One of Donald Trump’s famous campaign slogans/promises was to make “America First.” Along with “Make America Great Again,” it was a slogan borrowed from a previous era, and both are equally untrue. While many people under the Obama administration did not like his foreign policy of “leading from behind” it did not negate the fact that America was respected as the number one power in the world. And no matter how many times Trump shouted it at his campaign rallies or sends out tweets, America is great, has always been great, and will continue to be great.
Trump played to the fears of Americans of foreign powers somehow dictating to us, just as Charles Lindberg and his fellow Nazi-sympathizers did in the 1930s when they created the “America First” movement. However, isolationism does not prevent our involvement in foreign disputes, it simply delays it until the situation has become so bad we have to intervene, often at a much higher cost.
The votes taken this week by the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations show just how low Trump has sunk the reputation of the United States. No, the United Nations does not have the authority to dictate to us where we choose to locate our embassy, but this was a much bigger question than that, and one that both Donald Trump and Nikki Haley bungled badly. Perhaps if we had a functioning State Department this situation might not have arisen, but that is a topic for another article.
Already strained relations with our allies such as Great Britain and France, were strained even further. Trump and Tillerson, along with Haley, should have been on the phone with the leaders of those two countries before the Security Council vote, seeking abstentions at least. The question of whether Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel has been one of the trickiest sticking points in peace negotiations in the Middle East, and Trump’s unilateral decision to relocated our embassy there was a “bull in the china shop” move. It aggravated already high tensions without resolving any issues.
Before the General Assembly voted against the decision of the U.S. to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, Trump and Haley decided on a policy of threats instead of negotiations. As reported in the New York Times, U.N. Ambassador Haley said:
“We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember when so many countries come calling upon us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”
Donald Trump said about the General Assembly vote:
“Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot of money. We don’t care.” [emphasis added]
Trump’s bullying tactics might have worked when defrauding contractors, but it is clearly evident they do not play well upon the world stage. The “it’s my way or the highway” foreign policy of the Trump administration has only further isolated America from many countries who once considered themselves our friends. In fact, a number of countries noted that Trump’s threat only increased their determination to vote in favor of the resolution. These included some of our key strategic allies in the Middle East such as Egypt and Jordan.
The vote for the resolution condemning the U.S. move was passed by a resounding majority. Only six countries sided with the United States: Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, The Marshall Islands, The Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. Those are some mighty powerful allies to have on your side – said no one ever.
There were also 35 abstentions, which included traditional American allies Canada and Australia. But both the UK and France voted in favor of the resolution. This vote was a resounding setback for both Trump and U.S. foreign policy. The Times story also includes a statement by David Harris, the chief executive officer of the American Jewish Committee who said he was “dismayed by the overwhelming support of the U.N. Member States of the General Assembly resolution condemning U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
So Trump’s high-handed tactics and threats have only served to further alienate the United States on the world stage, both at the United Nations (which he once likened to a country club) as well as the vast majority of its member states. Whether he carries through on his threats makes little difference at this point. It’s pretty obvious that these countries either don’t think he will, or don’t care if he does.
Which leaves Trump with an America Alone policy instead of an America First. And that is going to come in real handy if, say, we actually do get into a military fight with North Korea.