Negotiation 101 as Taught by President Donald J. Trump
by Dr. Ed DeVries
A few weeks ago, Senator Lindsey Graham and former President Jimmy Carter were making the media rounds telling us that President Trump should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, to the negotiating table. When do Lindsey Graham or Jimmy Carter ever have anything nice to say about President Trump? Obviously, they were speaking from a belief that his proposed negotiation would fail. And they, along with countless of the president’s critics, have been anxiously waiting for the whole thing to just fall apart.
And now it has. Or has it?
The president’s May 24th letter to Kim Jong Un, cancelling their upcoming June 12th summit in Singapore, has the president’s critics on both the left and on the right trumpeting his failure. But when I read the president’s letter (see below) I did not see the Summit as cancelled. No. I saw the master negotiator at work.
Back in 1987, the not yet President Trump wrote in his best selling book, The Art of the Deal: “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it… . That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.”
Re-read the wording of the president’s letter above and then come back to this article.
Did you see it? President Trump is placing Kim Jong Un in the uncomfortable position of being the “desperate” one.
In short, we are not witnessing the president failing at diplomacy. We are watching him succeed in The Art of the Deal.
Those of you still questioning the president’s foreign and military policy need to just read his book. Just as Adolf Hitler laid out his policy and strategy for all to read in Mein Kampf, President Trump has done the same in The Art of the Deal.
What we are seeing in the president’s letter to Kim, or in his handling of the Iran Nuclear Deal, is a necessary willingness to walk away from the table. Those of us who have successfully negotiated, even if it was just the price of an automobile, know how important that can be.
To quote National Security Advisor, John Bolton: “The lesson that America learned, painfully, a long time ago, but that Dean Acheson once said, is we only negotiate from positions of strength. It was a lesson that the last administration did not follow.”
By showing that he is willing to walk away from the negotiation table the president is establishing the “position of strength” for the United States. And it sends a clear message to North Korea, to Iran, and to the world that the United States will not accept inadequate deals.
After reading The Art of the Deal it will become clear that the president’s foreign policy, however confusing, has two very consistent elements.
Whether it be threatening “Rocket Man” (Kim Jong Un) on Twitter, or moving the embassy in Israel to that nation’s capital in Jerusalem, or even the bombing of Syria, the president applies pressure. Then, he disengages.
Here’s how it works:
- First, President Trump pressures the most intransigent and hostile side in the conflict.
- Second, he divests the United States from the conflict.
- This forces the relevant parties to find a way to work it out among themselves with minimal cost to the United States.
It has been so long since a president, or the State Department, has negotiated from a position of America-first that the world, and especially Americans, have simply forgotten what it looks like. But so far, all of the president’s major foreign-policy decisions can be seen as primarily reflecting his promised America-first approach.
Pulling out of the Paris climate accords or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, imposing tariffs on China and other trading partners, even threatening our NATO “allies” who are long overdue in paying their “fair share” of the cost of their own defense. The president’s actions should be seen as his attempts to put America’s workers and taxpayers first.
We must also remember that an important aspect of The Art of the Deal is the “long game.” In the president’s long game, his negotiating parlance is to “anchor” himself to an “extreme position,” knowing that the real goal line is something much less than what he has said. By implementing that strategy, the president wins, and often wins big, even when he appears to have failed by not getting all that he had asked for.
That’s why, on May 21st, at the same time that “Little” Marco Rubio and his girlfriend, Nancy Pelosi, were attacking the president for “losing” in his trade negotiation with China, the president could tweet: “Under our potential deal with China, they will purchase from our Great American Farmers practically as much as our Farmers can produce.” Or, in other words, by conceding some crazy and impossible points in the discussion, he actually got the Chinese to give him the initially unspoken thing that was his real and actual objective.
Quoting again from The Art of the Deal: “You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”
Summit or no Summit, President Trump has delivered the goods.
Kim released all of the Americans being held in North Korean gulags. Kim also dismantled one of his country’s largest nuclear sites. He has crossed the demilitarized zone and is negotiating with the president of South Korea.
Summit or no summit, the 68-year ongoing Korean War may finally be coming to an end. While that might not amount to much in the long term, it shifts more of the responsibility for the conflict away from the United States and to the Koreas.
When President Trump called North Korea’s bluff, its nuclear weapons program was transformed from an asset that it used to blackmail billions of dollars from previous U.S. administrations into a liability that could end with the communist dictatorship’s destruction. In short, this president has accomplished more with a few tweets than previous administrations had with billions of dollars.
The president did the same thing when he moved the embassy to Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority didn’t have nukes, but it had played the same game as North Korea for decades. It would begin negotiations, demand payoffs, then sabotage negotiations, threaten violence, and demand an even higher payoff for ending the violence. The PLO/PA knew that it could get the best possible deal by not making a deal. Just like North Korea, the president “trumped” the PLO by taking the ultimate prize, Jerusalem, off the table. Now, instead of the deal getting better and better, President Trump has shown the PLO that they must strike any deal now before the deals offered get progressively worse. Since that deal will ultimately be between the PLO and Israel, the president has leveraged their relationship in such a way to move the United States away from the conflict. At least we hope.