President Obama addressed the United Nations today with the confidence of a world leader, although some would argue that he has yet to display competence in the area of actual international leadership:
Each of these problems demands urgent attention. But they are also symptoms of a broader problem – the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world. We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries. Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe.
Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make. We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability. We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability. For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.
President Obama pulled off this high profile speech without a “reset button” crisis, and for that, I think we can all be grateful; but of course, I have some concerns with what I found tucked in between his carefully placed soundbites.
What worries me isn’t his declaration that we aren’t at war with Islam (we aren’t,) or that we have a humanitarian duty to help countries less fortunate than ours (we do,) but his incorporation of transnational legal theory—albeit in bits and pieces—to bolster these ideas.
International norms govern behavior in general, but what we’ve seen from Barack Obama, his backers, and his Administration officials is something beyond general governance. They use buzzwords and references to faith in institutions as soft reenforcement of the idea that to create order from chaos, we need to first create an international ecosystem of rules, norms, and universal enforcement that is above criticism or dissent.
The last thing that comes to my mind when I think of President Obama is “above criticism.”
You can read the full transcript here, via the Washington Post.DONATE
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