Obama's UN Speech
According to developmental psychologists , children believe the world centers around them. Gradually their sense of self expands as they realize others exist and not just for them as they get older and their brains develop. Of course, not all develop the same way; some social critics call the post 60s generation the "me generation." It is all about me, me, me, I, I, I.
These thoughts come to mind listening to or reading President Barack Obama's (D) speeches. Yesterday's speech he delivered to the UN's General Assembly once again displayed the numerous self references to "me" and "I."
I have been in office for just nine months -- though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me.
The last modest disclaimer notwithstanding, it is about him. And although he campaigned for the job, knowing what he was getting into, Obama still bashes his predecessor. And, by implication, the country he leads.
I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. And this has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for collective inaction.
Even though he follows this by stating "my responsibility is to act in the interest of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests" he doesn't declare that all those who"view America with skepticism and distrust" are wrong, wrong, wrong. By remaining silent he validated their negative views about America, about Bush. Not a critical word about the terror in their respective countries and the world created by the speakers that were to follow him, Muammar Qadafi of Libya, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran--nope, "America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others" is correct but, by implication, I, Barack Hussein Obama, will change that.
Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions. And I admit that America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy. But that does not weaken our commitment; it only reinforces it. There are basic principles that are universal; there are certain truths which are self-evident -- and the United States of America will never waver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny. (Applause.)
Sounds wonderful. But just a few months ago the people of Iran voted one way and the leader of Iran ignored it to "pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions" by imprisoning, torturing and killing those who protested Obama seemed mildly disturbed; in this case, as leader of America he was "too often. . .selective in its promotion of democracy" making a mockery of his following assertion "there are certain truths which are self-evident -- and the United States of America will never waver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny."
Tell that to the Iranians, to the families of the Lockerbie survivors.
Overall this was a staggeringly naïve speech by President Obama, with Woodstock-style utterances like "I will not waver in my pursuit of peace" or "the interests of peoples and nations are shared." All that was missing was a conga of hippies dancing through the aisles with a rousing rendition of "Kumbaya".The big catchphrase of the morning was "new era of engagement", with Obama outlining the four big international pillars of his presidency: ridding the world of nuclear weapons, the pursuit of peace, preserving the planet, and supporting "a global economy that advances opportunity for all people".There was only brief mention in the president's speech of the Iranian or North Korean nuclear threat, and no attempt to outline what measures would be taken against Tehran and Pyongyang if they continued to defy the UN Security Council. Obama said not a word about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's continuing threats to wipe Israel off the map, or the aspirations of the Iranian people for free and fair elections.In fact human rights issues were strikingly downplayed in Obama's address, which is not surprising since they are rarely on the radar screen of this administration. Nor did the words liberty or freedom feature prominently. This was a speech designed to appease opinion in a world body in which full democracies make up only a minority of its members.
Was this though Obama's most naïve speech ever? It is a very strong candidate, but I think there is intense competition for that accolade