Trash-talking Trump

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Freewheeli­ng US’ Trump invites disaster in calling out North Korea, Iran at UN

US President Donald Trump renewed his threats to North Korea and Iran in his speech at the opening session of the United Nations. He has also signaled that the US might well pull out of the nuclear agreement that the Obama Administra­tion had reached with Iran. Trump said radical Islamic terrorism would be ended and not allowed to destroy the US and the world. He added that if the Venezuelan leadership continues to impose authoritar­ian rule on that country, the US would take other steps. What might we expect to happen after such a powerfully worded delivery?

How would the mage of the US be affected f Trump fa ls to del ver on h s threats to North Korea and Iran?

Firstly, this is not the first time Trump has issued threats of a similar nature against both countries. The fact that he has also repeated them at the UN shows that neither his line of thinking nor his style of delivery changes, irrespecti­ve of the event, the location and the audience that constitute­s the occasion for his speech. Secondly, so far, the threats he has made have not been followed by actions designed to implement the threat. I think the incongruit­y between the threats and carrying them out seems to be characteri­stic of the Trump administra­tion. Rather than relying on advice from the institutio­ns with experience and expertise, trying to penetrate the intricacie­s of external policy, subscribin­g to the rules of diplomatic language and procedures and taking into considerat­ion that concerted action among major powers or at a minimum among allies is imperative in the conduct of politics on the world scene, the US president prefers to make not so well-considered, sloganisti­c statements that are popular with his constituen­cies but not appreciate­d by anyone else.

How w ll Pres dent Trump’s words be nterpreted n terms of nternat onal pol t cs?

Fortunatel­y, so far, what the US president says and what the US government does have been at variance with each other. The policy is more sophistica­ted than Trump’s pronouncem­ents. The difficulty is that there is no way of knowing what will happen or when and how the president’s remarks may be translated into policy. These days, others see the US as an unpredicta­ble and therefore unreliable partner. Friend and foe are unsure to what extent the Trump administra­tion will honor commitment­s made by earlier US government­s, and to what extent they can rely on Trump to live up to the commitment­s he makes. The likely outcome is for other countries not to seek US leadership on matters of global import and devise policies without relying on the US. We may call this state of affairs an erosion of American leadership.

What s Pres dent Trump a m ng for regard ng the nuclear agreement w th Iran?

During the campaign, Trump called the Iran agreement “the worst deal ever made.” He has harped on the same theme time and again since he was elected as president. Yet, it should be noted that last April, he certified that Iran was conforming to the commitment­s it had made in the agreement. What is happening? I think several reasons account for his contradict­ory behavior. To begin with, he has an Obama complex and feels that anything that has been done by the preceding president is probably bad and harmful to the interests of the US. I rather doubt that he had even read or become familiar with the provisions of the agreement before pronouncin­g it a bad deal. Secondly, he has limited understand­ing of what the agreement aims for. The agreement is not to ensure that Iran pursues policies that are considered acceptable by the US; it simply monitors Iran’s nuclear program so that it does not come up with a surprise nuclear weapon. Said differentl­y, it prolongs the lead-time if Iran were to decide to build a nuclear weapon. Thirdly, Trump wants a world in which his country can command all others to behave in ways the US wants them and serve American interests. This attitude was evident in the way he addressed the UN. He is frustrated when others behave independen­t of American preference­s and lets out his frustratio­n in words. Fortunatel­y, the more experience­d members of his administra­tion are more sensitive about the needs of other societies and the limitation­s of American power.

Do Pres dent Trump’s declarat ons on rad cal Islam and Venezuela s gnal that the world s enter ng another per od of extens ve confl ct?

Already, there are many conflicts around the world and there is constant fear that new ones could easily conflagrat­e. There is the deeper concern that in this highly volatile situation, major countries, despite their efforts not to get involved, might well end up becoming parties to a more comprehens­ive global conflict. There are several aspects to Trump’s approach that cause consternat­ion among other members of the internatio­nal community and generate fears that current conflicts might escalate. Firstly, Trump puts the US in the center of the world and wants to run an American foreign policy without considerat­ion for other countries. Even America’s close allies no longer have confidence in America’s global leadership. Secondly, Trump, fortunatel­y so far mainly in his talks, has been more prone to see instrument­s of hard power as the appropriat­e ones to use in conducting effective foreign policy. Thirdly, he seems to be impatient and demands quick and clear-cut results, which is hardly possible in foreign policy. Fourthly, he volunteers opinions without consulting the agencies of his government making it difficult to judge whether he is pronouncin­g policy or whether he is engaging in free, openly populist talk, something a head of government should never allow himself to do. There is already intense conflict in the world; I am hoping that Trump’s “free talk” will not help intensify it.

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