Sounding somber and perhaps distracted by growing calls for an impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump tried to focus on the future in his address Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly. And, once again, he endorsed isolationism in the face of global challenges.
“The future does not belong to globalists,” Trump said. “The future belongs to patriots.”
Trump’s wrong about both. Indeed, true love of country would mean working with like-minded nations to secure America’s future.
In addressing China’s predatory trade practices — an issue that Trump is correct to focus on — the best strategy would be to enlist other nations to press a collective case at the World Trade Organization. Instead, on Tuesday he castigated the WTO.
And it would have helped to have joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was designed in part to be a counterweight to a rising China. Instead, Trump trashed the deal in his campaign and quickly canceled U.S. involvement in it only to spark a go-it-alone trade war that’s destabilizing the global economy and hurting Midwestern farmers.
Trump did emphasize bilateral deals he hopes to reach with Japan and the United Kingdom. Yet there would be more market power if the U.S. would have continued to lead efforts on the TPP and another scrapped pact, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would have lowered trade barriers between the U.S. and the European Union.
Iran’s regionally destabilizing aggression is also a critical issue, and it’s notable that the U.K., France and Germany now agree with the administration that Tehran was behind the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities. At the same time, Trump has alienated U.S. allies and made it harder to rally a cohesive response — especially since those three countries are trying to salvage the Iran nuclear deal that the president abrogated.
Other transnational challenges must be met with a multilateral response. But on immigration, Trump mostly discouraged Central Americans and defended nations that are refusing refugees. At no point did he offer U.S. leadership on an issue that’s likely to be exacerbated by climate change.
That crisis presents a profound challenge to every nation, but only collective action can solve it. Recent data suggests that even the Paris climate accord, from which Trump unilaterally withdrew, is insufficient to meet the threat. Trump didn’t mention the climate crisis in his address. Instead, the only presidential attention the issue received was a tweet mocking Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student activist who has emerged as her generation’s conscience on global warming.
Thunberg shamed the delegates in an impassioned speech on Monday, a day dedicated to the U.N. acting on the issue. Trump dropped by late to a U.N. climate meeting, stayed for 14 minutes, and then left.
America — and in fact, the world — can’t afford inaction on climate change and inward impulses on other geopolitical issues.
Indeed, now is a time to embrace the collective force for good that globalism can create. That in itself would be patriotic.