While the United Nations remains crippled in so many ways as an effective international organization, it is the main forum for the expression of foreign policy issues among the nations.
And in a detailed and outspoken message, President Trump has used that forum to complete the public presentation of his announced Administration program.
Trump’s line is a new American nationalism, what he calls “America First” [unfortunately with the unhappy recollection of the same words used in the pre-World War II movement which included even pro-Nazi sympathizers].
But Trump emphasized that his promotion of American sovereignty in contrast to multinational aspirations not only was basic to his own program. He told his listeners that they, too, should uphold their own sovereignty. That should they do so with a kind of fairness he recommended for America’s international interests, thereby a balance of international power could be achieved.
President Trump came to the UN from a strong position:
Behind him was a huge American economy, a GDP of approximately $19.39 trillion, due to high average incomes, a population reaching toward 350 million, a new wave capital investment bringing in huge foreign investment, moderate unemployment, high consumer spending, a relatively young population, and the world’s leading technological innovation. Trump returned the U.S. to the UN, with an overwhelming economy — at a time when the rest of the world economy is dawdling — and its growing military with two record annual budgets of $17 and 17.6 billion.
In 1917 the U.S. economy represented a quarter of the global total economic activity [24.3 percent], according to World Bank figures. [China followed, with $11 trillion, or 14.8 percent of the world economy.]
Furthermore, that economy is currently roaring along at more 4 percent annual growth.
Trump reminded his listeners that the U.S. directly will contribute a quarter of the international organization’s budget. But its incidental assistance throughout the world is also an unacknowledged additional factor, perhaps more important than its cash contribution to its budgets.
The Trump speech was highly nuanced, not that different from the speech he has made repeatedly domestically, recently, but presenting an unexpectedly complete and frank a picture of the U.S. relationship to the international organization.
In a sense, the UN speech added the final details to the ambitious Trump foreign policy that has characterized the less than two years of his administration. Gone, except for its historical reference, are the eight years of “leading from behind” of two reluctantly pseudosophisticated international Obama Administrations.
This honest approach to the reality of the American position and its world leadership role can also only be a return to the world as it exists rather than any attempt to return to the modified position of “isolationism” dominant in the pre-World War II United States. It was, indeed, this attitude which encouraged the ravages of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe, Africa and Asia and the Japanese military in China and Southeast Asia, but which ultimately drew the U.S. into the world conflict.
And, without false modesty, Trump emphatically returned the U.S. to its acknowledged world leadership as champions of an alliance of the European democracies, Australasia, Japan, and India which it has occupied since the end of World War II. There was no mincing of this position and implications of the responsibility they lay on the U.S. and its leadership.