Monday, September 28, 2009

Obama at the UN: In Search of FDR's Vision

The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation. . . . It cannot be a peace of large nations – or of small nations. It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.

--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

When Franklin Roosevelt spoke these words in 1944 – the world still at war, embroiled in a struggle between the forces of freedom and tyranny – the United Nations was but a vision resting on the ideals of international cooperation and the belief that the nations of the world could work together to promote peace and foster human rights. Although Roosevelt did not live to see the liberation of Europe and the Allied victory over Japan, his vision of international cooperation was implemented on October 24, 1945, when representatives of 51 countries assembled in San Francisco to sign the UN Charter, thereby formally establishing an organization whose purpose it was to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, and promote respect for human rights. Since its founding, the UN has often fallen short of its ideals, but the international activism of the UN has nevertheless accomplished many positive things consistent with its Charter, including extraordinary acts of humanitarianism – alleviating hunger, preventing disease, and mending broken nations – and contributing greatly to the decline in armed conflict, particularly since the end of the Cold War.

Since its first peacekeeping operation in 1948, when it monitored the Arab-Israeli ceasefire, the UN has implemented 63 peacekeeping missions, many of which have brought stability to previously volatile regions. Its international peacekeeping efforts collectively won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1988, and a 2005 study by the RAND Corporation found that seven out of eight UN peacekeeping missions have successfully maintained the peace, or enforced ceasefires, in areas of major conflict.

The humanitarian efforts of the UN have been even more impressive, reflecting a model of collective world action in efforts to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease through such UN entities as the World Food Programme (which helps feed more than 100 million people a year in 80 countries), the World Health Organization (which implements mass vaccination programs), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and UNAIDS (which treats and helps prevent HIV infections in countries the world over). The UN also provides food and shelter for international refugees and displaced persons rendered homeless due to civil war and famine; monitors international elections in newly democratic states; and promotes economic development in the Third World through such institutions as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Not surprisingly, as an organization dependent on the funding and actions of 192 member nations, some of whom use the UN for political obfuscation, it has a mixed historical record. Subject as it is to infighting and bureaucratic bungling, it has at times been a frustrating, corrupt, and incompetent institution that has disappointed as much as it has helped. Its glaringly unfair treatment of Israel – the only member country ineligible to sit on the United Nations Security Council – has compromised its institutional effectiveness on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and resulted in a tolerance of anti-Semitism within its walls. And infighting among the Security Council has rendered the UN negligent in several major international crises, its inaction failing to prevent the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, the massacre in Srebrenica, and mass starvation in Somalia.

Due in part to a philosophical opposition to its mission by conservative elements of the Republican Party, the United States has not always been a strong supporter of the UN; indeed, for eight years under President George W. Bush – who selected as the UN Ambassador a man, John Bolton, who believed in its complete demise – and prior to that, under President Reagan in the 1980’s, the United States failed to pay its bills and worked at times to undermine the UN’s mission. These actions, unfortunately, undermined the moral authority of the United States on many issues of importance, and caused us to lose diplomatic influence and effectiveness on the world stage.

Its imperfections notwithstanding, the UN has done much good in the world, and lacking anything better, it is humanity’s best hope for promoting peace and understanding among nations. It was thus refreshing to hear President Obama’s remarks before the UN General Assembly last Wednesday, in which he defended the ideals of the UN and articulated a vision of international cooperation consistent with that of FDR’s. Obama suggested that “the time has come for the world to move in a new direction,” one that embraces “a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” He acknowledged that many nations had recently “come to view America with skepticism and distrust,” believing that the United States, on certain critical issues, had “acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others,” and he promised that the United States is “determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad.” Although the United States will not apologize for defending its interests, both military and economic, “in the year 2009 – more than at any point in human history – the interests of nations and peoples are shared,” whether in the fight against global terrorism, poverty, climate change, or in joint efforts to promote economic growth and prosperity. Obama’s words bespoke a true spirit of cooperation, noting that, while “we come from many places . . . we share a common future.”

