Observations of an Expat: Scary

Reuters photo



Tom Arms


Be scared. Be very scared. In fact if you saw, listened to or read about President Donald Trump’s UN address then you are probably terrified. If not, then think again.

Trump used the occasion of his first speech to the General Assembly to draw red lines across the map and dare his opponents to cross them. North Korea, Iran and Venezuela are the new axis of evil.

In one breath he called for an international order based on a respect for national sovereignty and with the next bullied those who oppose him.

The United Nations and international cooperation enjoyed early support, but then the president contradicted himself by threatening to go it alone with a new and frightening American-centred unilateralism.

And finally Trump all but spelled out that he was jettisoning America’s long-held policy of keeping nuclear weapons in their protected siloes unless the US or one of its allies is attacked. His speech was America First on steroids.


Pakistan, Russia, Britain, the United States, and France have had a long-standing policy that they will use nuclear weapons only in the case of attack against their territory or against one of their allies. China and India have gone one step further and pledged that they will only use nuclear weapons if attacked with nuclear weapons.

The reason is simple. Nuclear weapons have long been regarded as defensive weapons only—a deterrent. Other countries do not attack members of the nuclear weapons club for fear that they will themselves be attacked with weapons capable of killing millions and igniting Armageddon. That is scary.

Until Trump’s speech, no one has ever said that they will use their weapons if another country “threatened” them. That is a completely different word from attacked. Look it up in the dictionary. No wonder that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was holding his head in his hands and staring at his feet. Oh well, we are about due for another session of West Wing musical chairs.


As for Iran, it is now a foregone conclusion that President Trump will scrap the Iran nuclear deal when it comes up for renewal on October 15th. Not because Iran has broken its pledges, but because the agreement includes a wooly clause that allows the president to terminate it if he feels it is no longer in America’s national interests. Surely it cannot be in America’s interests to have an agreement with what the president described as “a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.” A government which “has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos.”

For its part, Iran has served notice that if the US pulls out it will resume its nuclear weapons programme. Tehran can convincingly argue that it will need the weapons to deter an American or Israeli attack.

And what effect would an American pull out have on relations elsewhere around the world. For a start, North Korea, China and Russia could argue that there is no point in Pyongyang negotiating any denuclearization deal because Trump will not honour it. Next China, France, Germany, Britain and Russia—signatories to the Iran nuclear deal—have been treated as also-rans and totally ignored.


One of the pillars of Trump’s foreign policy has been an international order based on national sovereignty. He is opposed to states forming political or trading blocs in order to compete more effectively on the world stage. It makes sense. The US is the world’s most powerful country in both economic and military terms. But others are growing fast. To remain top dog America firsters need to keep the rest of the world divided and towing the American line.

So in one breath Trump pays obeisance to the principle of national sovereignty. But in the next he attacks Venezuela’s failed socialism and adds President Nicolas Maduro to his rogue’s gallery. Venezuela is in no position to threaten the US. It is a failed state. Its failure is a domestic rather than a foreign policy issue. It is contradictory hypocrisy to call for an international order based on national sovereignty and then threaten to meddle in another country’s domestic affairs.


Most Americans have sincere doubts about the UN. They reckon they reap only grief for the $8 billion a year that the international body costs them. They fail to compare their UN contributions to the $11 billion a year in aid to Israel; $11.7 billion budget for the Department of the Interior; $40.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security; $47.4 billion for the State Department and last—but definitely not least—a whopping $824.6 billion defence budget.

The UN supports 100,000-plus peacekeepers in 16 different hot spots around the world; helps tens of millions of refugees; promotes health education programmes through the World Health Organisation; distributes food relief to famine and disaster-hit areas through the World Food Programme; encourages cultural links through UNESCO; children’s programmes through UNICEF…. Yes it is bureaucratic. Yes there is wastage. Yes, there will always be need for reform. But those are not Trump’s real complaints about the UN.

The real complaint is that the UN does not do what America wants, when and how America wants it. Donald Trump’s nominal support for the UN was him serving notice that he will support the United Nations as long as the United Nations serves American interests. He does not want a United Nations based on collectively agreed policies determined by national sovereign states. President Trump wants UN policies based on the interests of one sovereign state—America.





Tom Arms is the editor of LookAheadnews.comSign up now for the weekly diary of world news events.


LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 25 September 2017:



Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email[email protected].

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