TRUMP’S DISASTER AT THE UNITED NATIONS: NEVER A MORE THREATENING SPEECH

By

Harry C. Blaney III

If necessary “we will have no choice but totally destroy North Korea.” Donald Trump at the UNGA

I am ashamed as an American citizen of the speech that Donald trump made to the UN on Tuesday. It was threatening, it was contradictory, rude, and it insulted the whole purpose of the United Nations and the common goal of seeking peace and human rights.

It showed America as a selfish, ignorant, and offensive nation rather than the “the leader of the free world.” Trump diminished our nation and did NOT make our nation greater.

The threat by Donald Trump that he would “totally destroy North Korea” was one of the most stupid and dangerous statements ever to emulate from an American Preside not just at the UN General Assembly but ever. It was filled with public unnecessary threats, indifference to others, even advocating for others the narrow nationalistic and isolationist policies he thinks works for him to others as if that kind of stance would make our world more safe and prosperous. It makes our world clearly less safe and more dangerous as the US urges other to be selfish and nationalistic as their only main concern. It does not get them to act in the larger interest.

The UN Trump speech was the largest verbal disaster I have ever known in my many decades as a professional in foreign affairs. His words makes America appear selfish, nationalistic, and to be feared. It was through and through disingenuous on many levels.

Further it was hypocritical as well, with its many contradictions. Like supporting human rights when we (Trump) supports the likes of brutal dictators in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Poland, Philippines, etc. All along never saying what is happening in Russia or what they did in Ukraine and Syria. Russian actions undermining democracy and unity in America and Europe yet were only vaguely alluded to. His moves to leave the Iran deal and the Paris climate change accord show even more his indifference to our global threats. Selfishness has not been a core American value and contrary to our values is inciting others to be equally selfish and self-centered. This ends only in war, conflict and “beggar my neighbor “ policies worldwide. It encourages genocide, it promotes authoritarian nationalism which is dangerous to our nation and other democracies.

It was for me the a sad moment seeing a person, our so-called president, undemanding all of our values, traditions, insulting the sacrifices of Americans who died to protect our nation and freedom worldwide. It was an insult to our constitution’s proclamation on universal equality liberty, and human rights.

One of the strange revelations is the very weak even often apologetic reviews the Trump UN speech has received from much of the mainline press, including op-eds, and editorials. There are exceptions, but one of the strangest is that of David Ignatius of the Washington Post entitled “A Welcome Flirtation with the U.N.” that almost was overflowing with his praise of the speech for its so called more moderate tone and the fluffy and empty and contradictory platitudes that it contained. He did helpfully cite some contradictions in the talk. He however downplayed the Trump threats and the stupid North Korea nuclear “war play” with language that did not help American goals. Did it help to call Kim “Rocket Man” when one day we may need to sit down together to save off catastrophe?

Trump was like a bully on the playing field trying to intimidate his opponent, in this case Kim Jong Un, to react with a crazy attack to perhaps justify war with the NK? There is little doubt in my mind that he was sassing on Kim without concern for the outcome and to further undermine ideas of a diplomatic solution. (I hope I am wrong and thought his words would help make a “deal.”) The result was predictable with Kim and his people sassing him back saying Trump was a dog barking.

The larger problem was neither Trump nor Kim seem able to pay the cooperative diplomatic game of mutual “win-win,” but with the daily cry in NK that America will attack is reinforced now by Trump’s “totally destroy North Korea.” We now can only hope both will see the self-destruction cliff before them embodied in their words and threats. I have never in over four decades of foreign policy work and following presidential speeches and helping to shape some, such crude and foolish words uttered by a president. Already there is some effort by the concerned nations to try to walk back this confrontational stances by both sides.

The contrast finally was the tone of such leaders as French president Macron who did not talk of nationalism but of global cooperation and integration to address the worlds ills. We have a very serious problem of many high risks and we need not add to them but solve them and this speech only set that goal back.

We welcome your comments!!

THE GRAND FLAW IN THE UN

Foreword: In the interest of providing some alternative views on national security we are inviting new views on our topics from a diverse group of individuals who can contribute to a healthy and creative debate on key international issues of our day.  One such contribution is below.


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon giving a speech at a press conference in Geneva.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon giving a speech at a press conference in Geneva.

