by formal state power or the economic colonization orchestrated via NAFTA, IMF, and other agencies.

As Hannah Arendt has described, the shift from the Enlightenment recognition of (European) human beings as those inherently possessed of rights to citizens as those inherently possessed of rights began with the end of WWI and the creation of the first large-scale refugee crisis in the modern era. The majority of human beings have never actually experienced the recognition of their supposed “inherent rights,” but the liberal myth that they were was revealed to be a lie at the beginning of the refugee crisis.


Unfortunately, portions of older waves of immigrants often adopt xenophobic attitudes towards new immigrants, perhaps as an unconscious way of consolidating the grudging acceptance they are beginning to receive. This was evident even in the 1890s. But new immigrants from a variety of places and backgrounds were able to make common cause and demonstrate solidarity in the face of repression—and some second- and third-generation immigrant communities joined them. “The German-American Alliance, representing more than a million and a half members, signed an agreement with the Ancient Order of Hiberians in 1907 to oppose all immigration restriction. The Irish leaders who dominated the Catholic Church and in some sections bossed the Democratic party championed the interests of their southern and eastern European followers. But the main effort had to come from the Slavic nationalities, the Maygars, the Italians, and the Jews.” This effort was cultural: these immigrant rights activists celebrated the embattled dream of America as a cosmopolitan melting pot, perhaps cynically—not necessarily because they desired assimilation more than anything, but because they were fighting for their lives. Still, there is something to the cosmopolitan joy of delight in difference, something that does not serve any power beyond that of human freedom.

Unfortunately, the solidarity expressed by most of these European immigrants did not extend to immigrants from other parts of the world. In 1907, Japanese immigrants were thrown under the bus to placate restrictionists in exchange for not instituting literacy tests that would have impeded European immigration. The pro-immigrant—but anti-labor—business interests who made this deal with the Senate did so cynically, with President Roosevelt’s support. Xenophobia was shunted out of one arena and into another for capitalist interests, not humanitarian ones. Meanwhile, the melting pot idea was itself racialized by theorists like Franz Boas (himself an immigrant, democrat, and Jew), who claimed that hybridization of culture and biological forces produced a distinctly “American” face and manner. Divergences from this “American” way could then, therefore, be policed: immigrants were once again coded as treacherous, as were US-born Anglo-Saxons whose political beliefs differed from the mainstream.

Gathering of national socialists in Madison Square Gardens in the US during Hitler’s reign.

Jasbir Puar’s text Terrorist Assemblages clearly explains the ways in which citizenship—synonymous with whiteness in the American context—is extended or denied to various groups as a means of conquering through division. Muslims were excluded from membership in American civil society just as (white, wealthy) homosexuals and transgender people began to be included. She argues that this is no coincidence: it frames the stakes of tolerance and safety as repression and fear. Luckily, there are countless stories of people refusing this offering, biting the hand that feeds them, and turning to share with those excluded from society.

People deserve to be able move freely wherever they wish to if it harms no one, to be treated with hospitality, to be neither bound by geography nor allowed to invade the homes of others. Just as busing black children to wealthy white schools is not the same as white parents driving their children to wealthy white schools, so creating open borders for the United States is not the same as the murder and forced displacement of Native American people during its history. For a refugee, crossing the border can mean survival itself—what parent would not do a similar act for the sake of her children? If we, too, have felt the call of adventure, of care and responsibility for others, let us turn ourselves to solidarity, towards openness and acceptance that is not founded in the old oppressive myths, but in something new we can create together.

Further Reading

As mentioned above, all the quotes in this text not otherwise attributed can be found in John Higham’s Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925.


Edited for

‘Much to Discuss.’ Trump and Putin Set to Meet for the First Time at G20 Summit — TIME

(HAMBURG, Germany) — After weeks of build-up, President Donald Trump will hold his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a sit-down that will be shadowed by the investigations into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Moscow during last year’s presidential election. The leaders are expected to delve into a series of vexing foreign policy issues,…

via ‘Much to Discuss.’ Trump and Putin Set to Meet for the First Time at G20 Summit — TIME

Americans and South Koreans Want Peace. Will Trump Listen?

