The Trump Administration’s Threat to Global Cooperation

Max Fisher has obtained two draft executive orders the Trump White House is preparing.

The first of the two draft orders, titled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations” and obtained by The New York Times, calls for terminating funding for any United Nations agency or other international body that meets any one of several criteria…

The order calls for then enacting “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in remaining United States funding toward international organizations.

The order establishes a committee to recommend where those funding cuts should be made. It asks the committee to look specifically at United States funding for peacekeeping operations; the International Criminal Court; development aid to countries that “oppose important United States policies”; and the United Nations Population Fund, which oversees maternal and reproductive health programs…

The second executive order, “Moratorium on New Multilateral Treaties,” calls for a review of all current and pending treaties with more than one other nation. It asks for recommendations on which negotiations or treaties the United States should leave…

Taken together, the orders suggest that Mr. Trump intends to pursue his campaign promises of withdrawing the United States from international organizations. He has expressed heavy skepticism of multilateral agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and of the United Nations.

There has always been a segment of the right that is resentful of international cooperation and sees any attempt to work in partnership as a sign of weakness. For example, Ed Kilgore is right when he points to these executive orders and says, “Welcome to the Buchanan administration.”

As the Reform Party candidate for president in 2000, Buchanan made withdrawal from the U.N. and expelling the organization from New York a campaign staple.

But there are also people like John Bolton – Bush’s Ambassador to the UN – who said, “There’s no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” There was also that moment in 2004 when many thought that John Kerry made a fatal error in a debate with George Bush by suggesting that any preemptive military action abroad should be fully understood by Americans and that we should be able to prove to the world that we did it for legitimate reasons. Bush called it the “Kerry doctrine” and mocked him for saying that we’d have to get permission to defend ourselves.

But even George Bush found it necessary to create a facade of legitimacy by going to the UN before invading Iraq. These executive orders under consideration from the Trump administration are designed to cripple the UN and thumb our nose at the idea of international cooperation.

As Obama laid out in his speech in Brussels, these institutions and the international cooperation they facilitated have served us all well since the end of World War II.

It is in response to this tragic history that, in the aftermath of World War II, America joined with Europe to reject the darker forces of the past and build a new architecture of peace. Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall Plan. Sentinels stood vigilant in a NATO Alliance that would become the strongest the world has ever known. And across the Atlantic, we embraced a shared vision of Europe — a vision based on representative democracy, individual rights, and a belief that nations can meet the interests of their citizens through trade and open markets; a social safety net and respect for those of different faiths and backgrounds.

To the extent that the Trump administration would cripple these institutions, what would he put in place as a means to deal with international conflict? First of all, we’ve already seen that he seems to take no issue with Russia invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea militarily. I am also reminded that the president has often talked about how, since WWII, America doesn’t “win” anymore. It’s clear that by “winning,” he means military victories. The big problem with that approach is that we now face the very real possibility of a nuclear war, something that has been so unthinkable that it helped create the institutions of international cooperation. That is what these executive orders are meant to undermine.

I have become convinced that the only people who can stop this madman right now are congressional Republicans. They need to take a look at things like this and recognize that their party’s leader is playing with fire…and find a way to stop him.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.