As Donald Trump wraps up his visit to the United Nations, perhaps it’s time to address the number of concerns his presence brings to delegations and to the world order in general.
For one, his speech to the General Assembly showed what many leaders really think of the him, as displayed by the resounding laughter Trump unintentionally elicited when he bragged that his administration has accomplished more than any administration in history. Trump’s temerity was also on full display the day after when, in a Security Council meeting, he accused China of interfering with the upcoming midterm elections. These grandiose displays of diplomatic folly build on his performance last year when he told the General Assembly that he could “totally destroy” North Korea.
In addition to the unnecessary bragging and unwarranted accusations coming from Trump in the past couple of days, he has also reminded the world that his foreign policy is built on suspicion of other countries, and concerted shift away from the international order.
“We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” Trump told the General Assembly. And, as the New York Times notes, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to cutting ties with the Human Rights Council and International Criminal Court, two instrumental organs of the United Nations. In March, the Trump administration also decided to pull out of UNESCO.
This skepticism for the United Nations comes at a time of trade wars and heightened rhetoric that puts America further out of touch with its allies.
Trump is hardly alone among Republican rank-and-file, many of whom continue to cast doubt on the United States’ role in the world and in the United Nations. In recent years, some politicians, like Senator Rand Paul, have gone so far as to suggest that the UN should be dissolved completely. In this sense, Trump is not the exception.
But with the powers of the Presidency at his disposal his actions are certainly more terrifying than the words of congressmen.
With his focus clearly turned to his domestic policies, Trump has seemingly lost interest in the outside world. However, this indifference is better described as a thoughtless, treacherous force, which Trump has shown by casting aspersions about NATO, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal without a proposing a replacement, and settling into a trade war that could, according to economist Paul Krugman, plunge the US into an even larger trade deficit.
The international order, the very one that Trump has railed against, was largely established by the United States at the end of World War II. While many of these organizations—the United Nations and its various organs, and NATO included—are not perfect, they serve as forums for public cooperation, striving towards grand goals that were once thought of as impossible. By turning a blind eye to such organizations, Trump is essentially reversing America’s commitment to maintain these lofty goals, effectively eroding America’s role as a world leader. Moreover, he is playing a tricky game of trade on various fronts, with the cards clearly stacked against him.
As Trump leaves the UN and heads back to Washington, things will likely go back to business as usual. Sadly, Trump’s visit hasn’t strengthened the world’s confidence in America; it has only reminded us how far America has backed away from the world.
Tobias Wertime is a member of the class of 2020 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.