Foreign Policy

Trump's Reaganesque UN Speech

He didn't shy away from challenging the UN to stand with the U.S. in fighting against tyranny.

Political Editors · Sep. 20, 2017

Donald Trump didn’t pull any punches when he addressed the United Nations on Tuesday. He was honest and straightforward about the nature of the threats the world faces from tyrannical regimes seeking nuclear weapons. He was even unintentionally complimented by Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, who likened his speech to that of Ronald Reagan. “For a moment, we didn’t know if we were listening to President Reagan in 1982 or President Trump in 2017,” Arreaza complained. He was right, but not as he intended.

While Trump’s message was indeed Reaganesque, his delivery was classic Trump, typified by his referencing North Korean despot Kim Jong-un as “rocket man.” Trump warned that the U.S. has been patient with the rogue nation, but that we would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if we are forced to defend ourselves. Trump pointedly continued, “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully, this will not be necessary.”

Trump encouraged all the nations of the UN to stand together in pressuring North Korea to end its missile and nuclear weapons programs. Trump stated, “No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing and oppression of countless more.”

The president also thanked both China and Russia for joining the unanimous vote of the United Nations Security Council to adopt “hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea.” Trump further encouraged UN unity, stating, “It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.”

He also targeted Iran, calling its government “a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.” He called on Iran to stop supporting terrorists. He demanded that Iran release the Americans it currently has detained. He also sent the strongest signal yet that he intends to pull out of Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, insisting, “The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

Trump was critical of globalism and its advocating of socialism in world politics. Using Venezuela as an example, Trump declared, “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” This was Trump’s most Reaganesque moment and the highlight of his speech. No wonder Arreaza was upset.

In short, Trump said what needed to be said. His message was direct and clear in his typical brash style. He didn’t shy away from calling out other member states by name. Nor did he flinch from applying unequivocally moral language, saying, “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.” While several world leaders seemed not to know how to respond to the speech, it clearly impressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted that it had been more than 30 years since he’d heard a UN speech as brave and sharp. That would be about the time of … Ronald Reagan.

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