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By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
For the first time since assuming the presidency, Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly at its annual meeting on Monday. However, he took a far different approach than his predecessors. His speech wasn’t about promoting democracy as espoused by the Bush administration, nor was it apologizing for America’s role in the world as President Obama did.
Trump’s central themes were putting America first and letting the world know the United States will not be pushed around anymore.
Trump Unveils a Foreign Policy Far Different from His Predecessors
Trump began his address in his trademark straightforward manner, revealing a far different foreign policy than that advocated by his immediate predecessors.
In doing so, Trump spoke convincingly and forcibly. “Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity and peace for themselves and for the world,” he stated. At the same time he vowed to “always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.”
He emphasized that America does not seek to impose its way of life on anyone, but rather let it shine as an example for everyone to see.
Trump Repudiates Obama’s Foreign Policy
The speech was a far different address than the one President Obama gave before the General Assembly in September 2009. Obama repudiated the “go it alone” approach of President George W. Bush. Obama sought to repair the damage of “skepticism and distrust” which he believed was the hallmark of the Bush foreign policy that fed a culture of anti-Americanism.
Obama articulated and formulated a foreign policy doctrine that would be the hallmark of his administration. “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone,” Obama said.
“We have sought – in word and deed – a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges,” he added.
Instead of “leading from behind,” which was the legacy of Obama’s foreign policy, Trump placed a renewed emphasis on sovereignty. But he reiterated that all nations should place the interests of their country and people first, just as he will place the interests of the United States first and foremost.
Trump Lays Down a to the World
Trump then threw down a definitive marker to the world body when he said, “The United States will forever be a great friend to the world, and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return. As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.”
The president continued, “For the diverse nations of the world, this is our hope. We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife. We are guided by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests and values.”
Trump Notes Disparity in Contributing to UN Budget
Trump went on to say that “Realism forces us to confront a question facing every leader and nation in this room. It is a question we cannot escape or avoid. Will we slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats and even wars that we face? Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today, so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?”
Trump also noted that “the United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 percent of the entire budget and more. In fact, we pay far more than anybody realizes. The United States bears an unfair cost burden. But to be fair, if [the UN] could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it.”
Trump Tells World We Must Deal with Rogue Regimes Like North Korea
Nothing is more apparent in this regard than how the United Nations has dealt with North Korea and other nations over the preceding decades. Trump challenged the “rogue regimes” around the globe, especially North Korea.
“No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans and for the imprisonment, torture, killing and oppression of countless more.” To underscore his contempt, Trump tossed aside diplomatic protocol when he referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.”
The president thanked China and Russia for working with the global community in agreeing to levy further sanctions on North Korea. But Trump strongly admonished them for arming, supplying and providing financial support to Pyongyang.
Trump made it crystal clear to all that “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.”
Then he turned to Iran, saying, “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.”
Time to hold Iran Accountable
Castigating Iran, Trump said, “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 President called the Iran nuclear accord “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.”
Those remarks left many national and foreign policy experts scratching their heads, wondering if Trump meant that the U.S. would pull out of the Iranian nuclear agreement signed by President Obama in 2015. Trump repeatedly promised to do just that while he was campaigning for the presidency last year.
The final portion of Trump’s address expressed his vision for defeating international terrorism. He noted, “We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology. We must drive them out of our nations. It is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and others that slaughter innocent people.”
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The national and foreign policy establishment will dissect Trump’s speech in the days, weeks and months ahead. Regardless of their conclusions, Trump has forged a new direction for the United States and how the U.S. will interact with the world community.
Like it or not, he signaled to the world that America will not be pushed around anymore.
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