The Trump administration has taken a casual and dismissive view toward cooperation with and leadership of other countries. “America First” is in practice “America Alone.”
IN his first speech to the United Nations, President Donald Trump this week threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea whose leader he called “Rocket Man.” In January, in her introductory remarks at U.N. headquarters, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley warned our allies: “For those who don’t have our back, we’re taking names.” A Trumpian foreign policy doctrine is thus emerging, and it consists of bellicosity and bullying. It is not a sign of strength, as supporters of the doctrine seem to think, but serves only to isolate the United States and diminish our influence in the world. The president needs to go in a different direction and rely on the diplomatic expertise that is available to him.
Instead, the Trump administration has taken a casual and dismissive view toward cooperation with and leadership of other countries. “America First” is in practice “America Alone.” A small example: In a penny-wise-pound-foolish effort to be “good stewards of taxpayer dollars” (words of U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert), the State Department severely cut back its representation at the U.N. General Assembly this year. According to The New York Times, State Department specialists sent to New York from the Africa bureau (in which I served for 10 years), for example, were slashed from 30 to three, and U.S. delegations on topics such as human rights and foreign assistance were eliminated altogether.
Make no mistake, no nation stands to benefit more than the United States from this annual conclave of world leaders and diplomats. As a global power, the U.S. has interests in each of the 193 countries represented at the U.N. and a stake in virtually all the issues under discussion ranging from nuclear proliferation to international human trafficking. To defend and promote our interests we need to take an active part in hundreds of formal and informal meetings that are held in the course of the General Assembly. While President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are certainly essential players in this effort, it is career State Department professionals who have built the lasting relationships we depend on to push our agenda year after year with counterparts from around the world.