Obama embraces an idealism that envisions hope and collective action prevailing over conflict and despair, but he is not naïve. He recognizes that the UN has “sadly, but not surprisingly” become at times “a forum for sowing discord instead of forging common ground; a venue for playing politics and exploiting grievances rather than solving problems.” Obama rightly believes, however, that:

[i]n an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.

Obama thus imagines “a generation that chooses to see the shoreline beyond the rough waters ahead; that comes together to serve the common interests of human beings, and finally gives meaning to the promises embedded in the name given to this institution: the United Nations.” In his speech to the General Assembly, he identified four pillars that are “fundamental to the future that we want for our children” and which the world must collectively work towards:

• Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and seeking a world without them. With this, Obama expressed a bold vision that must begin with a strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and collective efforts to combat nuclear smuggling and theft, for “we must never allow a single nuclear device to fall into the hands of a violent extremist.”

• The pursuit of peace. Obama declared that we must “recognize that the yearning for peace is universal, and reassert our resolve to end conflicts around the world.”

• Preserving our planet. The United States in particular must confront the reality of climate change and enact policies that cut emissions, promote renewable energy and efficiency, and share new technologies around the world.

• Creating a global economy that advances opportunity for all people. Economic growth and prosperity cannot be limited to the rich nations of the world, and we must “set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”

Consistent with his past emphasis on individual responsibility, Obama appealed to the moral imperative of national responsibility, the principle that each nation shares in the obligation to make the ideals underlying the UN Charter a reality. Unlike President Bush and other naysayers of international cooperation, the imperfections of the UN and its past struggles to live up to the principles of its founding are not a reason to walk away, but “a calling to redouble our efforts.” Only by working to create the conditions for genuine dialogue among nations – founded upon mutual respect for the dignity of all human beings and cultures – may the world ever be in a position to resolve outdated grievances, alleviate poverty and hunger, and recognize and enforce universal principles of human rights, including equality, freedom of speech and religion, and the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny.

As the President reminded the General Assembly, the concept of the United Nations “was rooted in the hard-earned lessons of war; rooted in the wisdom that nations could advance their interests by acting together instead of splitting apart.” I could not agree more. We live in a dangerous world, where the seeds of discontent and conflict are deeply embedded in a complex web of history, religion, culture, and economics. From the threat of a nuclear Iran, to the continued menace of al-Qaeda; from threats of genocide, mass starvation, and civil wars in Africa, to revolutionary fervor in Latin America; from rising HIV infections in Russia and Asia, to a nuclear meltdown between India and Pakistan, the threats we face are daunting and, at times, overwhelming. But if we truly seek to rid the world of nuclear weapons, eliminate global terrorism, wipe out poverty and oppression, and advance the cause of human rights to all nations, we must recognize that none of these goals stand a chance if we act alone and fail to acknowledge our shared humanity. Only if the international community is united in purpose and in action may FDR’s dream of world peace and security ever be realized.


  1. “But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!” Benjamin Netanyahu, September 24, 2009

    In the real world of good and evil, freedom and oppression, empathy and indifference, the United Nations, as currently constituted, makes as much sense as Elliot Ness inviting Al Capone and Frank Nitti to join his band of Untouchables (yes, I saw your list of movies and of the 14 I’ve seen you got 9 right – and no it’s not a matter of opinion, “American President” really does suck). Nothing highlights the absurdity of today’s U.N. more than five recent speeches given in its hall: three by modern day Capones; one by the reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain; and one by a leader in the mold of Winston Churchill.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even on his best behavior, can’t resist praying for the speedy arrival of the Twelfth Imam, a belief that may mean the death of millions yet.

    Muammar al-Qaddafi, who had been quiet as a church mouse while Bush was president, is now chatty as a schoolgirl and quite pleased with his “son” the president, hoping that Mr. Obama will rule forever. It makes one wonder if his nuclear ambitions that he extinguished when he saw what became of Saddam Hussein will be rekindled?

    And then the loon from the neighborhood, Hugo Chavez, was also pleased as punch that Bush was gone and Obama had taken care of that annoying sulfur smell.

    As Joseph Conrad wrote, “You shall judge a man by his foes as well as by his friends.”

