The text of Obama’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly today is here. Much of it is an interesting exhortation to Muslims across the globe who are currently involved in protesting a certain movie trailer to put away violence as a tactic. The bulk of the rest is the usual copperplate about America loving democracy so much that it sends its citizens to impose freedom at gunpoint in other countries, and promising to always be there to bomb dictators (and any male of military age who happens to be nearby and can therefore be labelled a “militant” once he is too dead to protest that label). Obama reels of US aide for the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya but the word “Bahrain” does not pass his lips, nor does any indication that the regime being propped up in Yemen is just as oppressive as any Islamist current seeking to replace it. iraq and Afghanistan are places the US is leaving – not places the US invaded, nosir. You won’t find a reference to the chain of sub-Saharan nations where the US is currently offering “military assistance” (training, special forces, arms, drone strikes) to often corrupt regimes either.
And then there’s Iran.
At the top of his speech, Obama talks about:
the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded – the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.
but, seemingly without noticing the disconnect, he then declares:
Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
It’s clear he means whether or not the UNSC agrees with the US doing what it unilaterally decides it must.
Obama and his speechwriters must know that his UN listeners are spotting all the things unsaid and writing their own subtexts in their heads. They know there’s a healthy helping of hypocrisy, of “do as I say, not as I do, or I’ll bomb you” going on. Yet this is the stageshow that must be gone through every time a US President speaks at the UN. While Obama’s talking about changes in the way people resolve their problems internationally, perhaps he’d do well to contemplate the beam in his own nation’s eye.