Korea’s new pro-engagement president may not have to be as deferential to Washington hardliners as his predecessors

by Christine Ahn

As the newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets President Donald Trump for his first White House visit, the South Korean leader should stay focused on his calls for diplomatic, economic, and cultural engagement with Pyongyang.

The Trump administration will undoubtedly try to steer Moon in the opposite direction, towards “maximum pressure” on North Korea. However, while the United States may have heavily influenced South Korea’s economy and politics for the last 70 years, including still maintaining wartime operational control over its military, it’s a new day.

Not only did Moon win the May 9 election in a landslide victory with the largest margin and greatest number of South Koreans voting in history, he has maintained his enormous popularity with approval ratings at 80 percent. At a forum in Seoul, former U.S. ambassador Kathleen Stevens urged Moon not to mention this when he meets Trump, whose approval ratings stand at 36 percent.

Moon swept into office after millions of South Koreans took to the streets and staged candlelight vigils for months to demand the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye, a conservative who was impeached by the National Assembly on charges of corruption. On the even of his election, the progressive Moon told the veteran journalist Tim Shorrock that his election completes the Candlelight Revolution.

Unlike other parts of the world, democracy is alive and well in South Korea, and the public are wildly supportive of Moon and his pro-engagement policies. According to a just released South Korean poll, 80 percent of South Koreans want inter-Korean dialogue with North Koreans. While the overwhelming majority of South Korean people and their president may be aligned in this wish, their efforts for reviving the “sunshine policy” – that is, a posture of engagement toward the north – will be hamstrung by Washington’s hardline policy and UN Security Council sanctions.

But Moon should be reminded of the international community’s abhorrence of Donald Trump. After all, Trump’s inauguration was welcomed by the historic women’s march, where 5 million women in 673 cities worldwide took to the streets to protest his incoming presidency, in fact the largest protests in US history. From Germany’s Angela Merkel to France’s Emmanuel Macron, Trump has angered many historic US allies. Moon doesn’t have to try to please Washington the way his predecessors have.

South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world and among the top 10 militaries. If South Koreans say they are open to halting joint military exercises with the United States, as was floated last week by Moon Chung-in, a special presidential adviser, Washington should listen.

But it’s not just the South Korean people and its leaders that the Trump administration should hear from.

According to a May Economist/YouGov poll, 60 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support direct negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. On the day of the Moon-Trump summit, nearly a dozen national civic organizations, including Win Without War and Credo, will deliver a petition to Moon signed by more than 100,000 Americans offering strong support for his commitment to diplomacy with North Korea.

“President Moon’s commitment to diplomacy and peace is a welcome breath of fresh air, and it is important that he know he has the support of the American people in his efforts,” says Stephen Miles, Director of Win Without War. “Whatever President Trump may tell him in their meetings, President Moon should know the American people want peace.”

When the people lead, the leaders will follow.

Also this week, a bipartisan group of six prominent former US government officials sent a letter to President Trump urging talks immediately with North Korea. “Pyongyang has shown it can make progress on missile and nuclear technology despite its isolation,” they warned. “Without a diplomatic effort to stop its progress, there is little doubt that it will develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the United States.”

This builds on a letter to Trump signed last month by 64 congressional Democrats urging direct talks with North Korea to avert an “unimaginable conflict.” The letter was co-led by John Conyers, the last Democrat who served in the Korean War. “As someone who has watched this conflict evolve since I was sent to Korea as a young Army Lieutenant,” Conyers said, “it is a reckless, inexperienced move to threaten military action that could end in devastation instead of pursuing vigorous diplomacy.”

The American and South Korean people want peace. Hopefully an outcome of the Moon-Trump summit will be that diplomacy prevails, not war.

Edited for


President Trump’s Latest Health Care Push Could Repeal Obamacare and Do Nothing Else

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is making a weekend push to get a Republican Senate bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law “across the finish line,” Trump’s top legislative aide said Sunday, maintaining that a repeal-only option also remained in play if Republicans can’t reach agreement. Marc Short, the White…

via President Trump’s Latest Health Care Push Could Repeal Obamacare and Do Nothing Else — TIME