The deal that ended violence in Northern Ireland
As Donald Trump prepares to sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, he’d do well to study Bill Clinton’s playbook
[Read the full article at the Atlantic]
In the coming weeks, President Trump is expected to engage in unprecedented negotiations with Kim Jong Un about North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. There’s reason to question the administration’s capacity for this challenge: Trump himself has never revealed a comfort with the nuances of policy, and the staffing apparatus at his disposal is shaky at best—with constant churning in White House personnel, lingering vacancies at the State Department, and a lack of experience among some of the staffers advising him on foreign policy.
Despite these novel circumstances, the administration has no shortage of historical examples from which to glean the intricacies of diplomacy. But one in particular seems especially relevant to a diplomatic novice like Trump: the Good Friday Agreement ending violence in Northern Ireland, which was finalized 20 years ago Tuesday under the guidance of former President Bill Clinton. It goes without saying that the dispute in Northern Ireland differs significantly from the North Korea issue, where both sides are brandishing nuclear weapons. But Clinton’s example could nevertheless be instructive: It shows what a leader who is mindful of history; aided by a skilled and empowered staff; and persistent in his commitments, but unorthodox in his approach, can achieve on the global stage.
Clinton’s role in the agreement—described in confidential oral-history interviews recorded by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center—dates back to his 1992 presidential campaign, when he openly pledged that he would, if elected, grant a travel visa to Gerry Adams, the head of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein political party. At the time, the Troubles, a bloody conflict between Catholic Irish nationalists and pro-Britain Protestants, had been ongoing for three decades and killed thousands of people. The visa would require only modest executive action from Clinton, but it would dramatically alter the American approach to Northern Ireland and the intractable conflict there between its Protestant majority and beleaguered Catholic minority.