Much commentary about Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations on Wednesday, September 23, 2009, has focused on his description of pre-Obama America as a deadbeat, lawless, foot-dragging country that tortures innocent Muslims, or did until his glorious ascension to the right hand of power. The predictable emphasis on the speech’s most offensive aspects overlooks more dangerous points: the president placed unilateral nuclear disarmament, the environmentalist agenda, and increased pressure on U.S. allies at the forefront of a globalist agenda, while relegating terrorism to a footnote – one that regards it as a “law enforcement” matter. (Yes, he used those words.)
The “I”s Have It
Obama has been accused of having a messianic view of his presidency. In 41 major presidential speeches before the UN address, Obama made reference to himself nearly 1,200 times, more than twice as often as every member of Congress combined. His UN address was similarly Obama-centric.
To highlight the glimmering hope his presidency embodies, he demonized America, B.B.O. (Before Barack Obama). He noted the international “belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally,” a belief he has made clear in other venues he shares; he said “America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy”; and he declared the dark “days when America dragged its feet on [climate change] are over” – a less caustic version of his remark Tuesday at the Climate Change Summit that, under a certain unnamed predecessor, America suffered “too many years of inaction and denial.”
He then presented himself as the savior of international relations, touting “the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world.” He hastened to add these “expectations are not about me” but rather are “rooted in hope – the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change.”
Obama then equated “the character and cause of my nation,” with “the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.” During this time, he boasted, he “prohibited… the use of torture by the United States of America,” ordered “the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed,” determined “combat extremism within the rule of law,” joined the UN Human Rights Council, and “paid our bill” to the United Nations.
This leaves the impression the United States was a cheapskate nation that had turned its back on global human rights, and implicitly admits torturing and otherwise conducting a lawless anti-terrorism program. In reality, Gitmo is not closed, as Obama has acknowledged it contains a number of prisoners who can neither be released nor transferred, and he has no plan to deal with them. It is true that the Republican Congress voted to withhold a portion of UN dues twice B.B.O. (in 2001 and 2005) – over President Bush’s strenuous objections. Congress recognized the U.S. pays nearly a quarter of the UN’s budget, while 128 of its 192 member nations pay one percent, and it demanded reforms. This demand was in part motivated by the fact that Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia sit on the UN Human Rights Council. Upon taking office, Obama paid nearly a billion dollars to the UN and rejoined the UNHRC – once again, without securing, or even asking for, anything in return. In general, his administration’s view is best elucidated by Susan Rice, who said “others will likely shoulder a greater share of the global burden if the United States leads by example, acknowledges mistakes…and treats others with respect.” Like generations of leftists, the Obama administration believes the U.S. is guilty of straining international relations for years, and our collective guilt explains the world’s “reflexive anti-Americanism,” which can now be put to an end because of…him. He does not believe, as did John Bolton, that the UN has been too accommodating to terrorism.
And his “counterterrorism” proposal reflects it.
Fighting Terrorism: A “Law Enforcement” Matter
The anti-terrorism portion of his speech took exactly one, excessively fuzzy paragraph. Its most specific proposal declared, “America will forge lasting partnerships to target terrorists, share intelligence, and coordinate law enforcement and protect our people.” Obama let the cat out of the bag; he shares John Kerry’s view that counterterrorism is “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation.” This may account for his recent, public signs of faltering in Afghanistan. Although he campaigned on a promise to bomb Pakistan – if necessary, without Islamabad’s approval – in order to kill Osama bin Laden, he now speaks of returning to the law enforcement approach of the Clinton years that brought on the bombing of two U.S. embassies, the Khobar Towers, the USS Cole, and finally 9/11.
Against the backdrop of his public vacillation on Afghanistan, he insisted he “will never waver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny.” Later that evening, he was followed at the podium by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who jailed, beat, and “tried” Iranian protesters, even killing the nine-year-old son of a political enemy, with little more than a belated whimper from Obama. And although Poland and the Czech Republic had determined they wanted missile defense, he abandoned a long-negotiated U.S. agreement granting their request.
Similarly, when he turned to Iran and North Korea – all too briefly – he insisted the UN “demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise.” China has obstinately blocked him, and Russia is actively aiding Tehran’s nuclear program. Moreover, Obama became the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party precisely for counseling international law be disregarded when it came to enforcing more than a dozen resolutions about Saddam Hussein. But he showed a great deal more relish for other UN resolutions.
By far the biggest applause lines of his speech were his emphasis “that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” and a vow to end “the occupation that began in 1967.” (Conversely, he received no applause when he described U.S. actions to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, polio, H1N1, and global economic squalor.) He insisted, “the time has come to re-launch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem.”
Israeli President Binyamin Netanyahu has made it known returning to the pre-1967 borders is a non-starter. So did Ariel Sharon. Even Ehud Olmert would not allow an unmitigated return to the old territory, because the 1967 borders are regarded as indefensible. Similarly, granting the “right of return” to all Palestinian refugees in UNRWA camps – most of whom never set foot in Israel – would end Israel’s history as a Jewish state and will never be accepted in Tel Aviv. Aside from Honduras, Israel is the lone nation the Obama administration has pressured; all others receive an “open hand” of friendship.
Obama believes Israel, like the United States, must “lead by example,” giving its enemies a little more each time, in the hopes of securing their approval. In the Left’s world, one’s enemies exist only because they feel frightened or endangered. This outlook is reflected in Obama’s anti-nuclear posture.
