Opinion

The Good And The Bad Of Trump’s UN Speech

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Scott Greer Contributor

President Donald Trump delivered his first address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.

The reviews of his speech were sharply divided.

Conservatives loved it, praising the president for taking a tough line against dictatorships and asserting American interests on the world stage. Several liberals saw the speech as dangerous saber-rattling that hurt America’s standing in the world and made our allies very nervous.

But how did the speech line up with the “America First” foreign policy Trump has articulated in the past?

On the positive side, there were many affirmations of the principle of national sovereignty and a commitment to the America’s interests rather than that of spreading democracy.

“As President of the United States I will always put America first,” Trump declared. (RELATED: Trump Delivers Forceful UN Speech. Here’s What He Said)

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same traditions…or even systems of government,” he also said in a knock against nation-building and in support of foreign policy realism. He defined his foreign policy as one that has a “respect for law, borders and culture.”

The president also excoriated the menace of “radical Islamic terrorism” by name, a term totally absent from the speeches of Barack Obama and recently missing from Trump’s own rhetoric.

Moreover, Trump made a strong case against mass immigration and the notion that western countries are obligated to take in an unlimited number of migrants and refugees. (RELATED: Trump Warns About Dangers Of Unchecked Immigration During UN Address)

“For decades the United States has dealt with migration challenges here in the Western Hemisphere. We have learned that over the long-term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries,” the president stated.

“For the sending countries, it reduces domestic pressure to pursue needed political and economic reform and drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms. For the receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are born overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and government,” he astutely explained.

Additionally, Trump took a swipe at socialism in his remarks and pointed out its failure in Venezuela. “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” he said.

Those were the good things about the speech. However, there were a lot of parts of his speech that sounded a bit off from his America First message.

North Korea dominated much of Trump’s remarks, for good reason. The rogue dictatorship now has nukes and is acting in a reckless manner in regards to its neighbors. Once again, the president struck a bellicose tone when talking of the communist state, vowing to “totally destroy” the regime if America needs to defend itself. (RELATED: Trump Warns US May ‘Have No Choice But To Destroy North Korea’)

While in keeping with Trump’s past comments and his commitment to a strong defense, the vow of destruction does conflict a bit with his assurance that the U.S. does not want to impose itself on other countries’ systems of government.

Obviously, North Korea is a threat to our allies due to its own actions. The threat of total destruction was made in response to a potential attack made by the Kim Jong-un regime.

Trump’s statements on North Korea weren’t that off from his campaign agenda, but taken with his remarks about other “rogue states,” it sounded an awful like George W. Bush.

In spite of him saying America is not in the business of imposing its own government on other nations, Trump indicated that he supported regime change in Venezuela, Iran and Syria. That sounds a lot like imposing America’s system of government on other nations.

More importantly, it signaled a willingness to use American military might to achieve that objective — something very much in keeping with the Bush doctrine.

Commentators on Twitter were quick to quip that parts of Trump’s address echoed Bush’s famous “Axis of Evil” speech, minus Iraq.

Some of the people who loved Trump’s speech the most were neoconservatives like Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake. Lake saw the address as evangelism “for American exceptionalism” and said it may show a “neocon conversion.”

“For a moment, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a Weekly Standard editorial meeting,” the Bloomberg writer commented on the speech.

Lake was hopeful that Trump had shown a willingness to engage in “democratic revolutions” in other parts of the world, and he’s optimistic that the president would go further down this path.

During the election, Trump was strongly opposed by neocons for his supposedly “isolationist” views, his attacks on Bush and his desire to work with dictatorships against the greater of Islamic terror.

Now he’s sounding sort of like Bush when speaking to the world.

But it is still a stretch to say the UN address shows a conversion to neoconservative worldview. It really is just another indication of the crossroads Trump finds himself at.

Bereft of any legislative achievements and surrounded by unfamiliar advisers, Trump is stuck between the candidate he campaigned as and the president his establishment advisers want him to be.

His reiteration of support for America First and national sovereignty was classic Trump. His rejection of mass immigration was one of the finest articulations of this viewpoint ever delivered at the UN.

But implying a willingness to engage in regime change and remake the world in America’s image showed a different politician, the kind of Republican Trump defeated in the primaries.

Taken as a whole, Trump’s speech should have gone over well his supporters disenchanted over his recent handling of illegal immigration. At the same time, it showed signs that Trump could ditch his commitment to America First and embrace being the world’s policeman.

Only his future actions will clarify the president’s ambiguous message to the UN.

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