President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that “Normal practices of diplomacy…are of no possible use in dealing with international outlaws.”
Rather than listen to FDR’s advice, President Barack Obama squandered yet another opportunity to confront today’s international outlaws during his annual visit to the United Nations. He delivered his usual meaningless platitudes to the United Nations General Assembly during his speech on September 23, 2010 – just like he did last year. He talked in generalities – ignoring the elephants in the room of Islamic-inspired terrorism, Iran’s clear and present danger to world peace and security, and the human rights abuses by the countries running the United Nations Human Rights Council that Obama decided the United States should legitimize by joining.
President Obama’s September 23rd speech to the General Assembly was his second UN speech of the week. It followed his pledge the day before, during the United Nations sponsored summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), to meet commitments to the United Nations for more development aid to fight poverty, disease, sub-standard education, infant and maternal mortality and gender inequality. In other words, Obama is willing to transfer many more billions of dollars of wealth from hard-working American taxpayers to developing countries, much of it through the same United Nations that was culpable in the oil-for-food scandal that enriched Saddam Hussein and his buddies. Obama also pledged in his MDG speech to lead efforts to revamp the global development process in order to make it more accountable. However, he offered nothing that the Bush administration had not already tried.
When Obama returned to address the General Assembly again the next day, during the official opening of this year’s General Assembly session, he renewed his naive and dangerous calls for “a world without nuclear weapons” that he championed at the UN last year.
Obama touched very lightly and in broad general terms during his September 23rd speech on the continuing global threat of terrorism, which he inexplicably lumped together with unrelated issues such as the “financial crisis on Wall Street.” He referred to the “men, women and children…murdered by extremists from Casablanca to London; from Jalalabad to Jakarta,” but left out the one crucial ingredient common to all of these massacres: the murderers were Islamic jihadists who committed their crimes against humanity in the name of Allah.
By carefully avoiding any association of radical Islamic ideology with most of the acts of terrorism occurring around the world today, Obama missed an opportunity to use his global platform to confront the source of this evil while the world was watching.
Obama did solemnly exhort his General Assembly audience to “not stand idly by when dissidents everywhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten. Because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.” Too bad that he has not followed his own advice.
Obama has remained on the sidelines while dissidents in Iran were beaten, thrown into jail, tortured and, in some cases, killed. The courageous opponents of the ruthless rulers of Iran’s Islamic theocracy were waiting for the leader of the free world to speak out on their behalf from the world’s stage. Protesters were shouting on behalf of democracy in Iran right across the street from UN headquarters. But Obama offered them no hope. He gave the Iranian regime a free pass on its abysmal human rights record.
Obama also missed the opportunity to target the dysfunctional UN Human Rights Council for criticism. Recall that the rationale for his administration’s decision to join this misnamed UN circus of human rights abusers was to obtain the leverage to reform it from within. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Instead, the UN Human Rights Council continues to go after Israel while ignoring genocides and wars against humanity around the globe. And the Council – with American acquiescence – continues to pass resolutions declaring ‘defamation of religions’ (i.e., criticism of Islam) to be a violation of international law.
With regard to Iran, Obama told the General Assembly that “the door remains open to diplomacy,” while repeating toothless warnings of consequences if Iran does not accept his “extended hand” and “confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.” Nobody is taking Obama’s warnings seriously, least of all the Iranian regime. A year after he issued similar warnings from the UN podium and months after watered-down sanctions were approved by the UN Security Council, Iran is much closer to achieving its nuclear arms ambitions.
A few hours after Obama’s invitation to Iran to walk through the open door of diplomacy, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed the door shut in Obama’s face. Ahmadinejad used his General Assembly speech to burnish his credentials on the streets of the Muslim world as the strongest friend of the Islamic cause who has succeeded in humiliating the ‘Great Satan.’
