In his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 17, Donald Trump declared, “As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first. All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.” He proclaimed that the success of the United Nations “depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.”
However, the independence of nations that Trump affirms is not true sovereignty. Like numerous predecessors in the high office that he holds, Trump expects a form of international peace that is subordinate to the interests of the United States and its transnational corporations, as can be seen in the following proclamation: “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.” In his view, respecting the interests of the people requires that nations adopt representative democracy, as against popular democracy; and it requires that nations place few restrictions on free trade, that is, on the access of transnational corporations to their natural resources, labor, and markets. Socialism, accordingly, is unacceptable. “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”
In Trump’s view, the nations that ignore the rules of an international Pax Americana are evil, and the Unites States has a duty to confront them. “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.” In accordance with this conception of American confrontation of evil, Trump identifies several “rogue regimes”: North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela.
In light of the large increase in the military budget and the threats against North Korea, Trump appears to be inclined to use military force to implement the American vision. When the United States was at the height of its power, it balanced military action and military presence with economic penetration, financial control, American prestige, and cooperation from national elites of the countries of the world. However, in recent decades, the relative economic decline and the waning of U.S. prestige has made necessary an increasing reliance on military action in the U.S. conduct of its foreign policy. This dynamic has been expressing itself since the 1960s: the Vietnam War, the increased military expenditures and the brief wars of the Reagan administration, the Iraq War of the Bush I administration, the “humanitarian interventions” of the Clinton administration, and the wars of aggression in the Middle East by the Bush II and Obama administrations. Trump represents the culmination of this turn to military action, which may appear to be a sign of strength, but in reality is an indication of economic decline.
In response to Trump, the Left should creatively formulate a politically intelligent alternative narrative that calls the people to the taking of power, so that United States can conduct its foreign policy on the basis of solidarity with the peoples of the world and respect for the true sovereignty of all nations. This is the only foundation for a just and sustainable world-system.
For an indication of a possible alternative narrative based on the taking of power by the people in Cuba, placing the Cuban Revolution in global historical context, see my book, The Evolution and Significance of the Cuban Revolution: The light in the darkness.