    When it was his turn, President Obama immediately, and unintentionally, illustrated the impossibility of the United Nations to bring freedom to the oppressed, and because he didn’t realize that what he said was farcical, he revealed himself to be hopelessly naive to the dangers that gather. President Obama said, as you approvingly quoted, that he is “determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice...”

    In the history of man, when has a collection or a “collective” acted boldly? From 1991 to 2003 the United Nations dithered while Saddam Hussein indulged his sadistic impulses. Only when President Bush assembled a coalition (larger than that assembled by his father in the first half of the Iraq War) and led this team of like-minded countries, did freedom finally come to Iraq.

    President Obama is the perfect bookend to the United Nations: he shares many of the same views, including the most important: a rather blasé attitude towards democracy. Look for the word in the U.N.’s mission statement. It’s not in the first paragraph; that deals with “international” peace and security. Paragraph two speaks to the development of friendly relations between nations based on equal rights and self-determination. Paragraph three almost gets there – it mentions “freedom.” And the fourth sounds like a call to smoke a doobie, bare your feelings, buy the world a Coke and “harmonize.”

    The U.N.’s own charter makes it clear that freeing the oppressed is way down on their things-to-do list.

    President Obama, likewise, took a darn long time since his inauguration to mention the “D” word. New York Times correspondent Joel Brinkley summed up the administration’s initial performance in April: “Neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has even uttered the word democracy in a manner related to democracy promotion since taking office more than two months ago. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has put out 30 public releases, so far, and not one of them has discussed democracy promotion. Democracy, it seems, is banished from the Obama administration’s public vocabulary.”


  2. So what did the “bold” president of the greatest and most moral nation on the planet talk about during his first speech at the U.N.? Did he mention that the United States has been the best thing to happen to this violent and cruel world? That no nation or combination of nations has done more to advance freedom and democracy? Nope. More of the same: apologies sandwiched between derivatives of past “Hope and Change” speeches and running throughout the same aren’t-we-all-blessed-I-got-here-in-time self-absorption.

    That President Obama still considers Iraq the wrong war, while currently trying to worm his way out of fighting the “good war” and continues the lie of America taking “unilateral” action testifies to his lack of respect for the truth and for bold leadership. Would not a leader, speaking in front of the world, use the occasion, not to further the “belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others” but to set the record straight? To tell those unnamed countries that view “America with skepticism and distrust” that their “reflexive anti-Americanism” has no basis in fact? Would a bold leader continue to blame others for “inherited” problems and continue to apologize for his country’s past bold actions?

    A leader would not and Benjamin Netanyahu did not. These two speeches illustrate the uselessness of the United Nations to foster freedom. One speech, heavy with vague and lofty rhetoric, perfectly captures the meaningless “committee speak” of the U.N. and demonstrates President Obama’s perfect fit with this bloated institution, while the other speech, unequivocal in its meaning, holds the U.N. accountable for its cowardly inaction.

    Read President Obama’s speech sentence for sentence and, if still awake, ask what each sentence means and if it could mean something else to another reader. Then read Netanyahu’s and, while standing to cheer, ask if there is anything unclear in what he says.

    President Obama said, “...they are rooted... in a discontent with the status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems. But they are also rooted in hope – the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change.”

    Netanyahu said: “Nothing has undermined that central mission (of the U.N.) more than a systematic assault on the truth. Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.”

    Obama: But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 – more than at any point in human history – the interests of nations and peoples are shared. The religious convictions that we hold in our hearts can forge new bonds among people, or they can tear us apart. The technology we harness can light the path to peace, or forever darken it. The energy we use can sustain our planet, or destroy it. What happens to the hope of a single child – anywhere – can enrich our world, or impoverish it.

    Netanyahu: Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

    Obama: In this hall, we come from many places, but we share a common future. No longer do we have the luxury of indulging our differences to the exclusion of the work that we must do together. I have carried this message from London to Ankara; from Port of Spain to Moscow; from Accra to Cairo; and it is what I will speak about today – because the time has come for the world to move in a new direction.

    Netanyahu: Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.


  3. Obama: The time has come to realize that the old habits, the old arguments, are irrelevant to the challenges faced by our people. ... Together, we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides – coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of north and south, east, west, black, white, and brown.