By: Chuck Woolery, Guest blogger

Recently, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged member States to recommit to “collective security” and human rights. He claimed the UN prevented another war but those who suffered from the lethal consequences of the Cold War or the current violence and loss of human rights as a result of an ongoing and predictably endless global war on terrorism might disagree.

 

Peace, or the absence of war, particularly a nuclear war, was the original motivation for the creation of the UN. But it’s increasingly clear to those who deal with threats to individual and national security, and others concerned about human rights and the environment, that effectively protecting human security, national security and the environment will require more than just “peace”.

 

What the vast majority of ‘we the people’ of the world really want is security without the loss of the freedom, and the prosperity that comes from maximizing both freedom and security. Threats like Ebola, Climate Change, violent extremism and WMD proliferation in a world where the rights of nations remain superior to the rights of ‘we the people’, will never see nations, people or economies free from threats and violations of the most fundamental of human rights — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Encouragingly, the UN Secretary General specifically stated that UN Member States needed to fortify a sense of unity on the meaning of the term ‘collective security’, which he stressed was the core purpose of the organization. He also noted that Nation States have been falling short of their responsibility to prevent conflict, something the UN Charter is very clear on. What he didn’t mention was the grand flaw of the UN’s original design of giving sovereign equality to all member states with absolutely no means of enforcing that equality, short of war, or sanctions — which can be more deadly than war. And, worse yet, the universal protection of human rights is only an afterthought. A grand gesture with absolutely no muscle other than words (in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), accusations (frequent UN reports), powerless courts (ICC and ICJ) and noble promises (R2P).

 

There should be no doubt that violations of human rights eventually weaken state sovereignty and national security. But not a single organization in the world is actively demanding or even offering solutions to resolve this grand flaw. If anyone is looking for such solutions, a new book lists them along with detailing rational means for achieving them. The book is titled “Transforming the United Nations System” written by Joseph E. Schwartzberg and endorsed by former UN Secretary General as “an essential reference work for all…concerned…”.

 

Ban states “In today’s world, the less sovereignty is viewed as a wall or a shield, the better our prospects will be for protecting people and solving our shared problems…” But, in fact, it is the belief that national sovereignty is the key to protecting national security and human rights that is the grand flaw in the current UN system.

 

Human rights abuses kill, maim, and displace people, divide communities, undermine economies and destroy cultural heritage. Ban called for “a conceptual shift” in international understanding of UN human rights action in order to transform the Security Council’s role in peace and security. Yet, no organization today boldly takes the stand in support of such needed transformation.

 

Ban said “We must ask whether, for example, earlier efforts to address human rights violations and political grievances in Syria could have kept the situation from escalating so horrendously.” He went on to say “We must be willing to act before situations deteriorate. This is both a moral responsibility and critical for the maintenance of international peace and security. We cannot afford to be indifferent.” Anyone adding up just the economic costs of our indifference would have to agree.

 

Noting that the distinctions between national and international were beginning to disappear, Mr. Ban cited commerce, communication, public health and climate change as areas of transnational concern. Terrorism and extremism were also serious issues and he highlighted the need to respond decisively, and to combat extremism without multiplying the problem and with full respect for human rights. What he was saying without actually saying it is ‘we need enforceable international laws’ (i.e. the ‘force of law’ instead of the ‘law of force’ for dealing with our individual, religious and national differences.)

 

Regarding many other important issues of international concern, the UN’s 70th anniversary should serve as a chance to seriously reflect on nation states’ common enterprise and to take transformative actions like those detailed in Mr. Schwartzberg’s book. And high on any list should be the newest, laudable, affordable and achievable goals soon to be affirmed for sustainable development and climate change. But we must recognize that any hope of actually achieving these vital goals will require three fundamental tactics.

 

  1. A holistic and global approach. (global enforcement of UDHR)
  2. A new source of secure and adequate funding (a global financial transaction tax)
  3. The context of national security and protecting fundamental human freedoms in advocating for both of these.

 

The world still awaits an organization (or movement of organizations) that will stand for and passionately advocate for any or all of these fundamental prerequisites to having the world work for everyone.

