Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said this was a chance for the two leaders to get to know one another.
“We want them to establish a good working relationship, so they can, in times of opportunity and crisis, reach out to one another and have a good rapport,” she said.
She described having the meeting in Florida as a good chance for the two leaders, in a more informal atmosphere and relaxed setting, to discuss serious and important issues and to try to kick off a good relationship at the outset of the Trump administration.
A more productive approach would be to have a meeting in a venue where concrete results weren’t expected. In an American context, this means a golf course. Let’s say that Bush invites Ahmadinejad to Medina G&CC near Chicago. Since the clubhouse looks like a mosque, Ahmadinejad would think he was winning up front, which would make him overconfident, a besetting weakness of him. But on a golf course the two could size each other up face to face, watching as each other deals with the ups and downs of the game and each other. Then Bush could figure out how he might like to proceed based on what he saw himself rather than something stupid his advisers might come up with.
In addition to the usual problem of Americans impatient for tangible results, Americans additionally don’t understand the importance of building trust before those results surface. We’ll see if Donald Trump breaks the mould on this.
He needs to: with the stakes as high as they are because of North Korea, he’s going to need all the patience and savvy he can muster. It bothers me, however, that we’re sliding back into a line of moralistic bluster. With everyone complaining about Rex Tillerson’s low profile (a typical oilfield method) and others doing big talk, the American propensity for posturing could easily lead to nuclear war. (Just like the Senate…)