War or Peace at the U.N.

In FOREIGN RELATIONS, Military and War, New York Times Editorial On
- Updated

The United Nations isn’t the venue one would expect for threatening war. Yet that’s what President Trump did in his first address to the General Assembly.

Mr. Trump’s performance had echoes of President George W. Bush’s infamous “axis of evil” demonizing of Iran, North Korea and Iraq in 2002. This time, Iraq was spared, having disappeared from Mr. Trump’s enemies list. Iran came across as “reckless,” savage and not to be trusted despite an Obama-era agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea was even more clearly in the president’s cross hairs. He warned that he would “totally destroy North Korea” to defend the United States and its allies, and he again disparaged North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man.” He said Mr. Kim was on a “suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

In all this fury, before a world body whose main purpose is the peaceful resolution of disputes, there was hardly a hint of compromise or interest in negotiations. It’s a telling contrast to President Barack Obama’s approach to many of the same problems in the same setting in 2009. Mr. Obama warned the General Assembly that “North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope” and must be “held accountable” if “they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability.” But he also said he respected “their rights as members of the community of nations” and was “committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations.”

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