ANALYSIS: Trump launches rhetorical rockets at United Nations

Making American great again, in the view of the man who made that phrase a campaign slogan, means making the world understand that America is redefining the way it is seeking out that greatness.

That means absorbing the boasts, name-calling and contradictions in President Trump's first address to the United Nations. Today he lined up a series of rhetorical rockets and all but dared his counterparts in the world community to try to stop him from launching them.

"Principled realism" and "strength and pride" are among the new touchstones of American diplomacy, Trump declared. In a speech aimed at his base as much as anything else, he delivered harsh warnings as well as complaints aimed at Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and Islamic terrorists.

He saved his most colorful and explicit threat for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, promising that if the United States is forced to respond to a nuclear threat, "we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," Trump said, using his moniker for Kim, as laid out on Twitter. "The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about."

What the United Nations has not been about is such explicit tough-guy talk reminiscent of Trump campaign rallies but not of previous presidents' foreign-policy addresses.

Aside from the new nickname for North Korea's leader, Trump condemned "loser terrorists" and said that parts of the world are "going to hell." He boasted of American job growth and stock market gains since his inauguration. He lamented as an "embarrassment" the Iran nuclear deal, "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into," he said.

He also highlighted some of the contradictions that have defined his time in the public arena. He has sought to look inward on trade, immigration and accepting refugees, yet spoke of the need for "diverse nations" to pursue "shared goals, interests and values."

He said the U.S. would not seek to impose "our way of life" on other nations but said minutes later that the "problem in Venezuela" is that "socialism has been faithfully implemented."

He has long decried foreign-policy interventionism, under Democratic and Republican presidents, but ticked off enough rogue nations to double the size of President George W. Bush famous three-member "axis of evil."

In terms of his goals, Trump sounded almost like a traditional Republican president, calling on the United Nations to back the U.S. and its allies in the causes of peace and shared prosperity. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, called Trump's speech "a strong and needed challenge to U.N. members."

But Romney would not have delivered this speech, just as other presidents wouldn't openly muse at the U.N. about holding military parades on Independence Day. Trump has displayed an impatience with the world community - something that helped propel him to office but is an untested proposition while he's in office.

"Will we slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats and even wars that we face?" he asked. "Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?"

Trump is calling this a type of realism. But his short time in public life has been marked by attempts to make his own realities. Now he is gambling the safety of the nation on the prospect that his play is the right one.

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