 

The bad news is that time is not on our side. Those with the power to make such change appear to be emotionally detached from actual deaths, torture, diseases, disabilities, pain and other suffering of hundreds of millions of innocent men, women and children. Some would say there is a lack of political will to do what is humanly doable. I’m beginning to think it is a lack of empathy and courage.

 

We know what needs to be done. We know it’s the moral thing to do. We know we cannot bare the economic cost of not doing it.

 

Nearly 40 years ago I attended a presentation on climate change. The title of that talk was “Is there intelligent life on earth?” In hindsight, knowing of all ‘smart’ technologies we have at our finger tips and the massive “intelligence agencies” our government funds, I would have to answer “yes” to that question. If asked “is there wisdom in our application of that intelligence?” The answer would be as self-evident as our God given universal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We Welcome Your Comments!

On the Ground in Syria: Looking at Human Rights Abuses

On Friday, July 13th, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) held an event titled, “Views from the Ground in Syria”. The main speaker of this event was Donatella Rovera, a senior investigator for Amnesty International, who spent months in Syria documenting the deteriorating situation. News and commentary on the struggle between the armed opposition and the Assad regime has focused mostly on the politics and the generalized bloodshed that is occurring across this nation. What seems to be missing from these conversations is the horrendous human rights violations that are still  happening as we speak. The death toll has reached 18,000 people and still the international community appears at a stalemate, as we await a UN Security Council vote on the next steps in Syria. How many more deaths need to occur in order for the international community to take concrete action. In 10-20 years we do not want to look back and say, we should have done more – as has been the case with other mass killings and genocides in Rwanda, Armenia, and Germany. Ms. Rovera’s comments were important as they humanize the situation and bring to light the atrocities that are being committed. The key remains for the international community in one form or another to act effectively. Increasingly it seems that the outcome will be decided by brute force.

Donatella Rovera’s Comments:

Having viewed the crisis in Syria first hand, it is apparent that the killings have crossed the threshold and are now crimes against humanity. While in Syria, Ms. Rovera  visited 23 different towns in the North.

Aleppo – Syria’s economic capital had not been affected by the armed conflict until recently, unlike other towns where demonstrations started 17 months ago. The actions by the Assad government against the people of Aleppo was the same as it was 17 months ago however. Small demonstrations were broken up by security forces who would fire live rounds those who were injured in the fire could not go to hospitals. 2 medical students in Aleppo tried to secretly help the injured. They were imprisoned by the military, tortured, shot, and then burned.

In the other 22 towns visited, the situation was quite different than that of Aleppo. The violence and armed conflict had been prevalent in those countries since the beginning of the revolution. Within these 22 villages, there were similar patterns of military dissent, demonstrating a calculated effort by the Assad regime to suppress the Syrian people. Typically, security forces would go into houses – take mostly young men/boys where they would commit brutal executions and then would burn down houses and villages.

Case Examples: Security Forces barged into a house at night, took the three sons who had not been involved in any armed conflict of the opposition, took them outside and shot them and then burned their bodies. In another town, a young man (who was not armed) went to pick up his 3 young cousins (all under the age of 11) – the army caught up to him and killed him along with the three children.

In these cases, the same modus operandi exists – quite clearly these actions of the security forces are state policy and are done with a level of premeditation.

The armed opposition was formed because peaceful demonstrators were being shot at by the Assad government. The opposition is becoming stronger, more organized, and gaining more ground. However, they too have begun to commit human rights abuses.

While there is obvious danger of a civil war – it has not come to that point yet because a monopoly of the violence has come from the arms of government forces.

The Role of the International Community: The question that was heard from the citizens of Syria was “why is the world doing nothing?”

The international community is paralyzed on the question of Syria. The key problem is that the only option discussed by the international community was whether or not to intervene militarily. In the case of Libya, the case was referred to the International Criminal Court right away. But in Syria, after 17 months of violence, the case has yet to be referred to the ICC. While the Kofi Annan’s UN Mission had the right idea, the plan was not at the right time, and was ultimately too little, too late. The Annan mission went in with the wrong mandate – as the end to cease fire was not an achievable or realistic goal.

Two useful things that should be done:

  •  The mandate of the UN Mission should be expanded to be given authority, human skills and capacity to look at war crimes.
  • The Syrian case should be referred to the International Criminal Court – in order to send a signal to the Assad regime that time for impunity is over.