Trump at the U.N.

President Trump addressed the United Nations today. You can read his speech here.

I think it’s an excellent address. I agree with Rick Manning that “Trump has provided a cogent and inspiring defense of America and the American constitutional system of governance to the world, not as imposition but an example to be followed, while at the same time respecting the sovereignty of other nations.”

While making clear that the U.S. won’t impose its system of governance, Trump also said “America stands with every person living under a brutal regime.” He explained that “our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their well being, including their prosperity.”

Trump had tough words for North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. Of North Korea, he said:

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. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.

I think Trump understands that the U.N. is largely worthless when it comes to North Korea. “Let’s see how they do” is as close as he can, or should, come to saying so.

On Iran, Trump stated:

Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

I want to believe him.

My favorite line was this one about Venezuela:

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.

The transcript indicates that applause followed the first sentence.

Trump didn’t criticize Russia or China directly. Indeed, he thanked Russia and China for voting recently for the imposition of new sanctions on North Korea. However, Trump did say: “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.” We all know who poses those threats.

Trump praised the U.N. in some respects, but did not spare it from criticism. He called it a “massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.” And he noted that “the United States bears an unfair cost burden” when it comes to the U.N. Trump added, pointedly I think, that if the U.N. “could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it.”

Trump’s speech contains elements that will likely please Steve Bannon and elements that probably satisfy Bannon’s adversaries in the administration. As I read the speech, the former elements outnumber the latter ones.

The question, of course, is the degree to which actual administration policy will align with Trump’s message to the U.N.

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