    Netanyahu: In the past thirty years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. ... Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated.

    Obama: Let me be clear, this is not about singling out individual nations –

    Netanyahu: The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization. It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death.

    Obama: Two states living side by side in peace and security – a Jewish state... and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 (did you see the bus that Obama just threw Israel under? Look quick, is that his grandmother still under there?), and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.

    Netanyahu: ... the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?

    Obama: In pursuit of that goal, we will develop regional initiatives with multilateral participation, alongside bilateral negotiations.

    Netanyahu: Will it take action against the dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the streets choking in their own blood?

    Obama: Now, I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult. But all of us – not just the Israelis and the Palestinians, but all of us – must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we will only lend it lip service. To break the old patterns, to break the cycle of insecurity and despair, all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private. The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians.


  4. Netanyahu: Ladies and Gentlemen, the jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging. Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted. For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks. We heard nothing – absolutely nothing – from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one. In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis. We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare. You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent. Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond.

    Obama: It’s all Bush’s fault!

    OK, so the last one was made up, but the brilliance and the banality go on and on, with Netanyahu saying more in 2200 words than Obama in 5100.

    There is no such thing as freedom without democracy. The United Nations doesn’t list it as a goal and the current U.S. President believes “Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside,” as if those pinned under a tyrant’s heel have the ability to choose. The U.N. and those who love it are an amusing bunch, ignoring the murderers in their midst while slandering the one institution that actually does free the oppressed, the United States of America.

    Rich R.

  5. Rich,

    As much as I appreciate some of the remarks made by Netanyahu -- it certainly played well in Tel Aviv and Brooklyn -- you present it here as if he was offering some line-by-line rebuttal to President Obama. I fail to see whatever point you were trying to make, other than to suggest, falsely as usual, that Obama is somehow insufficiently American and patriotic -- he doesn't really believe in democracy; he is somehow aligned with Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and Qaddafi for things he neither said nor did. It does not fly. Obama specifically warned of Iran's nuclear ambitions as a primary reason for why we need to strenghten the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other anti-proliferation measures. He spoke of the UN with the understanding that it is a highly imperfect institution, but one which has done a fair amount of good and which consists of 192 nations, including our allies, friends, and many former enemies who no longer oppose us. Iran is one bad state; North Korea another (both states that, despite their obvious threat to the world and to our allies, were not confronted by Bush and his henchmen -- but somehow Obama is "secretly" supporting them, in your warped view).

    Are we to throw out the UN simply because these nations are members? Or do we try to work with the nations -- friends, allies, and those with common interests -- willing to help contain the threats posed by those nations? The answer is obvious. Call me an idealist, call me naive, but I thought Obama's speech was (mostly) on the mark. I am proud as an American to have a President who talks of international cooperation and the ideals of peace. Calling the United States the greatest nation on earth does not make one a patriot. Pushing our country to greater heights of moral leadership and recognizing that we do not rule the world, but must work with our friends and neighbors in solving the world's problems -- secure in the knowledge that our own democracy remains vibrant and strong -- is ultimately the true essence of patriotism.

  6. Mark,

    One of the many reasons I enjoy responding to your blogs is that I want to convince you, and those of like mind, that you are wrong. To do that I make statements – I do not “suggest” or “imply” – and then I present evidence to back up my beliefs. For example, I did not suggest that President Obama “doesn’t really believe in democracy”; I stated that he has a “blasé attitude towards democracy,” which is shared by the United Nations. I then offered evidence from a source you consider reliable, “The Gray Lady,” to buttress my argument. To further justify my point, I also quoted from President Obama’s speech. You can agree or disagree, like a jury, that I made a compelling argument, but you can’t, in fairness, divine secret meanings from what I wrote and then dismiss as untrue what I did not say.

    Now with this in mind, let’s examine statements in your first U.N. blog:

    “Due in part to a philosophical opposition to its mission by conservative elements of the Republican Party...”

    “...George W. Bush – who selected as the UN Ambassador a man, John Bolton, who believed in its complete demise...”

