For a red-state campaign rally, President Trump’s speech to the United Nations was a stirring package of moralistic rhetoric, nationalistic posturing and self-righteous rage.
For a meeting of international leaders, the president’s address was a garbage can of ideological arrogance, cultural contempt and political shortsightedness.
Trump threatened to annihilate North Korea, a U.N. member state of 20 million people. He offered no plan for a peaceful resolution of the threat posed by Kim Jong-un’s nuclear arsenal, only a personal insult.
“The United States has great strength and patience,” Trump declared, “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.”
Trump went on to trash Iran as a terrorist state and the 2015 international agreement that curbs Iran’s nuclear program for the next 10 years. Trump praised Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, and denounced Iran for sponsoring terrorism, even though no Iranian citizen has been involved in a terror attack on Americans in more than two decades.
“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” Trump said.
In fact, the deal imposes strict limits and rigorous inspections on Iran’s nuclear facilities in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.
Whatever emotional satisfaction the speech gave the president and his followers, it only makes the international confrontation with North Korea more intractable and a war-like confrontation with Iran more likely.
Ben Rhodes, former national security adviser to President Obama, tweeted that no U.S. allies will support reneging on the nuclear deal.
Trump at UN totally alienating the US from our allies and taking a position that will have no global support https://t.co/8TOmttmwxC— Ben Rhodes (@Ben Rhodes)1505831194.0
Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian-American Council, said, “Contrary to their government, Iranians are known to be one of the most pro-American populations in the Middle East. Through his policies, however, Trump has and continues to do great damage to that reservoir of goodwill towards America. His address at the U.N. only revealed that he is painfully unaware or arrogantly indifferent to how he is being perceived."
Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif dismissed Trump’s rhetoric as unserious.
Trump's ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times-not the 21st Century UN -unworthy of a reply. Fake empathy for Iranians fools no one.— Javad Zarif (@Javad Zarif)1505844969.0
If Trump makes good on his threat and withdraws from the Iran deal, and Congress reimposes sanctions, Iran will be free to restart its nuclear program, putting the United States back on the road to war the Obama administration had pulled the country off of.
“The nuclear deal is what prevents Iran from becoming the next North Korea,” said Tom Collina, policy director of Ploughshares, a disarmament advocacy group.
And the message to North Korea is that the United States is untrustworthy.
“How will North Korea hear Trump's speech?" said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington. "Iran did what it said it would do and you have an American president not honoring the American end of the bargain. Why should Kim Jong-un negotiate anything now?”
“Trump failed to outline a path out of the crisis,” Kimball went on. “It was an abdication of American leadership on the most important issue before the United Nations—North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. It's yet another sign that we're in a dangerous new phase in North Korea and other countries are going to have to step up because the United States isn’t leading.”
The only world leader who praised the speech was Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu. He’s the political genius who had these reassuring words for Americans in 2002:
A dismal and dangerous performance, Trump’s speech defined the United States of America as a rogue state that prefers issuing threats to honoring its commitments. The Swedish foreign minister voiced the global consensus.