It is rare for a speech at the United Nations General Assembly by the president of the United States to be laughed at.
U.S. President Donald Trump said this in the Sept. 25 address: “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” As laughter spread among representatives of countries in the room, the president continued, “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.” His frustration was almost visible.
The scene was symbolic of the perception gap between the United States and other countries. Trump included in his accomplishments the U.S. government’s departure from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and the transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, but those actions are not in line with the positions of the United Nations.
We must remember that the reimposition of sanctions on Iran by Washington has triggered oil price hikes, causing trouble for ordinary people.
Another surprising remark Trump made was this avowal: “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”
In other words, he appeared to deny multilateral collaboration at the United Nations, a forum for international cooperation. Even prior to this statement, the Trump administration had emphasized its “America First” ideology and contempt for the United Nations. However, one has to be concerned by such a blunt assertion by the U.S. president.
The U.S. congressional midterm elections in November appeared to make up part of the political calculus behind Trump’s speech, particularly the boasts about American economic performance and the mentions of diplomatic moves likely to please the Christian far-right members of his base. It is unfortunate that what stood out in his speech was showmanship targeted at a domestic audience, not consideration for international affairs.
In his speech last year, Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “rocket man” and stated that the U.S. “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if forced to defend itself or allies.
Trump did a complete U-turn on Pyongyang this year. The U.S. president emphasized the achievements from the June summit he had with the North Korean leader, and thanked Kim for his “courage” and the steps he has taken, including the suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
We are tempted to be pleased with Washington-Pyongyang detente. But Trump’s abrupt about-face is a source of concern. The Trump administration has been responding to North Korea in a haphazard manner. A second summit between Trump and Kim would not necessarily guarantee advancement toward denuclearization of North Korea.
On top of this haphazardness, the strong-arm trade negotiations pursued by the Trump administration appear to be eroding international trust in and the dignity of the United States, as well as fanning disgust with Washington worldwide. Trump should think about the meaning of why he was laughed at by international leaders at the United Nations.