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The Slapdash Summit

John Bolton (Gage Skidmore/Flikr)

There has always been a concern that there wasn’t enough time to prepare properly for next week’s summit. To make matters worse, Trump and Bolton have skipped doing most of the work that would normally be done before such a high-profile meeting on a major issue:

National Security Adviser John Bolton has yet to convene a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea next week, a striking break from past practice that suggests the Trump White House is largely improvising its approach to the unprecedented nuclear talks.

Bolton wants diplomacy with North Korea to fail, so he has no incentive to get Trump ready for the summit. There is good reason to worry that Bolton will keep doing what he can to sabotage talks with North Korea, but the president is so ill-prepared for the meeting that all Bolton may have to do is stand back and watch it unravel. It is nonetheless striking that Bolton has been in his position for two months and has so far failed to do one of the main tasks that National Security Advisors are expected to do.

For his part, Trump is overconfident in his negotiating prowess and far too lazy to put in the time and effort required to learn what he will need to know at the meeting. We have already heard that he doesn’t think he needs to prepare, and the lack of a formal process confirms that he hasn’t made an effort. The president is impulsive and erratic, so it is no wonder that the preparation for one of the most important meetings of his presidency has been such a shambolic, disorganized affair. Whatever the reason for it, it doesn’t bode well for the summit that there has been so little planning compared to previous administrations.

The Obama administration spent years laying the groundwork for the negotiations that would eventually produce the nuclear deal with Iran, and the negotiation process itself then took years to complete. Trump erroneously thinks that the deal produced by that long, laborious process was one of the worst deals ever made, but he would be extraordinarily lucky to secure an agreement with North Korea that is half as effective and successful on its own terms as the one he reneged on last month. What are the chances that a slapdash summit entered into with minimal preparation produces a better agreement that can withstand the intense scrutiny it is sure to receive?

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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