    “These actions, unfortunately, undermined the moral authority of the United States on many issues of importance, and caused us to lose diplomatic influence and effectiveness on the world stage.”

    I would be fascinated to read the evidence that supports the idea that conservatives are opposed to “international peace and security” and the “removal of threats to the peace” and “suppression of acts of aggression.” A much better argument can be made that conservatives think the United Nations just does a lousy job at fulfilling its mission. Surely conservatives who backed the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq believe in “equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”

    So John Bolton believed in the complete demise of the United Nations? You know this how? He certainly is an outspoken critic of the United Nations and as you noted, he has plenty of reasons to complain, but its complete demise?

    The New York Times had this to say about Bolton in 2006: “When it comes to reforming the disgraceful United Nations Human Rights Commission, America's ambassador, John Bolton, is right; Secretary General Kofi Annan is wrong; and leading international human rights groups have unwisely put their preference for multilateral consensus ahead of their duty to fight for the strongest possible human rights protection.”

    The Heritage Foundation noted this: “Bolton helped achieve General Assembly consensus on reforming the U.N. resource management and budget process, improving oversight, reviewing United Nations mandates, and reforming human resources management. He successfully led an effort to cap the U.N. budget at $950 million, pending progress on U.N. reform. In part due to Bolton’s efforts, the U.N. created an Ethics Office, mandated financial disclosure for U.N. officials, and increased resources for the Office of Internal Oversight Services.”

    John Bolton, in short, wants the United Nations to work. In my search for Bolton’s own words regarding the U.N., I came across an anti-Bolton Youtube post, which cherry-picked two quotes to discredit him. As is often the case with liberals, they discredit themselves with their own evidence. Bolton said this about the U.N.:

    “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interest and we can get others to go along.”


    “The United States makes the U.N. work when it wants it to work and that is exactly the way it should be because the only question – the only question for the United States is what is in our national interest.”


  7. If this makes the case against Bolton, then we should just thank him for setting the example. The current ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has stated that the U.N. “can directly serve U.S. interests,” and also, “This Administration views the U.N., despite its flaws, as a useful vehicle in many instances to advance our interests.”

    John Bolton talks directly and plainly; if he wanted the demise of the United Nations he would, in all likelihood, have said something like, “I would love to drive a stake through the heart of that useless institution,” But he didn’t.

    And only because it seems a measure of validation to you, will I mention that Bolton was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The fact that it is given out like candy to killers, wingnuts and the brilliant alike (Arafat, Gore and Burlaug) makes it a dubious prize at best, but Bolton was nominated for his role in helping expose Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

    Now with these rules in mind: make a statement, provide evidence, and make no inferences, let’s revisit your complaints.

    You claim I offered Netanyahu’s speech as a rebuttal to Obama. I made no such claim. What I said was that Netanyahu’s speech was Churchillian while Obama’s was pedantic. I then asked that excerpts be read with these thoughts in mind: Were their respective messages clear? Did one produce sleepiness? Was one inspirational?

    I listed Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Qaddafi to support my first statement: that the inclusion of maniacs in the United Nations discredits the institution. The fact that maniacs have nice things to say about our president should be a concern to all Americans, but I never claimed that President Obama aligns himself with these Three Stooges. “It doesn’t fly” because I never said it!

    Now about the whole let’s-ban-nukes-before-we-destroy-ourselves-and-apes-take-over-and-persecute-poor Charlton Heston-thing. The making of nuclear weapons can not be unlearned, meaning that if the United States gave up her nuclear arsenal, the acquisition of nukes becomes even more attractive to the tyrants of the world, especially those who view the U.S. as the Great Satan (by the way, has President Obama apologized yet for the “misperceptions and misinformation” that have led some countries to believe that we are the Great Satan?)

    Nuclear weapons, through their actual use and potential use, have saved many more lives than they have taken (like handguns!). Treaties regarding nuclear weapons may very well work among democracies, but like handgun laws, they will be ignored or violated by the bad guys.

    You mention “former enemies who no longer oppose us,” but don’t list who they are. I hope you’re not referring to, say, Russia, that is quickly reverting back to its old ways of invading sovereign nations and will exploit any weakness they see from the U.S.

