President Trump caused quite a stir at the United Nations the other day. His speech before the General Assembly was hailed by many and disparaged by many more. No surprise there – Trump’s not been one to mince words or soft-pedal his message. He touched on many themes in his four thousand words, but one stood out both for its ubiquity and for the palpitations it induced in his critics. That theme was the idea of America First, or more generally, national sovereignty. Trump spoke the words “sovereign” and “sovereignty” twenty-one times in his speech, and made it quite clear that, while he saw benefit in international cooperation and conciliation, his priorities placed America ahead of multinational considerations.

This, we are told, should shock us, should be an affront to our sensibilities, and should be interpreted as a portent of doom for the future of the world. Perhaps, if one considers the American presidency to be a de facto presidency of the planet, one might be troubled by a leader who eschews that role in favor of the nation he’s actually empowered and elected to lead. Therein is a disconnect: the people who seem most interested in this globalist view are the same people who decry the idea of American exceptionalism. Hypocrisy being part-and-parcel of the political landscape, I’m not too outraged.

It is distressing, however, that people would be upset at the idea of a leader putting his nation’s interests ahead of those of other nations. With barely any exception, this is what the leaders of the world’s nations, big and small, do. Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Theresa May, Narendra Modi, Mariano Rajoy, King Salman, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Dilma Rousseff, Nicolas Maduro, and the many other presidents, prime ministers, premiers, kings, monarchs, dictators, etc of the world’s nations put their citizens’ interests ahead of those of other nations, do they not? We barely raise an eyebrow when the heads of other nations put their nations’ interests at the fore. Indeed, we expect it and parse what we witness through that expectation. Yes, there are some supra-national types out there, including, notably, Jean-Claude Juncker and Antonio Guterres, but they aren’t the heads of nations, and thus aren’t obligated to the people of a particular nation.

Trump is. He was elected President of the United States of America, not of Planet Earth, and the notion that his priority should be anything but America would be considered bizarre were it not for the relentless messaging from the multinationalists.

Fact is – and it’s a fact that Trump touched on in his speech – different nations have different values (and priorities, and needs, and concerns). America’s skew far more towards individual liberty than most of the rest of the world’s do (despite the government’s continued erosion of them), for one thing, and attempts to export our values have had, to put it kindly, limited success. While it is beyond doubt in my mind that, lets call the principles of liberty “American values,” are superior to other, less liberal value sets, it remains that the American President wasn’t elected by anyone in the 192 other member nations of the UN.

It also remains that, even if we do accept some notion of American exceptionalism, and even if we do presume that America’s position as a superpower mandates the assumption of a role of global leadership, American interests should not be subordinated to those of other nations or of the world at large when the latter would work to the detriment of the former. Indeed, America could easily persist in the role of maintaining the freedom of shipping lanes without subordinating American interests.

Frankly, it seems more than a little bizarre that some Americans are upset by the assertion by the nation’s leader that the nation’s interests should come first. And, it seems downright self-loathing when we consider that many of them see the interests of America and of the world as zero-sum: that putting America at the fore means the rest of the world will suffer as a result.

Unless, that is, we consider what else we know about that crowd. The ones most likely to be whipped into a lather by Trump’s repeated assertion of sovereignty are likely the ones who have the greatest anger and disdain for Trump and his supporters. Anything that the latter like, anything that helped propel Trump into office, must necessarily be Bad, and therefore must be categorically opposed. Yes, this is simplistic and childish, but it’s also reality. I’ve witnessed this behavior countless times (and, to be fair, I’ve also witnessed it from many anti-Obama people, who’d rather have chewed hot asphalt than conceded that there was a single positive act or element of the Obama administration. The existence of such folks does not remotely, however, justify the anti-Trump people’s reflexiveness).

Also of consequence is the globalist/multinationalist narrative, which includes the cockamamie premise that there are no “better” or “worse” societies and political structures, just “different” ones. This premise leads to the conclusion that sovereignty is bigotry, that believing your nation is doing it right and others are doing it wrong, or that your nation’s leaders should put your nation’s interests ahead of others’, is wrong in the way discrimination is wrong, i.e. unjustifiable at its core. But, seriously, what defense is there for the idea that a repressive Islamic theocracy or a de-facto dictatorship is “not worse, just different” than America’s constitutional republicanism, with its codified protection of individual rights and liberties?

The fact that some people are outraged by a President saying what, in a rational world, would be considered a simple recognition of the job’s obvious duties and obligations is a rather sad indictment of the prevalence of a narrative of self-loathing. The fact that some people are prompted to violence by merely seeing Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) campaign motto speaks of a societal sickness. Americans fought a revolution to gain sovereignty and independence, and those that find the idea that the American president should not put America’s interests at the fore are peddling a message that, if accepted, will rot the nation to its core.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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