On Tuesday, September 24, U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his third address to the United Nations General Assembly. One quote stood out in his more than 30-minute speech. The quote was, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.” With this, Trump has made a famous quote by the 18th century man of letters Samuel Johnson, more relevant than ever before. That quote is, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Had Johnson been alive, one can only imagine how he would have responded to Trump and his turgidity, in this light.
Ironically, Trump chose a global platform like the United Nations to rally against globalism and put forth his nationalist rhetoric. “The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations, who protect their citizens, respect their neighbours and honour the differences that make each country special and unique.”
He added, “The free world must embrace its national foundations. It must not attempt to erase them, or replace them. The true good of the nation can only be pursued by those who love it, by citizens who are rooted in its history, who are nourished by its culture, committed to its values, attached to its people.”
During his 36-minute speech, Trump repeatedly referred to “patriots”, an undefined group of citizens uniquely able to interpret national interest. “Patriots see a nation and its destiny in ways no one else can. Liberty is only preserved, sovereignty is only secure, democracy is only sustained, greatness is only realised by the will and devotion of patriots,” he said.
But why is the president of the most powerful country in the world so scared of globalism and so taken by patriotism? Given that the United States was born out of an act of rebellion, and one with a faith in the whole world being the oyster of its founding fathers, Trump’s speech points yet again to his myopic foreign policy doctrine. Closed-door, right-wing, purblind — all these words and more like them — describe Trump’s approach to international relations.
“Americans know that in a world where others seek conquest and domination, our nation must be strong in wealth, in might, and in spirit,” Trump stated. “That is why the United States vigorously defends the traditions and customs that have made us who we are.”
Trump railed against globalism, which he claimed had “exerted a religious pall over past leaders causing them to ignore their own national interests”.
He added, “Looking around and all over this large, magnificent planet, the truth is plain to see. If you want freedom, take pride in your country. If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And if you want peace, love your nation. Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first.”
Trump also criticised China and its “massive market barriers”. He complained about product dumping practices and forced technology transfers. He took to task the World Trade Organisation for being unable to compel China to liberalise its economy, and wanted “drastic change” in the worldwide trade system. Trump said that the second-largest economy in the world should not be allowed to call itself a developing country, especially at the expense of others.
All this makes one wonder if these are thoughts and beliefs of the (theoretically) most powerful person in the world or those of a tinpot dictator of some third world island nation, who is ‘scared’ of strangers and wary of geopolitical novelty.