President Trump’s speech at the late-September meeting of the UN General Assembly was an unsettling embarrassment.
In his address to the delegates, Trump denounced globalism in the very epicenter of that movement on which the fate of civilization may well hinge.
The UN is supposed to be the foremost vehicle for international institutional interdependency. Its mission is to generate the cooperation essential to deal with environmental degradation and other pervasive societal scourges.
Trump proclaimed that “the future does not belong to globalism”. On the contrary, if the future doesn’t, humanity will be set back by fragmentation at a time when collective efforts are so desperately needed.
The president went on to demonize socialism in front of an audience that included delegates from many unabashed socialist countries. Among those delegates were representatives from the Scandinavian states, which are comparable to us as far as democracy and standard of living are concerned.
Trump chose to select failing Venezuela as his prototype socialist state, adding that “the United States will never be a socialist country.” He seemed oblivious that we were already to some extent a socialist nation, thanks to Medicare and Social Security programs.
A major theme of the UN session was climate change, but Trump totally ignored the topic. Instead, he gushed over America’s leadership in the production of fossil fuels, the very substances that the overwhelming majority of the scientific community maintains must be phased out to slow disruptive climate change.
Not only was Trump silent on the environment in front of an audience gathered for a problem-solving exchange on ways to reign in carbon emissions and adapt to an often tumultuous climate. The United States’ detachment was shamed by 67 nations presenting their plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. One of the most ambitious plans is that of the Marshall Islands, a series of Pacific atolls. Seawalls, land reclamation, energy conservation, and fresh water storage are being advanced with an intensity rarely encountered on our shores. Granted that the Marshalls have a population of only 55,000, but being an average 6 feet above sea level, they are on the front line against climate-induced rising ocean levels. Truly, they are the harbinger of challenges to come.
One suspects that many UN delegates came away from the session convinced that Trump needs to be persuaded — if at all possible — that “ignorance is not bliss.”