Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Fire and fury signifying nothing
Yesterday being a Tuesday, I should have known anything could happen. Trump dropped the bomb on the UN, giving what some reporters have called George W. Bush's "axis of evil" speech on steroids. John Kelly's facial expressions said it all.
Trump veered wildly off course, not only lashing out at North Korea's "rocket man," but all "rogue leaders," as if he was the new sheriff in town. He said he would "totally destroy" North Korea if he had to, which would be unsettling if he had any support among his staff, much less Congress, for such wild rhetoric. Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson similarly appeared dazed and confused by Trump's hyperbolic rhetoric.
He chortled on twitter that he "met with leaders of many nations that agreed with much (or all) of what [he] stated in [his] speech!" The only one smiling was Bibi Netanhayu who is trying to get Trump to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement so that he can take out their nuclear reactor. Theresa May also supported Trump's positions on North Korea and Iran but was less gleeful. There was no show of support for his comments by any other nation.
It's painfully obvious that there is no point in prepping Trump for an important speech as he refuses to stick with the script. Any gathering is a rally for him. He imagined all those world leaders in red MAGA caps and fired away. I'm sure Presidents Putin and Xi must have been shaking their heads back home, wondering how much longer the US Congress can tolerate a man like this. As for Kim Jong-Un, I'm sure we will see another rocket flying soon, maybe even in the direction of Guam just to gauge his fellow man-toddler's reactions.
Representatives of Iran, Syria and Venezuela, who were also tagged in Trump's angry speech, could be seen tweeting responses back home. Most international representatives sat frozen in their chairs, as they usually do, inured to such hyperbolic speeches over the years, including Bibi's infamous red line speech, but they certainly didn't expect one like this coming from the United States.
Trump set a new low for the United States in world diplomacy, literally threatening to bring down the world around him, if that is what it takes to get people to notice him. He is singularly obsessed with Kim Jong-Un, who has refused to cower to Trump's overblown gestures.
For the record, Kim's ballistic missile tests over Japan were 770 km into space and therefore did not violate Japan's airspace. The rockets fell harmlessly into international waters. As such, they do not infringe directly on any nation. Yet, that hasn't stopped the Trump White House and an angry Shinzo Abe from declaring these missile tests an "outright challenge to the international community."
At this juncture, the missile tests represent an existential threat moreso than a real threat, as they show Pyongyang's rapidly developing long-range missile capabilities, yet he hasn't infringed on anyone's territorial limits. We can no longer treat the "rocket man" as a laughing stock, which is the point he has been trying to make all along. Yet, Trump continues to egg him on with such epithets, seeming to want to provoke the North Korean dictator into making a direct attack, thereby justifying a massive counter attack in response. His UN speech is just a continuation of this coarse language.
Everyone recognizes the threat Kim Jong-Un poses, but the UN policy remains one of containment. One can see the next gesture of the United States being to present a "white paper" to the Security Council calling for pre-emptive action. However, the UN has been down this road before and I doubt will show anymore sympathy for the Trump administration than it did the Bush administration. The UN will continue to press for negotiations, which are attached to the sanctions.
As Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom stated, "it was the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience."