President Trump’s speech at the UN this week brought into clear focus some issues that have been simmering for years. Previous presidents have hinted at this discord, but they too often did it with hollowed-out diplomatic verbiage leaving hard truths unsaid. Mr. Trump instead followed in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, who famously called out the Soviet Union’s “evil empire,” and in Berlin challenged, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” It was a wake-up call the UN needed to hear.
For years now the United Nations has been an aimless, bloated caricature of what it was supposed to be. The UN was formed in the wake of WWII to help prevent another worldwide conflagration and to foster better relations among disparate countries and peoples. Instead it morphed into an apologist for autocratic regimes that repress their own people and spew anti-democratic threats against neighbors. And in the process it built up a cumbersome UN bureaucracy that regularly veers far off course.
My great colleague Patrick Moynihan gave perhaps the finest defense of the fundamental values of freedom in answer to the one of the UN’s most egregious actions. As America’s UN Ambassador in 1976, Pat Moynihan rose to forcefully denounce a virulently anti-Israel resolution that equated “Zionism to racism.” He promised “the U.S. does not acknowledge, it will never abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.” That forceful speech laid down the abiding principle that the U.S. will not be bound to UN actions that distort its original mission and make a mockery of fairness and common sense.
Heedless of this warning, over the decades the UN stumbled into one outrageous action after another. It looked the other way over Communist aggression, made excuses for dictators, and twisted logic to fit a relentlessly leftist agenda. It once even secretly elected Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi to head the “UN Commission on Human Rights.”
More recently a UN inspired offshoot, the International Criminal Court, declared that it would investigate U.S. military forces deployed to Afghanistan for alleged “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Imagine this travesty of justice: American soldiers fighting against Islamist terrorists whose leaders masterminded the September 11 attacks, somehow equated with “war criminals.” Talk about torturing the truth!
That’s why President Trump was absolutely right to call out the UN for its hypocrisy and wrong- headedness. He laid out a clear-eyed vision that places responsibility for the world’s problems where it belongs: chastising Iran’s leaders for a brutal, corrupt regime that’s inflicts repression at home and aggression on its neighbors; and raising the heat on the spectacularly failed socialist state of Venezuela, which has managed to squander vast oil riches and impoverish its people.
The president also again rightly reminded our allies that they must take up a fairer share of the financial and military burden of defending freedom. For too long the U.S. has been the bank and the backbone of both Europe and the world’s defense. Other rich nations — especially those belonging to NATO — regularly shirked their responsibilities and left it to the U.S. to make up for their shortfalls. That has to change, and at Mr. Trump’s insistence it finally may.
And likewise on the matter of international commerce, President Trump firmly signaled that free trade must be “fair trade” too. The days must end where other nations can run up endless huge trade deficits with the U.S., dumping below-cost products here while they literally steal U.S. technology and close out U.S. companies. Yes China, Mr. Trump was talking to you: it’s time your state-run economy worked for the mutual benefit of your largest trading partners, and not just the benefit of the Chinese oligarchy.
One hopes that the world leaders listening to President Trump at the UN will recognize that his tough, realistic approach to foreign policy challenges has borne fruit and can bear more. Last year, when he chided North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un as “little rocket man,” diplomats cringed. But a year later North Korea and the U.S. are in substantive and promising negotiations to save the Korean peninsula and the world from nuclear holocaust.
Now the Trump administration is applying the same pressure on Iran’s outlaw regime. By scuttling the deeply flawed nuclear deal made by his predecessor and re-imposing tough economic sanctions against Tehran’s ayatollahs Mr. Trump is sending a clear signal: change your ways, give up your dangerous nuclear ambitions, cease menacing your neighbors, and stop repressing your own citizens. It’s a message the UN should be sending too.
This column was originally published in the Long Island Herald Community Newspapers.
Former Senator D’Amato served a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees. While in the Senate, Mr. D’Amato also Chaired of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE), and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former Senator is considered an expert in the legislative and political process, who maintains close relationships with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He is regularly called upon for his advice and counsel, and is recognized for his incisive analysis of national and international political affairs. The former Senator will share insights gained from his years in Washington “with a clear-eyed view of the political forces that shape the world we live in today.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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