    Now, after all the hysteria displayed by liberals over Bush’s freeing of Iraq (Bush lied! People died!), you fault him for not confronting North Korea and Iran? And “henchmen”? I would note, though, that President Bush positioned U.S. forces on the left side of Iran and on the right side, making any military action deemed necessary by President Obama that much easier (not that he will, of course, that’s why we have Israel, right?). And, by the way, isn’t democratizing two countries in eight years enough?


  8. You bring up a good point when you ask, “Are we to throw out the U.N. simply because these nations (the psycho nut-jobs) are members?” It has been suggested before (maybe by Bolton), that a U.N. of democratic nations would be much more useful and I would agree. The good accomplished would increase exponentially if tyrants were not underfoot.

    You’re right when you say “calling the United States the greatest nation on earth does not make one a patriot,” but it would be a good start.

    Lastly, let me reword your final thought: “The true essence of patriotism is pushing our country to greater heights of moral leadership (defined how and by whom?) and recognizing that we do not rule the world (who claims that we do?), but must work with our friends and neighbors (but not the crazies – see above) in solving the world’s problems (is there an agreed upon list?).” Now, to bring it back to the beginning... Might that be the same vague and lofty rhetoric that started this whole thing?

    Oh, and P.S.: Good to see you got the memo about “Climate Change.” So much better than “Global Warming,” which was getting a little embarrassing, what with the past ten years of Global Cooling we’ve been experiencing. Climate Change is perfect as long as people can be convinced that what has been happening for billions of years is a bad thing!

    Rich R.

  9. I’m thinking of hanging out a shingle: “Psychic Readings by Rich,” based on my recent post: “…Bolton was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The fact that it is given out like candy to killers, wingnuts and the brilliant alike (Arafat, Gore and Burlaug) makes it a dubious prize at best…”

    Of course, I will have to modify that to read “killers, wingnuts, the brilliant, and those who promise to do swell stuff in the future if they can just get their damn health care bill passed.”

    Rush Limbaugh likes to joke that President Obama has had a five-minute career. Well apparently, when the president was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, his career really was five-minutes old! He was nominated on February 1 for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited “his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.” I didn’t look this up, but I don’t think his World Wide Apology Tour had even started then, did it?

    The clichéd (but true) criticism of liberals is that it doesn’t matter what the results of their policies are, but that they mean well and that they care for people. Now that qualifies for a prize. An article on the award today stated, “In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses." I would think “shall have done,” would be the most important part of this rule.

    Let’s contemplate actual results for a moment:

    There are thousands of people walking around Iraq and Afghanistan, who, if not for President Bush, would have been raped, tortured, mutilated and/or beheaded. Many are crying now, not because loved ones have been murdered or have “disappeared,” but because the ink on their thumbs has finally completely faded away.

    I feel like Red Buttons on the old Dean Martin Roasts who would say, “So and so who did so and so, never got a dinner!”

    President Bush, who freed millions, never got a dinner!

    President Reagan, who freed millions, never got a dinner!

    But in all fairness, President Obama hasn’t yet accepted the award. Maybe he will reject it as being premature. Maybe in declining it he will pay homage to those who never got a dinner. Maybe in his speech he will not mention hope and change. Maybe he will balance five spinning plates on sticks while singing “The Impossible Dream.” Maybe…

    Rich R.

  10. Rich,

    At the risk of causing you major heart palpitations, let me just say that the reason President Bush did not win a Nobel Peace Prize for his actions in Iraq may have something to do with the fact that he actually started an unprovoked war there, ordering the forceful and violent invasion of another country that had neither attacked the United States (or its allies), nor threatened imminently to do so; Bush did not promote peace, he started a war. We can disagree as to the merits of the War on Iraq, but it certainly was not deserving of the Peace Prize! I have no doubt that thousands of individual Iraqis are grateful for the U.S. military action, just as there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, that have been killed and maimed -- including many innocent children, the elderly, women, and other innocent civilians -- all as a result of Bush's unilateral actions. Bush may not have intended those deaths, but they were the natural and expected result of his bombs and guns. Not the stuff of a peace prize.

