The Donald Trump administration’s narrow transactional vision and amoral philosophy cannot remake the world in its image.
The limitations and dangers of that unrealistic, bullying mindset were never clearer than when Trump peremptorily declared this month that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that he will move the U.S. embassy there, from Tel Aviv.
The decision was bound to draw opposition from most other nations. For 50 years, an international consensus has existed that the status of Jerusalem must be settled in negotiations by the Palestinians and Israel, which occupied the entire city during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Settling that issue in a way suitable to both sides is the key to a two-state solution to the Middle East puzzle. Trump will blow that up.
Knowing that negative reactions would come, Trump and his disappointingly pliant United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, laid down their markers in advance, warning that they would be “keeping an eye on” the voting on any UN resolutions opposing the switch. The ever-boorish Trump threatened, “All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us … let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
The first negative reaction was a legally-binding Security Council resolution condemning the U.S. action. Fourteen of the 15 members, including France, Britain, Italy, Sweden and Japan, approved of it; the U.S., as expected, vetoed it.
The next step was a similar resolution before the General Assembly. The vote was 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions. (The eight world powers joining the U.S. were Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Palau — and of course, Israel.)
Except for those countries, the blatant blackmail threat obviously did not work — and only someone with Trump’s purblind reliance on his self-declared negotiating genius could have thought for an instant that it would.
After the second vote, Haley continued the unseemly extortion. She told the General Assembly, “We will remember (the vote) when we are called upon to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence to their benefit.”
That is not how a great nation speaks and acts; it is how a rich, callous nation that has philosophically regressed to the mid-20th century speaks and acts.
It reflects the attitude of a would-be autocrat whose narcissism blinds him to the fact that the world has changed in ways that he is compelled to deny because he cannot be in charge of it.
He lives in his own Potemkin world in which “… America is in the game and America is going to win,” as he declared last week. The distorted world he imagines is one of zero-sum calculations; of disconnected “wins” and “losses.”
The real world comprises a process that will go on even if America, deliberately or ignorantly, continues to isolate itself. And that real world has other powerful, wealthy nations whose leaderships understand that foreign aid is in their own interest, not just a handout; that reciprocity is a value.
For the first time in more than century, America has a viable challenger to its world leadership. China awaits as Trump fumbles it away.
Davis Merritt, Wichita journalist and author, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.