The world is about to learn whether we’re witnessing the risk of brinkmanship or the ultimate in statesmanship, built around what recently seemed unimaginable.
How else to explain how China could defuse North Korea’s nuclear swagger with one simple tweet from Beijing’s ruler to Pyongyang’s punk: You’re on your own.
As North Korea’s only major trading partner, and despite the publicly restive session at the United Nations last week, China may start taking its business elsewhere if North Korea’s Kim Young-Krazy continues threatening his neighbors — and the continental United States — with nuclear apocalypse.
Yet as much as China’s “Paramount Leader” Xi Jinping, already admired by many for his outspokenness on climate change, would score points for determinative derring-do, his less-than-silent partner — America’s true master apprentice, Donald Trump — set this in motion.
Because of this yet-to-be-branded partnership, the world may soon be treated to a moment of greatness in foreign policy grounded in ethos, fueled by mettle and driven by reason.
Could it just be that the one Hillary Clinton most feared near a red button at 3 in the morning is about to lead a red-letter day in American foreign policy?
Could it be that the presidential contender with but a modicum of foreign policy credentials is about to have the most impact on planetary peace in more than a generation?
Could it be that Donald Trump is driving a renewed international order where America no longer takes a back seat in the chorus, but leads a new congregation of the willing out to replace apologies with action, blathering rhetoric with mattering results?
This is where leaders have perhaps that one chance to earn some measure of mortal immortality, and where all of us can feel we opted to do something to truly advance the cause of all.
In the latest affirmation of a timeless truth that history repeats itself, Trump may soon tread in the footsteps of a former president responsible for a legendary breakthrough in the way America views — and deals with — the world around it.
Nearly half a century after Richard Nixon reshuffled the balance of world power when he became the first American president to ever visit the People’s Republic of China, Trump is pursuing a “new” opening to China.
Nixon’s initiative broke the axis in the Cold War, aligning China and the United States against the restlessly expansionist and increasingly militarized Soviet Union.
Trump’s initiative broke with the rhetoric of tough talk on trade and currency manipulation in favor of getting tough on a nuclear madman out to torch the world like he has his own people.
As much as Nixon will forever be tarred at home by a harebrained headquarters break-in, his breakthrough to China quelled world tensions and created a belief that common ground among nations can be planted, nurtured and grown with the thinnest of reeds.
Today, backed by the foreign policy “A Team” of McMaster, Kelly, Mathis and Tillerson, the president is alternately showing both tact and toughness, a more visceral brand of diplomacy that’s not shorn of power or forlorn of purpose.
Trump has a historic opportunity to go beyond the Nixon-Kissinger marker, beyond the South China Sea, to lead a movement among nations where the virtuous are rewarded and the offenders are punished; a more determined world where sham treaties are revoked, nuclear madmen are disarmed, and threats to mankind are extinguished.
As much as Trump entered the White House as the America-first president, he may yet emerge from the same edifice years from now known for having improved the world order. As much as we associate Bill Clinton today with a reputation-saving Green Room, and Barack Obama with the ceremony/concert-filled East Room, Donald Trump’s brand moniker may ultimately take up residence in the Situation Room where alliances are summoned and lives are saved.
Much has been made of grading the president on the relative success of his first 100 days, using the yardsticks of health care and tax reform, infrastructure and government’s structure, the “next” Supreme Court pick and America’s version of the “Great Wall of China.”
Yet the first true test of Donald Trump may prove to be a more universal one, with China once again in America’s corner.
Ace this test, Mr. President, in the name of mankind.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in Tampa and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.