Weekend Roundup: U.S. Media Mirrors Trump’s ‘America First’ Myopia On North Korea


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

In some ways, the media in the United States mirrors President Donald Trump’s “America First” posture. The cable commentariat has scarcely mentioned, no less accorded credibility to, non-American views on how to resolve the North Korea crisis. On CNN or Fox News, some of the same talking heads who parsed the New Hampshire primaries in the U.S. presidential election are suddenly now the experts on North Korea, confidently expounding on military and diplomatic strategy.

Even before Trump, the American media was de-globalizing, re-nationalizing and, through social media, even tribalizing in its enclosed silos. It is worse now. If the president tweets, it leads, while more serious policy proposals by others out there in the world get scant attention.

To the extent this American-centric myopia shapes public opinion, it limits a realistic awareness of the odious options that must be swallowed to resolve the current crisis — namely, rewarding bad behavior by going back to the negotiating table with the aim of freezing North Korea’s missile program while accepting that it is already a nuclear power and forswearing regime change.

Over recent weeks, The WorldPost has sought to close this gap by giving voice to the key non-American players. China and Russia, for example, have quite reasonably proposed a North Korean freeze on nuclear and missile development in exchange for a temporary suspension of large-scale U.S.-South Korea military exercises. In an interview with me, Fu Ying, one of China’s top diplomats who has dealt with North Korea since 2003, laid out the case for why this is the first step toward a resolution that must ultimately involve a U.S. pledge not to oust North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. She argued, as I wrote then, “that increased sanctions or threats of military action without talks is precisely what is driving North Korea to intensify its weapons program.” Trying to outsource the problem to China won’t work, in Madame Fu’s view, I continued, “because China is not a party to the antagonism and hostility that has caused the security dilemma of North Korea. The country’s deep insecurity comes from its constant fear of the kind of regime change preceded by sanctions that the U.S. and its allies have executed elsewhere, including in Iraq.”

In an essay, Seok-Hyun Hong, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s personal envoy to Trump on the North Korean issue, argued that more military pressure and sanctions can be useful — but only if there is a “roadmap” to de-escalate the crisis through new negotiations in exchange for a North Korean freeze of its threatening programs at their current level. He agrees with Madame Fu’s position: “To reach this agreement on nuclear stoppage by North Korea, the U.S. will have to win the North’s trust by promising not to pursue regime change and assuring it of a policy of non-aggression.”

To their credit, some U.S. media outlets have at least gone to the trouble of talking to those few former American officials who have had extensive dealings with North Korea, such as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry. Both signed a letter to President Trump last week that said: “Tightening sanctions can be useful in increasing pressure on North Korea, but sanctions alone will not solve the problem. Pyongyang has shown it can make progress on missile and nuclear technology despite its isolation. 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.” Writing in The WorldPost recently, Perry maintained that negotiations should be aimed at freezing North Korean nuclear tests as well as its missile program in return for American security guarantees and South Korean economic aid. 

The media plays a key role in mobilizing or demobilizing hysteria when a nation is on the brink of war. With an unpredictable and inexperienced president whose ear is attuned to his more apocalyptic aides, the presence of alternative voices that bring ballast to the discourse is more critical now than ever. Never has it been more important for those responsible for informing the public to look around with a global perspective rather than just out through a national lens.

A solar border with Mexico, renewable China and jobs from the sun instead of coal

Writing from Mexico City, Homero Aridjis and James Ramey revisit a proposal for a solar border they first made in The WorldPost last December — one which has now been embraced by President Trump in distorted fashion as his own idea.

They distinguish their vision — an array of solar parks all along the Mexican side of the border — from Trump’s notion of “a concrete slab” coated with solar panels. “The solar border,” they contend, “would be a lasting monument to hope, friendship and the entrepreneurial spirit.” In short, the opposite message of a wall.

Bill McKibben reports on how Qinghai province in China ― which has almost 6 million inhabitants and is larger than Texas ― ran for an entire week only on renewable energy. As Trump “backs the U.S. out of the Paris Accord into the 19th century,” he writes, “progress on renewables is continuing apace elsewhere.”

In a video op-ed based on a WorldPost column by Joshua Pearce, we explain how apprentice training programs in solar manufacturing and installation can provide jobs for those in the dwindling coal industry. Solar created more jobs last year alone — 51,000 ― than all of the present coal jobs combined. 

Finally, Jacques Attali and Richard Attias announce that the Global Positive Forum will convene in Paris on Sept. 1 with the new French president, Emmanuel Macron. The aim is to bring together those working on positive change to the world’s challenges into a network of the willing to fight climate change, inequality and the lack of opportunity. 

Other highlights from The WorldPost this week:

For more on how solar can create jobs, check out our WorldPost video, adapted from the op-ed ”Trump’s Apprenticeship Program Should Help Train Coal Miners For Solar Jobs,” below:



EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Peter Mellgard is the Features Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels is the Video Editor of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Rosa O’Hara is the Social Editor of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at HuffPost, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas BerggruenNathan GardelsArianna HuffingtonEric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One)Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital TimesSeung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as theAdvisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat AzizGordon BrownFernando Henrique CardosoJuan Luis CebrianJack DorseyMohamed El-ErianFrancis FukuyamaFelipe GonzalezJohn GrayReid HoffmanFred HuMo IbrahimAlexei KudrinPascal LamyKishore MahbubaniAlain MincDambisa MoyoLaura TysonElon MuskPierre OmidyarRaghuram RajanNouriel RoubiniNicolas SarkozyEric SchmidtGerhard SchroederPeter SchwartzAmartya SenJeff SkollMichael SpenceJoe StiglitzLarry SummersWu JianminGeorge Yeo, Fareed ZakariaErnesto ZedilloAhmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek BelkaTony BlairJacques DelorsNiall FergusonAnthony GiddensOtmar IssingMario MontiRobert MundellPeter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


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