For listeners old enough to remember the Soviet Union, President Donald Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly echoed the old thunder of Cold War hostility.
Taunting “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un, whose rogue dictatorship has Marxist-Leninist vestiges, Trump warned of North Korea’s utter destruction if necessary.
The American president’s warning to Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela had a more distinct ideological flavor.
“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” Trump said.
“Wherever socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish, devastation and failure.”
Iran too was a big target for ostracism, as expected.
“Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors,” Trump warned.
The world’s lines of conflict have changed since the Cold War.
So has the speaking style of American leadership. For example, President Ronald Reagan never called the Ayatollah Khomeini “Hostage Man.”
Russia shifted long ago from a totalitarian state to an authoritarian oligarchy. Change reached the point where supportive signals from Russian leadership could be safely embraced by a Republican presidential candidate.
Trump even thanked Russia and state-capitalist China during his speech for support in further isolating North Korea for its nuclear ambitions and added, “We must do much more.”
Notably, none of those three nations’ heads of state showed up for the Trump speech.
Trump came before the United Nations for the first time and hailed nationalism as a general political model.
He tossed bouquets to French and Polish patriots of the past for their sacrifices and crying up a “great awakening” of “proud, independent nations.”
That is presumably as opposed to border-free belief systems such as radical Islam.
In daily practice, Trump’s embrace of nationalism has paradoxically gone international.
British politician Nigel Farage, a proponent of Brexit, has been an active ally of Trump’s in the United States.
Sebastian Gorka, a former White House aide still boosting Trump, has appeared in public wearing a badge, tunic and ring of the Order of Vitéz, a Hungarian nationalist group.
Trump also has a clear domestic alliance with Hindu nationalists who support Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
They are all antiglobalist in the sense that they seek to preserve turf, whether against a European Union or a Soviet Union or a big-footing China.
Sloganeering for the independence of all nations aside, there is the difficult question of whose nationalism besides its own the United States ought to support.
During last year’s campaign, for example, Trump denied that Russia was present in Ukraine despite U.S. protests of the Vladimir Putin government’s expansionist goals there.
But on Tuesday, Trump’s position had changed to the point where he said: “We must reject threats to sovereignty from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.”
Much also has been written about nation-states giving way to a new tribalism, with Czechs breaking away from Slovaks and Kurds seeking an independent state, for example.
Borders are one thing, the consent of the people affected another.