UN Watch

Trump’s mindless bellicosity at UN

The apprehension was justified. US President Donald Trump’s disregard for institutions and fondness for reckless rhetoric meant that his maiden appearance at the annual UN General Assembly was a closely watched affair.

Sep 22, 2017
The apprehension was justified. US President Donald Trump’s disregard for institutions and fondness for reckless rhetoric meant that his maiden appearance at the annual UN General Assembly was a closely watched affair. Would the most isolationist and unilateralist of American presidents in modern history attack the UN itself, a favourite target of conservatives in the US, for the alleged wastefulness and anti-Americanism of the organisation? Or would Mr Trump directly attack UN member states that have earned his ire for various reasons? The US president chose to spare the UN for now from direct verbal attack, but in his extraordinary threats against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela he undermined the very principles and values on which the UN was created. It was a grim day for diplomacy and global cooperation. A pattern of the nine-month-old presidency of Mr Trump is for him to say wild, deeply unsettling things before his cabinet and the White House staff try and walk back some of the most damaging comments. But this time, the damage will be harder to contain and perhaps permanent.
 
To be sure, the UN is a cumbersome, frustrating organisation where global ideals and national interests routinely clash. For instance, year after year, decade after decade, Pakistan patiently reiterates its desire to have UN resolutions pertaining to the Kashmir dispute implemented. But the UN is also a vital organisation for a range of humanitarian interventions and is a global platform from which legally binding measures can be taken to advance global security. While Mr Trump may not care to understand or accept that, it is nevertheless shocking when he threatens to obliterate an entire country from the speakers’ rostrum in the UN General Assembly, as he did North Korea on Tuesday. Historians scrambled to find another example of a UN member state, a superpower in this case, threatening to annihilate another member state, an impoverished nation of 25m people. The bellicose rhetoric against Venezuela was also unnerving as the US president only seems to recognise the sovereignty of nations when it suits him. The problems in Venezuela are manifestly deep, urgent and complex, but the Trump administration’s stance on the country has the potential to unnerve an entire continent.
 
On Iran, Mr Trump’s hard-line position has doubtless cheered up many conservatives in the US, but they have not been able to provide any proof of Iran violating the nuclear deal painstakingly negotiated by the P5+1. That deal was never meant to be a panacea nor was it supposed to address all of the global community’s concerns about Iran. So for Mr Trump to mindlessly attack Iran in bad faith is to send a signal that the US cannot be trusted to engage other countries responsibly or honourably. Mr Trump may not care about his behaviour, but the world certainly has to.
 
Dawn News, September 22, 2017

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