Behaving Like a Petulant Child

Behaving Like a Petulant Child

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

President Trump’s behavior in response to the U.N.’s consideration and vote on the American Government’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was exactly like a bully would act. The Government of the United States in Trump’s eyes made the correct decision and anyone who disagrees with Trump’s move is wrong. Therefore, the President announced that he was considering punishing the countries which opposed the U.S. by withholding foreign assistance from them. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley implied that the U.S. also was contemplating withholding U.S. funds from the United Nations.

The President’s response has nothing to do with the substance of the decision reached by the American Government and had everything to do with Trump being angry that sovereign states should disagree with a decision made by him.  The President is repudiating the fundamental notion of national sovereignty and demanding that the entire community of nations must see matters his way or else he will not be their friend. America First means, it appears, that the Trump Administration will befriend only those nations which proclaim their absolute fealty to Trump. Implicit in this policy direction is the notion that the U.S. will rule the world alone and Donald Trump will determine what should be done and you, accordingly, will be punished.

If this sounds like a doctrine of isolationism; it is. This is a policy which condemns dissent and is prepared to discard all those nations which disagree. The logical extension of this policy would be that America would have no compunctions to renege on its international security treaty obligations.

Nations like citizens in a democracy have differing opinions and ideas. Solving problems demand consideration of options and not necessarily uniformity of thought. The rule of law governs this nation and also prescribes how the U.N. is supposed to function. President Trump does not appear to be comfortable with either of these notions. If you do question him, it will make you, in Trump’s eyes, less of a friend or ally.

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is totally legitimate. At the same time believing it is a wrong decision or that the timing is ill-chosen is also a legitimate position. This is not a personal reply to the decision of the U.S. Government except in the view of President Trump. For the U.N. to chastise a policy decision reached by the President does not mean that the U.S. now has lost 128 friends. These simply are nations which disagree with Trump’s decision.

An America First policy suggests that Trump believes that he can cross off all those who oppose him from his little book of allies and go about conducting foreign policy without them. Such an approach is extremely dangerous and not in America’s national interest. It may let Trump think that he looks tough, but it really makes the U.S. look like a global amateur. Trump is clearly not able to operate on the world stage regardless of how happy he may be about the eight nations which agreed with the U.S. decision or even the 35 nations which abstained from the non-binding resolution. 

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