In his General Assembly speech this year, Ahmadinejad managed to outdo himself in irresponsible, hateful rhetoric. Discussing the 9⁄11 Islamic terrorist attacks, he claimed that “the majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree” with the view that “some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.”
In other words, Ahmadinejad turned the United States and Israel into the aggressors even when it came to instigating the 9⁄11 attacks. Islamists, he theorized, were being unfairly blamed for attacks carried out by the Americans and their Zionist allies.
Instead of boycotting Ahmadinijad’s speech from the get-go, the U.S. delegation sat silently in their seats listening to Ahmadinijad’s rants against capitalism and Western imperialism. Only when the Iranian dictator began spinning his 9⁄11 conspiracy theories did they and some other delegations decide to walk out. But the damage was done. And Obama waited a whole day before meekly criticizing Ahmadinijad’s 9⁄11 remarks.
After he got through blaming the United States government and Israel for 9⁄11, Ahmadinejad turned his attention to the controversy over his country’s nuclear program. He blasted the United States and its allies for trying to block what he claimed was Iran’s peaceful search for alternative sources of energy.
“They have equated nuclear energy with the nuclear bomb, and have distanced this energy from the reach of most of nations by establishing monopolies,” said Ahmadinejad. “While at the same time, they have continued to maintain, expand and upgrade their own nuclear arsenals… not only the nuclear disarmament has not been realized but also nuclear bombs have been proliferated in some regions, including by the occupying and intimidating Zionist regime.”
The Holocaust -denier then tried to best Obama’s call for a nuclear-free world: “I would like here to propose that the year 2011 be proclaimed the year of nuclear disarmament and ‘Nuclear Energy for all, Nuclear Weapons for None.’”
Obama should have anticipated this bit of grand-standing by pointing out in his own speech that, unless Iran is stopped immediately in its tracks, they may well achieve the capability to build nuclear bombs whenever they wish by 2011. He should have insisted, as President George Bush had done from the very same General Assembly podium, that in order for the United Nations to stay relevant it must confront international outlaws like Iran’s regime. But Obama shrunk from this task.
How many times does our President need the door to be slammed in his face before getting the message that Iran is ruled by thugs who intend, at all costs, to develop the nuclear bomb capability which they will use to threaten Israel and to impose Iran’s power over the region?
As former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton remarked:
“So how you can seriously believe that you can negotiate a meaningful elimination of their nuclear weapons program with people with that kind of psychology and believe they would carry through with it, Obama can’t explain. It’s another demonstration that his policy of dealing with Iran and North Korea is that it’s not just naïve, but it’s also dangerous. The fact it is almost certain ̶ Iran is going to get nuclear weapons ̶ really shows that diplomacy has failed, and the sanctions efforts have failed.”
After his General Assembly speech, President Obama attended the UN Secretary General’s annual lunch for world leaders and gave a toast. In his toast, he said:
“Mr. Secretary-General, I especially want to thank you for your dedication to pursuing peace, expanding security, protecting human rights, and advancing democracy and development. And standing here, I’m reminded of something President Franklin Roosevelt said shortly before the United Nations was founded. He said, ‘Peace can endure only so long as humanity really insists upon it and is willing to work for it and sacrifice for it.’
Over the last two years, our nations have come together in that spirit…But as we all know our work is far from over, and in the months and years ahead the challenges we face will require the work of all nations and all peoples. That’s how real change happens.”
Not everyone in the room was feeling Obama’s love. Brazil’s foreign minister Celso Amorim used his toast to praise Iran for having accepted Brazil’s joint proposal with Turkey to restart negotiations on the nuclear issue. “We offered solutions together will Turkey on the nuclear issue, and I hope they are taken,” he said during his toast while Obama listened in silence.
It’s too bad, as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, that President Obama did not pick the more appropriate of FDR’s warnings to repeat to the world: “Normal practices of diplomacy … are of no possible use in dealing with international outlaws.”
Joseph A. Klein is the author of a new book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.