Donald J Trump, in his first address to the United Nation’s General Assembly, laid out his vision of the World.
It is the World that the philosopher and social scientist Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) saw where every man wars against every other man, where the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
In suggesting ways to change this, Hobbes laid out an agenda for organizing society that is credited with being the foundation of civilized order today. While not all of his ideas have been accepted, basic ones of Equality, Justice, Co-operation among nations and Governments – as Lincoln put it – “of the people, by the people and for the people” have been accepted.
Today, that is basically the Vision of the United Nation’s Charter which binds member nations to work in collective International Co-operation in the pursuit of Peace.
That is not Trump’s Vision.
There are many soothing words in his U N speech that seem to endorse respect for the wishes of other nations, for the importance of co-operation among nations, for an understanding of and appreciation for the diversity of life and thought in this world.
He pledged this: “In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.”
But this invocation of Ronald Reagan’s famous Vision of “A shining city on the hill” is belied by the clear message to the World that some of his soothing words attempted to soften.
Trumps Vision of how to reform and improve this cruel and brutish World is this:
1-The United States will put its own interests First. And if those interests cramp or even harm other nation’s interests, so be it.
Trump said: “Our government’s first duty is to its people. To our citizens. To serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values. As president of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries’, will always, and should always, put your countries first.”
Well, yes, every president properly says the safety of Americans is his first duty. But the rest of it says to the World, we will decide what our needs and rights and values are. If we wish to impose a religious test on immigrants, we will do it. If we need to impose trade restrictions that favor us at your expense, we will (try) to do it. And so forth. The era of “Ugly American” is back.
2-Flowing from the first point is the second that the United States will co-operate with other nations but on its own terms; the implication is that “co-operation” is a one way street, not a give and take.
That is the law of the jungle, the “survival of the fittest,” a phrase coined by the philosopher Herbert Spencer and adopted by Charles Darwin in explaining the natural selection in species stemming from gene evolution. In blunt words, Trump is saying we, the richest most powerful nation on earth, will call the tune and good luck to the rest of you at the dance.
Should other nations follow Trump’s advice to also put their own interests First the chances of successful negotiations among nations would seem to be near impossible.
3. The United States will protect itself from the threat of attack as it sees fit; when and how are not open to International decision, restriction or review.
The threat from North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and its bellicose leader is real and growing but the action to counter it that Donald J Trump promised he is prepared to use if necessary was truly breathtaking.
Trump told the U N General Assembly: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea (Bolding added).
Totally destroy. Are we talking civilians, women, children, the total population? Pray not!
And we don’t know whether he is including pre-emptive action or only after a military attack from the North. But the words of his threat are scary in themselves.
What a mature leader might say is something like “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to use military force to the extent necessary to remove the threat.”
Measured language reflecting measured thinking is not his style.
And it is “as sure as God made little green apples” that Trump’s over-the-top threat will only get a return over-the-top threat from North Korea and what aside from energizing his political base at home and scaring the rest of the world does he accomplish by using the language of an angry child – nothing good.
Further, Trump was speaking to an assembly of nations that banded together to assure the peace, to use force only authorized by the world community of nations.
Yes, the U N Charter’s famous Article 51 says reasonably: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security….” Nowhere in the Charter does it say nations can attack others first (a view in the name of self defense advanced a few years ago by former Vice President Cheney).”
But Trump has never endorsed Article 51 of the Charter, and only reluctantly endorsed NATO’s Article 5, because both say that ultimately it will be the U-N or NATO that has the final say on sorting out outcomes when member states are involved in armed attacks.
Finally, Trump called on the U N to head off the need for him to make good on his threat (he criticized nations that continue to trade with North Korea – are you listening China – and called on them to stop) but if “forced to defend” ourselves or our allies by totally destroying the North, Trump made no mention that he would need authorization from the U-N or anyone else to do it.
4. Notwithstanding denials, the United States now intends to be the “world’s policeman.”
– reiterated his recent vow to “win” in Afghanistan (winning not being defined).
-threatened to declare Iran in non-compliance with the six power nuclear treaty, thus invalidating the treaty endorsed by our European allies. Iran already has responded with words that make it clear that if the treaty is abrogated, it will then resume its nuclear program.
-declared the situation in Venezuela under dictator Nicolas Maduro “completely unacceptable, and we cannot stand by and watch…We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”
Military action? Trump didn’t say but the implication of a “red line” having been established for sending in U S troops is there.
There is much more and I invite everyone to read the full text of Trump’s U N speech which is said to have been written for him by Stephen Miller, a long time associate of former White House Strategist Steve Bannon (now returned to run Breitbart).
And who is Miller? I can do no better than to “lift” a portion of his description that appears in Wikipedia:
Stephen Miller (born August 23, 1985) is U.S. President Donald Trump‘s senior advisor for policy. He was previously the communications director for then-Alabama senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He also served as a press secretary to Republican U.S. Representatives Michele Bachmann and John Shadegg.
Miller has acted as Trump’s chief speechwriter and is credited with authoring the president’s “American carnage” inaugural address. He has been a key adviser since the early days of Trump’s presidency and was a chief architect of Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from several Middle Eastern countries. Miller rose to national prominence on February 12, 2017, when, during a morning of television appearances defending the travel ban, he appeared to question the power of the judiciary to limit the executive’s role in setting immigration policy…Miller has been criticized on multiple occasions for making false or unsubstantiated claims regarding public policy.”
Donald J Trump read Miller’s speech but that does not necessarily mean he fundamentally agrees with its every point or, for that matter, any of its points. Although the tough, uncompromising talk certainly sounds like him.
As we’ve seen, Trump reverses himself, makes up and changes his mind, speaks loudly or softly – all depending on what he believes at any given moment enhances his public adulation and benefits his overwhelming need for applause, beginning but not limited to his Base.
He can campaign loudly vowing to deport the DACA children, thrilling his Base, then appear to make a deal with Democrats to legalize their presence in the United States, pleasing the rest of us, then when the Base pushes back in horror at the apparent betrayal, backtracking into, where (?)…well, we don’t know yet.
Trump is controlled by his own selfishness and vanity and while that can play into anybody’s agenda it is dangerous.
But allow me to end this gloomy view of Trump’s speech to the U N on a light note.
Trump began his speech to the U N by boasting of his accomplishments:
He said: “Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8. The stock market is at an all-time high, a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth, the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time, and it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense. Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.”
Oh, Donald, you are so great and the fact you felt the need to explain that to the United Nations is almost “sweet.”
it sort of reminds one of the day after the deadly march in Charlottesville you were asked whether you intended to visit the city and without bothering to answer the question took the occasion to say:
“I know a lot about Charlottesville. It’s a great place that has been badly hurt over the last couple days. I own one of the largest wineries in the United States. It is in Charlottesville.”
By all means, let’s not forget to buy a bottle of Trump wine.
Makes the thought of total destruction of North Korea go down a little easier!