Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was largely a trivial decision when compared to all the other decisions the US President must make. Like all decisions, it came with benefits and cots. Due to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, it was a decision sure to please a small minority of Zionists while angering multitudes more across the globe. Although Zionists have wanted the world to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for decades, it was not a top issue for anyone. Trump’s decision made it a critical issue. The world responded to the escalation of the issue with condemnation. In turn, Trump made the entire situation a high stakes game by threatening countries that voted to invalidate US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and cutting US funding to the UN.
While up to ten other nations, including Guatemala, have allegedly decided to follow suit according to Israeli officials, it is likely this minority simply hopes to curry favor with the Trump Administration via Israel and a near inconsequential decision in terms of their own interests. The 128 UN member states that condemned Trump’s decision, however, offer a far more honest reaction. Although the Trump Administration has framed the $285 million cut to the UN as part of an effort to streamline the international body’s operations, the reality that it occurred following the Israel vote with promises of future punitive cuts sends a powerful message. Not only would the cut alone show the lack of value Trump places on international governance and diplomacy in general, the willingness to turn a relatively trivial matter into a high stakes standoff tells the world negotiations with the Trump Administration are futile, so they should not try.
As a self-proclaimed master of “the Deal,” Trump should know that the victor of any given deal is the one who is more willing to walk away. It is likely why he decided to spark drama across globe over Israel and UN funding. Because a number of countries, and a significant population of the world, benefit from US foreign aid, military aid, and military support, he seems to believe he has the upper hand, thus he can force any and every “deal” onto the Peoples of the world. Like the hated used-car dealer, Trump may be able to squeeze a couple hundred extra bucks for a junk car out of a desperate buyer , but his pressure tactics cannot build the trust and lasting relationships the US needs to forge meaningful alliances. The leaders of countries that actually rely on the US may follow Trump out of fear and necessity, but they and their population will resent US coercion. Those not reliant on US support will simply resent the US for Trump’s coercion.
With that in mind, Trump is telling UN member states that they must agree with the opinions of the US government or face retaliation. The simple truth is that the US does not have enough leverage over the countries of the world to force them to comply with US demands on every issue. Quite frankly, the governments and peoples of the world are not going to think and say what the US wants them to think and say no matter how much money the US gives them. Trying to force the world to comply with US opinion is unreasonable, insulating, and self-defeating. To boot, the governments and Peoples of the world fully understand the Trump Administration is not a permanent government, so they will wait until a new Administration is elected instead of complying with Trump’s unreasonable demands. Aside from underlining long-term US interests, Trump is making himself irrelevant by punishing foreign powers for voicing their dissenting opinions and disengaging from the International Community.
The US alone spends roughly $8 billion a year on the UN. It also spends between $50 and 65 billion on the US State Department, which is responsible for America’s diplomatic representation throughout the world. Without the UN, the US would likely have to spend a great deal more on diplomatic and trade infrastructure to achieve the same level of interaction it enjoys with the representatives of other nations. More importantly, the US spends $8 billion on the UN and roughly $60 billion on the US State Department, but around $600 billion on the US military. Even if the UN helps prevent a handful of conflicts between the US and its rivals while helping to diffuse the potential for even more wars, i.e. the need to buildup military forces, it saves money and lives. As the US fiscal situation deteriorates, diplomatic engagement will become more important than ever.
The United Nations is a forum for diplomatic engagement and the arbitration of conflicts while International Law is an agreement supported and upheld by a plurality of nations. Because the UN has continually failed to address the interests and resolve the grievances of less powerful governments, many of them no longer see the value in the UN. Unfortunately, powerful nations like the US have also increasingly lost faith in the UN, because it does not cater to their interests and policy agendas. The UN is not, however, supposed to cater to any nation’s interests. The UN serves as a location where conflicting nations have a chance to immediately resolve their pressing grievances with face-to-face interaction and the aid of mediators from allies of their choosing. It a platform where all nations are supposed to have the freedom to openly and honestly voice their interests and views.
For diplomacy to successful resolve conflicts between nations, conflicting governments must honestly express their interests and seek honest resolutions that satisfy all parties involved in the conflict. By punishing nations for expressing their honest views on an issue, the diplomatic process is undermined. The Trump Administration and Zionists may not like the fact that the world criticizes Israel for its heavy-handed approach toward the Palestinian People, but suppressing that criticism will not make it go away. It will only provoke backlash. Oppression, after all, tends to provoke backlash among democratized populations. Instead of suppressing dissent and criticism at the UN, Trump needs to embrace it, confront it, and disarm it. The UN exists to give the Peoples of the world a voice, including the Peoples of the US. Cutting funding to the UN and isolating the US will only deprive the Trump Administration of its voice on the global stage.
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