AtrumEtAureum wrote:What advantage does one gain from an air of legitimacy provided by meeting with a head of state? What has Cuba done with the legitimacy provided to it by Obama? I, for one, applaud Obama's meeting with Cuba and attempts at normalizing relations. Should we simply ignore that the Kims are the de facto state in North Korea? Or does "legitimizing" the Kims simply offend antiquated Westphalian values and little else?...
I believe the advantages are pretty straightforward, although they differ between the Cuba & North Korea cases.
I think it's fair to say that in the case of Obama's attempted normalization of relations with Cuba, from Havana's point of view bestowing "legitimacy" took a distant back seat to the contemplated end of the 70-year U.S. economic embargo, from which Cuba stood to make a major leap forward in their tourist industry.
As for potential "legitimacy"-related PR advantages, I would argue that it was the U.S. that stood to gain more, as the rest of the world had for several decades increasingly condemned the U.S.' unilateral embargo, and it also rankled our direct & OAS relations with the other nations of South & Central America:
"The UN General Assembly has, since 1992, passed a resolution every year condemning the ongoing impact of the embargo and declaring it to be in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. In 2014, out of the 193-nation assembly, 188 countries voted for the non-binding resolution, the United States and Israel voted against and the Pacific island nations Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstained.
In the case of North Korea, certainly they are interested in the advantage that ending the current economic sanctions represents. But the "legitimacy" thing in Pyongyang's should not be cavalierly dismissed, and certainly not by a non-equivalent comparison to Cuba. As far as the rest of the world's nations are concerned, the two are very dissimilar. Unlike Cuba, the North Korean gov't—due to their human rights violations, nuclear weapons development, & severely authoritarian government—has long resulted in their being viewed and treated by most nations of the world as a pariah state. Various U.S. economic sanctions have therefore achieved widespread agreement. That is why several generations of the Kim family dictators have greatly desired—arguably above anything else, aside from the acquisition of nuclear weapons—the recognition & implied acceptance that a U.S.-NK face-to-face summit would represent.
Because that has been the case for several decades, up until this week, it's an extremely valuable bargaining chip, which an American president who actually understands the art of dealmaking, could & should have used to (help) extract valuable concessions from NK. Trump had zero recognition of this, & just like giving away (for no concessions in return) the joint US-South Korean joint military exercises, he simply tossed that carefully-hoarded bargaining chip away for all time.