President Donald Trump condemned authoritarian regimes in harsh and Trumpian terms during his first United Nations speech, lashing out at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” lamenting Iran’s "pursuit of death and destruction,” and warning that major portions of the world are “going to hell.”
“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,” Trump said Tuesday in a major address before the U.N. General Assembly. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
The president insisted that the U.S. is “ready, willing and able” but cautioned that “hopefully this will not be necessary.”
“That’s what the United Nations is all about. That’s what the United Nations is for,” he said. “Let’s see how they do. It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”
Trump also singled out Iran as he called on “the righteous many” to “confront the wicked few” to prevent “evil” from prevailing.
“It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime, one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room,” Trump said. “The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.”
If the leaders of the world's countries somehow weren't convinced that America is now the most dangerous rogue nation on earth before, this speech sealed the deal. We're under control of a madman with a nuclear arsenal that can wipe out every human on the planet dozens of times over again and he can use them at any time.
Daniel Larison zeroed in on the problem with Trump:
Trump’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly this morning contained a lot of ill-advised and dangerous remarks, but this one stood out:
If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.
U.S. foreign policy already suffers from far too much self-congratulation and excessive confidence in our own righteousness, so it was alarming to hear Trump speak in such stark, fanatical terms about international affairs. Paired with his confrontational rhetoric directed towards North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and Syria, Trump’s choice to cast these states as the “wicked few” portends more aggressive and meddlesome policies and gives the leaders of all of these governments reason to assume the worst about our intentions. It was similar to Bush’s foolish “axis of evil” remarks in 2002. The statement itself is also rather odd in that it talks about the many being righteous, when religious texts normally present the righteous as being the relatively few and embattled against the wicked multitude. If the “wicked” are so few, they must be badly outnumbered and don’t pose as much of a threat as Trump claims elsewhere. It also strains credulity that Trump speaks on behalf of righteousness when he embraces so many abusive despots and enables Saudi-led coalition crimes in Yemen.
Trump declared the nuclear deal an “embarrassment,” which strongly suggests that he won’t agree to recertify the deal when the next deadline comes up in mid-October. He emphasized the importance of sovereignty for the U.S., but in everything else he had to say he showed that he was happy to trample on the sovereignty of other states when it suited him. While his threat to “destroy” North Korea was framed as a defense of the U.S. and allies, it will only make the North Korean government more determined than ever to develop its nuclear arsenal and missiles. He hinted that the U.S. would interfere more in Venezuela, which will almost certainly be used by Maduro and his allies to their advantage.
In 2017, America is a founding member of the "wicked few". The rest of the world will not tolerate us for long should we end up in wars with Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela as we are in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen now.
By the way, note who did not receive any criticism whatsoever from Trump: Russia. A country we know who tried to influence our elections and possibly a lot more, and Trump gave them a pass because of course he did, he's using Putin's rhetoric now in public.
Sovereignty is not a point prior American presidents have pressed. When global leaders invoke sovereignty, they usually mean that no one possesses the right to oppose what they unleash within their borders. American presidents typically tailor their speeches at the UN to counterbalance a due respect for national sovereignty with calls for collective action against genocide, terrorism, disease, poverty, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
But now, Putin finally has an American president who considers national sovereignty as the end of the discussion, or at least in the cases where it serves their purposes. Trump’s call for a “respect for law, a respect for borders, a respect for culture” sounds unobjectionable – until it becomes clear that Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea will enjoy no such respect from Washington for their own sovereignty. Much as Putin said in 2015 that Russia recognizes “the fact that we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world,” Trump’s conception of sovereignty is inevitably reserves the U.S. the right to impose its will.
But the question remains: what will happen when the rest of the world decides something needs to be done about us?
I'm pretty sure that day is coming if we don't find a way to rein Trump in.