Unsurprisingly, Trump’s speech-writers took liberties with facts in the address. The media were quick to jump on these fact-challenged lines.
For the most part, reactions from those in the UN halls to the Trump speech were polite. However, some could not contain their reactions.
Instead of being the “shining city upon a hill” for global amity, the Trump speech was selfish, foolish, and nightmarish.
A Selfish Speech
We know that nations pursue their self-interest in international relations. However, the Trump lecture was remarkable for its promotion of the “America First” theme.
Of course, Trump had to boast about all the good things that had happened since he took office. While he mentioned the hurricanes, there was no mention of global warming, climate change, or the Paris Accords.
Instead, Trump gave the usual US lecture about UN efficiency and reform. He complained about the “disproportionate” share that the US pays.
Trump seemed to have forgotten the Biblical injunction: For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.
Far from showing US leadership in foreign policy, Trump’s speech also revealed his obsession with reversing Obama foreign policies. He fulminated against Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. Most countries are on board with the agreement.
While other countries are trying to peacefully resolve crises like Venezuela and North Korea, Trump reinforced his administration’s incompetent foreign policy with foolish rhetoric against these countries.
A Foolish Speech
In a departure from US presidential norms, Trump’s lecture used ridicule and foolish rhetoric against countries. He belittled North Korea’s leader as “Rocket Man.”
Most foolishly, Trump painted North Korea’s denuclearization as its “only acceptable future.” Rhetorical redlines like denuclearization are laughably unrealistic, at this stage.
Indeed, North Korea only has to look at Trump’s attacks on the Iran deal in the speech to ignore his rhetoric.
After much negotiations, Iran concluded a nuclear deal with the US and allies. The deal removed Iran’s nuclear threat, at least for a short time.
We face serious threats like North Korea, ISIS, and instability from conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
In such times, it is foolish to add headaches by single-handedly threatening to abandon the nuclear deal. We may then have the nightmare of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
A Nightmarish Speech
In praising sovereignty and patriotism, Trump has unleashed potential nightmares by undermining years of United Nations work to promote a global community.
What is to prevent countries from using sovereignty as an excuse to commit atrocities and resist external investigations? We are already seeing Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya as an example.
Patriotism without limits led to the nightmare of Nazism. Further, in today’s global village, patriotism that does not take the larger good into account is ultimately self-defeating.
We may do well to recall Samuel Johnson’s words, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”