25 September 2018

Didn't expect that reaction

Has any nation's leader been as blatantly mocked by the United Nations General Assembly as President Trump was today? I know of no similar case. The diplomats responded with laughter when Trump boasted, in typical style, that he had "accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. He based this claim, after the laughter, on the stock market and a low unemployment rate, emphasizing allegedly historic low rates for racial minorities. Of course, the same skepticism shown toward the Obama recovery, in terms of the quality and stability of jobs, applies equally, if not more so, to the Trump recovery, but in any event the President was there to talk foreign policy and, to his credit, and probably unlike his worshipers who will see the laughter as further reason to despise the UN, he seemed to take the mild heckling in stride. Nevertheless, it belies any claim Trump wants to make about the U.S. being more respected abroad than in Obama's time.

As for foreign policy, the really interesting thing about his speech was his implicit attack on the idea of economic spheres of influence. He sees "reliance on a single foreign supplier" as one of the "new forms of coercion and domination" that can "leave a nation vulnerable to extortion and intimidation." However friendly he might be toward Vladimir Putin, Trump clearly intends to compete with Russia economically even in Russia's "near abroad." He applauded Poland, which also got a shout-out, along with India, Israel and Saudi Arabia, later in the speech, for its role in a Baltic pipeline intended to free eastern Europe from energy dependence on Russia. Those who've been paying attention knew already that Trump was committed to aggressive economic competition with Russia. He made it more clear today that he wants the U.S. to compete as well with OPEC, which he accuses, his friendliness toward the Saudis notwithstanding, of "as usual, ripping off the rest of the world" but particular the U.S. that "defend[s] many of these nations for nothing." That sounds undiplomatic when, if anything, OPEC, or at least the Saudis, depresses prices to beggar Iran and Russia, but Trump is more salesman than diplomat here, as always after a better deal. The exception to this dealsmanship remains Iran, the one evil nation, other than perhaps Venezuela,  in the Trump demonology. His demands for Iran's further isolation will most likely go unheeded for reasons he can't really criticize. Trump's anti-globalist attitude affirms every nation's right to pursue or further it's own interests, and so long as Iran troubles the U.S. other nations with actual or potential beefs with the U.S. will find it in their interest to cultivate Iran's ability to make trouble. Why should they care if Iran threatens Israel or curses America or subsidizes Syria if none of that harms their interests? Until Trump can answer that question in a plausible way, the world may well keep laughing at him behind his back. To put it another way, Trump is unlikely to make progress with Iran, if any is possible, until he abandons the exceptional moralizing tone, reminiscent of neoconservatism, that he usually takes toward the Islamic Republic and  finds a more Trumpian way to deal with them and their friends.

1 comment:

hobbyfan said...

President Narcissus doesn't get it, and never will.