The ostensible purpose of President Trump’s speech at the United Nations on Tuesday was to explain to the world why “America First” is an idea other countries should embrace. It was to be “a deeply philosophical address,” a White House official promised. Instead, the speech will inevitably be remembered for just two words: “Rocket Man,” Trump’s derisive nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.Never mind grand strategy. Trump made sure the media’s favourite sound bite would be a schoolboy taunt and a threat of mass annihilation.“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” the president told the world’s diplomats. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”The problem with Trump’s threat wasn’t only the juvenile language he chose, or that it inevitably distracted attention from the rest of his message. His taunt, far from serving an underlying strategy, was probably counterproductive.Ridiculing Kim Jong Un is “more likely to persuade North Korea to increase its nuclear weapons and missiles than limit them [or] give them up,” warned Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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