Following President Trump’s maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 19, ideologically incompatible analysts have found similar reasons to cheer or condemn the 40-minute oration.  To Breitbart’s Adam Shaw it was a powerful, nationalist, full-throated defense of Trump’s “America First” agenda.  To the far more numerous Trumpophobic pundits—like the Chicago Tribune’s David Rothkopf—it was a “disaster of a speech,” replete with remarks that were “antithetical to the ideas and ideals that led the United States to play a central role in the U.N.’s founding in the wake of World War II.”

On closer examination it turns out that Trump’s formal presentation of his foreign-policy agenda to the world was marked both by doctrinal incoherence and by alarming errors of judgment.  It was a disappointing performance exactly because it fell short of treating candidate Trump’s “America First” paradigm as the leitmotif of policy.

“I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people where it belongs,” Trump said, and promised to revive “this founding principle of sovereignty.”  Prima facie this sounded like a welcome reiteration of realist principles.  In context it sounded like an opportunistic nod to his base, preceded as it had been during the first eight months of Trump’s presidency by his surrender to the permanent state on Russia, NATO, the E.U., and Afghanistan, his flip-flopping on the repeal of DACA, and his squeamishness on leaving the Paris Agreement.

Trump’s realist rhetoric was more than offset by an exercise in p.c.-speak worthy of Obama.  Trump praised the founding ideas of the U.N., promised that America “will forever be a great friend to the world,” and called for countries to work together because, “if the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.”  He concluded by calling on the “international community” to “fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together” for peace, freedom, justice, humanity, etc.

“The wicked few” turned out to be primarily North Korea and (less emphatically) Iran.  Trump’s diagnosis in both cases was dangerously flawed.  Trump asserted that the regime in North Korea is irrational—the “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un is “on a suicide mission”—and added that if America is “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”  But what exactly does “defend” mean?  George W. Bush’s attack on Iraq in 2003 was theoretically “defensive.”  (Remember WMDs?)  If Trump, McMaster, Mattis, Haley, et al. do believe that Kim is irrational and cannot be deterred, then degrading his nuclear arsenal before it is fully operational becomes prudent and morally justified.

Kim’s possession of such an arsenal should no longer be treated as an issue of nonproliferation but as a matter of arms control and containment.  Kim is a nasty piece of work, yet his calculus is entirely rational.  Having the bomb, as well as thousands of artillery pieces aimed at Seoul, is his insurance policy against any regime-change scenario that may be concocted in Washington.  The problem is not that America cannot trust him, but that after the neolib-neocon shenanigans in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere, he cannot and should not trust us.

The “America First” solution is clear: Kim’s threat to the U.S. is present only for as long as America remains engaged in Korean affairs.  Disengage, and it disappears.  South Korea is rich and technologically advanced.  She should develop her own nuclear arsenal, with U.S. encouragement.  Regional nuclear deterrence works, as exemplified by India and Pakistan.  It is high time to let the countries directly affected by Pyongyang’s actions—South Korea and Japan, but also China and Russia—deal with Kim’s antics as they deem fit.

On Iran, Trump called the 2015 nuclear deal “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into” and “an embarrassment.”  He offered no specific remedy.  If Trump does declare Tehran to be in violation of the agreement (also signed by China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany, all of which support it), Congress would duly reimpose sanctions.  This would provoke Iran to restart her nuclear program—and provide a casus belli to the administration, to the delight of no one but the globalist Duopoly, Israel, and the jihad-friendly royal kleptocrats in the Gulf.  In addition, nixing the Iran deal would prompt Pyongyang to give up on any chance of negotiations on its nuclear program.

Starting another war in Korea, far bloodier than the first, or getting America into yet another Middle Eastern imbroglio—with an adversary far more powerful than Iraq—would be idiotic and evil.  It would mark the final twilight of the American empire.  That in itself could be a good thing, but the price would be prohibitive and the long-term consequences incalculable.  Not the right way to put America First.