On Thursday, Obama chaired a meeting of UN Security Council, dedicated to nuclear disarmament, which produced a new (and meaningless) resolution to move toward a world without nuclear weapons. He reaffirmed Wednesday, “we must stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the goal of a world without them.” To this end, he announced the ongoing U.S.-Russian missile reduction negotiations that began this week, hoped to end to the production of fissile nuclear material, and pledged to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), dispatching Hillary Clinton as a representative to its members’s conference.
Such a view is hardly new. In April, Obama told an audience in Prague, “the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.” (One sentence later, he said, “Make no mistake: As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies – including the Czech Republic.”)
Although Obama may seek a “world” free of nuclear weapons – the Pollyanna hope of the Left and the self-interested hope of the Soviets since the 1960s – he can control policy only in the United States. As I noted last week, his motivation behind scrapping the long-range missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic was likely to encourage Russia to make deep cuts in its nuclear arsenal. The Guardian has since reported, “The abandonment of the US missile defence [sic.] already appears to have spurred arms control talks.” Russian “leader” Dmitry Medvedev said it was probable Russia and the United States would reduce their deployed warheads to 1,500 each by year’s end. To further “spur” negotiations, Obama rejected the Pentagon’s initial Nuclear Posture Review – its overview of how many warheads could be destroyed – on the grounds the Defense Department had not sufficiently decimated U.S. defenses. An administration official told the media, “Obama is now driving this process. He is saying these are the president’s weapons, and he wants to look again at the doctrine and their role.” He and his advisers, most notably Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher, share the view that the United States must demonstrate sincerity by exposing itself to increased danger.
The CTBT would further erode our national defense. Baker Spring of the Heritage Foundation wrote, “Once the CTBT is in force, the United States will be unable to maintain a safe, reliable, and effective nuclear arsenal.” The “ban” on fissile nuclear material also produces problems. Obama has repeatedly affirmed the right of every rogue nation, including Iran, to possess “civilian” nuclear reactors; unfortunately, this is precisely the cover North Korea used to create multiple warheads. Henry Sokolski notes another conundrum: “The French are now arguing that the only way to get such a ban going is to bribe China (which has not signed) by selling it a nuclear fuel plant capable of making 1,000 crude bombs’ worth of plutonium a year.”
Declaring a U.S. respite on nuclear production, ending nuclear testing with the attendant deterioration of existing warheads, and making a dramatic “goodwill” reduction of our weapons will entice other states to try to catch up to our diminishing levels. If they can come close to matching our lowered arsenal, they will become nuclear superpowers by default. The eradication of our stockpiles, which Obama and company seek, would leave America and the West vulnerable to nuclear blackmail by any state that can produce even one nuclear device – the more so if missile defense systems are abandoned.
This is the long-range security strategy at the heart of his foreign policy. But another policy guides him yet more strongly.
The Environment: “The Top of our Diplomatic Agenda”
Fighting terrorism is now passé. Global warming is seen as a much graver threat to the world’s survival. In recognition of this fact, Obama told the Climate Change Summit Tuesday, “we have put climate at the top of our diplomatic agenda when it comes to our relationships with countries as varied as China and Brazil; India and Mexico; from the continent of Africa to the continent of Europe.”
That he has. Upon taking office, Obama created the post Special Envoy for Climate Change within the State Department, appointing Todd Stern, a key negotiator of the Kyoto Protocol and mostly recently a senior follow at the Soros-funded Center for American Progress. Kyoto would have crippled the U.S. economy, costing an estimated $100-400 billion in productivity over ten years and increasing the cost of electricity by as much as 80 percent.
Obama’s shift in focus has been felt by every delegation visiting China. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once had an outstanding record on Chinese human rights. When she visited Beijing this summer, she made token statements on human rights but said her “focus was on climate change,” insisting, “protecting the environment is a human rights issue.” Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Ed Markey noted Madam Speaker’s strong role in emphasizing the administration’s overriding concern.
Obama alluded to it himself in the most dire part of his speech – predictably, not about terrorism or the likelihood of Iran or North Korea obtaining a nuclear weapon. Obama gave a mini-apocalyptic sermon:
If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear. Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on – why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance.
The trouble, he believed, is that the UN “struggles to enforce its will,” another common statement of globalists. In Prague, he announced, “All nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime.”
Both his apocalypticism and his globalism echo Science Czar John Holdren. Holdren confirmed during his Senate confirmation hearings in February that “carbon dioxide-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020,” and dire predictions about violent competition for resources are a longtime Holdren refrain. Other outlets that picked up my report on Ecoscience ignored another wrinkle in the story: Holdren has long called for planetary disarmament. As recently as January 2008, Holdren told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) the world needs “a universal prohibition on nuclear weapons, coupled with means to ensure confidence in compliance.” In Ecoscience Holdren called for “a comprehensive Planetary Regime” to control all natural resources and determine appropriate population levels to bring this about. The United Nations was his intended agent.
Barack Obama’s UN speech advanced a doctrinaire left-wing foreign policy that will hamstring American defense, further sideline the economy, and leave the nation relying on “law enforcement” to chase down terrorists after the fact. His anti-American statements were offensive, but his substantive proposals could do far more damage.
This story originally appeared as the lead story for Monday, September 28, 2009, on FrontPage Magazine.