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Trump's UN Speech: Raising the Stakes of International Conflict

Lindsey German: Trump's latest speech heralds an absolute determination to continue with aggressive US intervention

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Trump addressing the UN in New York, 19/09/17


The Trump speech to the United Nations today marks a new low even for the president. First fixing on North Korea, whose president he derided as ‘rocket man’, he claimed that the US would have no choice but to destroy the country to ‘defend itself’. Apparently this brought gasps from those politicians and diplomats unfortunate enough to have to listen to this speech. When the tension between the US and North Korea is at intense levels over nuclear testing on one hand and the siting of US troops and missiles on the other, Trump's speech is designed to ratchet these up even further.

Even more remarkably, he then launched an attack on Iran. While both countries were singled out by former president George W Bush back in his ‘axis of evil’ speech in 2002, this time Trump refers to a ‘wicked few’ rogue regimes. Yet this goes against the fact that in recent years there has been an international agreement with Iran and an acceptance that it is not developing nuclear weapons. This 2015 agreement, during the Obama presidency, is accepted internationally with the exception of Trump and his close ally Netanyahu in Israel.

While Israel remains the only Middle East power that possesses nuclear weapons - a fact never acknowledged by its allies - it is ironic that it is demanding tougher moves, including military threats, to a country which it is widely acknowledged is not developing such weapons. Netanyahu has already praised Trump’s speech.

The third country in Trump’s sights was Venezuela. This time Trump said that the US was willing to help ‘restore democracy’ in that country and denounced ‘socialism’ which he claimed always delivered anguish and failure.

This is all quite remarkable. It heralds an absolute determination to continue with aggressive US intervention, despite the reservations even of much of the US  military and political establishment. It also marks a myopic refusal to consider the record of past interventions and the growing instability of the situation especially in the Pacific. If Trump is serious about this speech then he is prepared to escalate confrontation on several different fronts.

Trump has presented something of a conundrum to some commentators and even activists over the course of the past two years because his rhetoric has sometimes suggested isolationist politics and a reluctance to engage in military confrontations. Events of recent months have given the lie to that view. The speech today makes it absolutely clear that Trump is prepared to raise the stakes in terms of international conflict.

While there is a widespread consensus that the the sabre rattling in the Pacific will not escalate further at present, Trump’s behaviour makes the situation much more unpredictable. His willingness to further ratchet up conflict in the Middle East is dangerous. And his threats to Venezuela recall the repeated interventions in Latin America by previous US governments.

All in all, not a good day for peace and democracy. And every reason to raise the level of mobilisation against this danger to us all.

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