It was as we’d feared. The United States under Donald Trump no longer has a coherent foreign policy. Trump’s debut on the United Nations podium has confirmed that the president lacks a strategic vision of the world and the role a superpower like the United States should play in it. One of the most frequently repeated words in his speech was “sovereignty,” the central idea he used to justify his slogan “America First.” Cooperation, multilateralism, and collective action to solve problems have all disappeared from the toolbox of American foreign policy.
Trump brought back the axis of evil. He threatened North Korea, the center of one of the two biggest crises in the world currently, with war and destruction, and didn’t even mention the other crisis: the one facing Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He ignored other conflicts, including the one between Israelis and Palestinians, the oldest of all the world’s conflicts. He didn’t consider climate change worthy of a mention. And he was very careful not to upset Russia, tiptoeing around the topic of relations with the country that, under the current administration, might be an ally, an enemy, or a threat capable of blackmailing the White House directly – we don’t know.
In 2002, George W. Bush spoke of an “axis of evil” that, he decided, was made up of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Iraq has since fallen off the list, following the invasion and the war that the Bush administration carried out in search of nonexistent weapons of nuclear destruction. However, Trump considers North Korea (which, as the Pyongyang regime shows almost every day, does have a truly dangerous arsenal) a target for total destruction. It may be a mere show of bravado, and that’s what the experts believe, since holding onto those weapons is precisely Kim Jong Un’s life insurance policy. But whatever the case may be, the idea of policy based on a new, overly arrogant militarism can never be an answer.
Iran, a ‘Rogue State’
One of Trump’s obsessions has been the other point on that axis, Iran, specifically, the nuclear agreement that the United States and five other international powers signed with Iran, by which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. The agreement was one of Barack Obama’s successes, and reaching it was hard work. Signed in 2015, the deal was risky, but it’s stayed alive so far, according to nuclear inspectors. But yesterday Trump insisted on calling Iran a “rogue state,” hinting that he might let the agreement go.
In the inaugural speech to the General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a warning to those who wield power in their respective countries, saying that the international community is falling apart. Later speeches such as Trump’s, laden with nationalism and belligerence and disregardful of the politics of multilateralism, hammered another nail in the coffin of that same international community.