One would think that an appearance by a president of the United States before the United Nations General Assembly would afford an unequalled opportunity for our Chief Executive to lay it on the line: to inform that august body that its chief financier and host was no longer going to tolerate the kind of graft, corruption or venality of office which had become the hallmark of the institution ; that it would reject entirely the leadership of its Human Rights Council which is led by the most vile abusers of human rights on the planet and mocks the form of human dignity the U.N. was created to protect and enshrine; that its obsession with the Arab-Israeli conflict and its inexhaustible demonization of the Jewish state has rendered it blind to the multiple depredations of other member states in flashpoints around the globe; that is has failed, signally, to address the plight of millions of women throughout the world who live shackled by primitive rituals and social standards that enforce a form of slavery; that its willingness to be admonished by tyrants and murderers who speak the soft language of peace and justice while exhibiting no interest whatsoever in embracing either – all would have been concepts that one would expect might travel the distance from thought to words and form the bedrock of an American president’s speech.
But if you had listened to Barack Obama’s address to the United Nations on Wednesday morning, you would have heard none of these things. Nor would you have heard him fervently advocate for the benefits of democracy, the value of a free enterprise system, the social imperatives of bolstering the traditional family unit as the touchstone for civilizational survival, and the necessity for the West to arrest the alarming decline of birth rates in most developed countries.
Instead you would have heard the 44th President mouth meaningless platitudes about global cooperation; insistent admonishments about global warming and climate change; you would heard apologies for American conduct on at least three occasions and an address to the Palestinians as worthy of the bestowal of statehood, (ignoring their continuing refusal to recognize a neighboring state’s right to exist).
Those of us who have come to view the proceedings of the United Nations with a jaundiced eye, dismissing its meaningless resolutions and proceedings as little more than a theater of the absurd, must see in Barack Obama’s new form of engagement, not a signal of his statesmanship, but rather as evidence of a hapless naivety about the world’s realities. The failure to grasp that the United States stands, almost alone, as a bulwark against civilizational collapse while its allies surrender to moral relativism, multicultural doctrine and defeatism can only lead us to hang our heads in utter dismay.
The president did as much as he could within the bounds of decency to distance himself from the policies and legacy of his predecessor. But the Obama Administration’s rejection of Bush unilateralism ( which is a conceit belied by the U.N’s endorsement of the Afghan War and the fact that the Iraq War was joined by over 35 countries in an international coalition) fails to grasp that the former Administration’s impatience with a multilateral approach was the culmination of over half a century of the failure of such statecraft. Since the early 1970s, the United Nations has been hijacked by special interests and been transformed into a bully pulpit for radicals and tyrants and a mouthpiece for a rabid form of antisemitism. A succession of Administrations sought to restore balance to the institution, only to see their efforts defeated by an alliance of Muslim states and third world nations who used the United Nations as an effective club to wield against the developed world.
This week it fell to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, to stand courageously for Western values and ideals, where Obama would or could not. In identifying the rise of fundamentalist Islam as the greatest threat to Western civilization, Netanyahu encapsulated, better than any other speaker before or after him, the true threats faced by the West:
“The primitivism of the 9th century,” he declared, “ ought to be no match for the progress of the 21st century. The allure of freedom, the power of technology, the reach of communications should surely win the day. Ultimately, the past cannot triumph over the future. And the future offers all nations magnificent bounties of hope. The pace of progress is growing exponentially.”
“This conflict,” he added, “ pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death.”
In those words Netanyahu made clear that the threats to Israel from Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah are not simply threats to the State of Israel, but to all countries who seek to uphold human dignity and seek to preserve and protect hard won human freedoms.
Why these words appeared only in the speech of the prime minister of a tiny nation on the shores of the Mediterranean and were not spoken or even alluded to by the leader of the Western world, might be a question for historians to ponder.
But for now that silence seems to augur a period in which Western civilization will be without an effective leader or spokesman. It will be bereft of the kind of advocacy that affirms the value of democracy, the worth of free enterprise, the fragility of human freedom and the necessity for all nations who seek to preserve these hard won assets, to stand defiantly and resolutely united in their defense..