President Trump's remarks to the UN general assembly last week made me shudder. And I think I speak for a lot of people who were in the room that morning. I've never heard of a US president standing at the assembly's podium saying “If you threaten us we will totally destroy your nation” which is what Trump said about North Korea. It's provocative it's ugly it's not how to find a way out of this crisis.


But the good news is that roughly two-thirds of Americans are not in Trump's camp. And I think most Americans are shocked like most of the world by the crudeness by the threats by the tweets and by the substance of what he's pushing domesticallysuch as his healthcare proposals which would have taken more than 20 million people off the healthcare rolls even when his own voters were saying “No we don't want that”. The Republicans are going to try again next week.


But the really bad news is that he is commander-in-chief. I don't know whether if he gave a crazy order it would be stopped or countermanded. When it comes to domestic policies he is not having much success but when it comes to war he really probably could make war.


The US mindset is that the US ? and it's true in both parties and it's true in our deep security state ? is what Madeleine Albright the US ambassador to the UN and then secretary of state under Bill Clinton called “the indispensable country”. We have the concept of US exceptionalism. Barack Obama bought into US exceptionalism. If you travel around the world it's a little boring to hear all this bravado all the time from the US.



The US is very powerful but it’s not all-dominating. It’s got a military which is phenomenally powerful but we don’t win wars because wars don’t solve political problems – look at Afghanistan Iraq Syria Libya – they’ve all been disasters. Vietnam Cambodia Laos – all disasters. So you can have this huge military but what does it really get you in the end?

美国很强大,但它不能支配所有。它拥有着非常强大的军队,但我们没有赢得战争,因为战争不能解决政治问题–看看阿富汗、伊拉克、叙利亚、利比亚–他们都处在灾难中 。越南、柬埔寨、老挝——都处在灾难之中。所以你可以拥有这个巨大的军队,但你最终又得到了什么呢?

The US mindset is exceptionalism – the city on the hill. A lot of Trump’s speech was couched in an exceptionally crude simplistic manner. It is shocking to see and hear this kind of bravado. It is the arrogance of a country that has been“in charge” for a long time. But it’s not really in charge any longer; if you travel in the rest of the world you actually can go more than just a few minutes without hearing the US mentioned.


Trump has an exceptionally simple-minded approach – and Washington has it but in a slightly more sophisticated way – and it is this notion of the indispensable country. And it’s a bad and dangerous concept. It’s a concept of arrogance. It’s a concept that has led the United States into one mess after another.


We don’t have to be the indispensable country – we should just be a responsible country participating and cooperating with other countries. But what Trump was talking about is a very degraded version of something that is more generally in the water in the air of Washington DC.


But the good news is that progress is being made across the world and what is happening in the United States won’t stop that. In terms of the Sustainable Development Goals which were discussed at the UN last week there is enormous progress.



There have been some criticisms of China's role in Africa but on the whole I think what they are doing is for the good. They build real practical things so you go to a lot of places that had blackouts or no electricity at all and you turn on the light and say “Oh that's good. That wasn't here last year” and they say “Yeah but the hydro dam is now in place” and China's putting in a lot of hydroelectric power. You go on a fresh Tarmac road in a lot of countries in West Africa indeed and they say “Yeah China came in and has paved the highway system”. This is very practical. They don't ask a lot of questions of the government. They sometimes ask no questions at all. It's true that the counterpart of this is usually some kind of long-term arrangements on resources but it's negotiated and to my mind of course it should be transparent but China's building real things.


A big problem with the aid that the traditional western donors give is that it's turned on turned off turned on turned off turned on turned off. I always have said development aid should be for development. You can't really run another country by turning the dial on and off. It's a kind of hubris and kind of arrogance that doesn't work. I've been many times with a head of state in Africa where some western institution has been in the room giving this order and that order and then the door shuts and the leader has turned to me said “Who do they think they are? Who do they think runs this country?”