President Donald Trump’s sovereignty mantra is taking him down a dangerous path when it comes to North Korea and Iran.
President Donald Trump could have used his maiden speech at the United Nations Tuesday to reassure allies he was capable of providing global leadership against 21st century threats.
Instead, he delivered a bombastic stump speech about guarding American sovereignty that was more suited to his faithful than to world leaders. He peppered his mainly isolationist remarks with a dash of religious sermonizing (to please evangelicals?) and several nods to traditional Republican rhetoric and even regime-change neocons.
The result was a mishmash rife with contradictions — rather than the new foreign policy doctrine of “principled realism” his aides had promised.
Even more disturbing was Trump’s use of inflammatory bluster against North Korea and Iran that failed to disguise the absence of coherent policy on either. This raises the prospect America will soon face two nuclear crises, and possibly two new wars.
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The internal contradictions in this speech revealed the hole in the center of American foreign policy: a Trump team that holds starkly different worldviews. Previous presidential teams have argued within but previous presidents have normally resolved those differences and put their own stamp on the product. Trump, however, veers back and forth like a metronome, and is often impervious to advisers.
The result makes for incoherent speeches and incoherent policy. With no clear vision or direction from the top, chaos reigns.
That confusion was evident on the U.N. podium. The lead writer of the speech was reportedly the young, ubernationalist, anti-immigrant Stephen Miller, who channels Trump’s most basic isolationist instincts.
So Trump stressed America First over and over, insisting he was “renewing this founding principle of sovereignty” as the basis of American foreign policy. Never did he commend any benefits of collective action.
Indeed, the president used the word sovereignty more than 20 times, reviving his constant complaint that the world, and the United Nations, were taking advantage of America. The stress on sovereignty was a sop to his alt-right base, some of whom believe that U.N. bureaucrats (in black helicopters), along with international organizations, are on the verge of taking control of our country.
But for Trump,…