    There have no doubt been many underserving recipients of the prize, as well as many who earned it, and I agree (yes I really do) that the award to President Obama is premature. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times also agrees, noting that Obama's efforts are mostly aspirational (i.e, see my original post above). Kristof points to far more deserving recipients: "I think of Dr. Denis Mukwege at the Panzi Hospital in eastern Congo, or Jo and Lyn Lusi at the Heal Africa Hospital also in eastern Congo, or Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health for his tireless work in Haiti and Rwanda, or Greg Mortenson traipsing all over Pakistan and Afghanistan to build schools, or Dr. Catherine Hamlin working for half a century to fight obstetric fistula and maternal mortality in Ethiopia, or so many others. In the light of that competition [sorry, no mention of Bush or Reagan], it seems to me that it might have made sense to wait and give Obama the Nobel Peace Prize in his eighth year in office, after he has actually made peace somewhere."

    So, there, we do agree on something -- though I far prefer to have Susan Rice and Obama's people working with our international organizations than Bush's crowd. Diplomacy is messy, and sometimes you have to talk to really despicable people and let them belong to the UN and speak to the General Assembly (sort of like an international First Amendment -- very American). Obama holds an optimistic and somewhat idealistic view of international cooperation, which he expressed in his speech to the UN. I found it refreshing and hopeful, that's all. Time will tell whether it translates into actual progress.

  11. In fullfillment of U.S. policy, as stated in the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, and with the overwhelming approval of the United States Congress, President George W. Bush led a coalition of 40 countries, representing twenty percent of the United Nations’ membership, in exercising the right under international law to resume hostilities and remove Saddam Hussein, who had repeatedly violated the terms of the cease-fire agreement that had ended those hostilities, but not the conflict, during the first half of the Gulf War.


    Unless you can prove this statement false, with more reasoned arguments than used by Janeane Garofalo during a guest appearance on The View, you cannot, in good conscience, continue to use such liberal comfort words as “unprovoked” and “unilateral.”

    Rich R.

  12. Rich,

    Yes, I forgot to mention that Armenia contributed 46 troops from January 2005 to October 2008; Tonga threw in 55 troops, Estonia 40, Moldova 24, Macedonia 77, New Zealand 61, and so on. The UK certainly joined in the effort (with 45,000 troops at its peak), and Australia added 2,000 (in contrast to the 250,000 U.S. troops at the time of invasion), and you are technically correct, there were 39 countries that contributed something to the effort. Of course, it is well established that many of these nations received monetary and other incentives from the United States in return for sending troops or otherwise "supporting" the war effort (including NATO membership and other military and financial aid). Also, except for the UK (and possibly Australia) the invasion of Iraq involved none of the coalition forces. And as the U.S. suffered almost 95% of the casualties (as of October 2009, U.S. forces suffered 4,349 deaths, versus slightly over 300 for all of the other coalition forces combined), it certainly looks like a mostly U.S. effort to me. It is also well known that Bush bypassed the UN Security Council -- precisely because he knew, or believed, that he did not have, or would not successfully secure, its support. While he may have bullied Poland and Estonia to send a few medics and intelligence analysts after-the-fact, there is really no dispute that the U.S. acted against the wishes and without the support of the vast majority of the international community. This is not a matter of opinion.

  13. Mark,

    That was a much better response than I had expected. Good job. And you highlight the biggest distinction between libs and conservatives when you say, “the U.S. acted against the wishes and without the support of the vast majority of the international community.” To a liberal that means something bad, while a conservative doesn’t really dwell too much on what other countries think. As far as the U.S. doing the heavy lifting: What’s new? That’s to be expected when you’re the lone superpower and you want the job done right. There will always be the appropriate time to send in the cornflower blue helmets: when things have been secured.

    I’ll go on record now, if not out on a limb, and say that if President Obama takes UNILATERAL military action to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, I will give him a standing O and say nice things about him on your blog. And I will continue to support his decision, even if the intelligence turns out to be less than perfect. Unfortunately, I fear his past criticisms of President Bush may have painted him into a corner, from which his complete lack of humility will not allow him to escape.

    But I hope not.

    Rich R.