Astride the World
September 26, 2011
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published September 26, 2011 in The Washington Times.
Rodney King showed up at the United Nations on Wednesday and instructed everyone there to, well, get along.
Actually, it was Barack Obama, but his message was the same as the one from the man whose beating by police (after a 117-mph car chase) triggered the Los Angeles riots of 1992 when the cops were acquitted.
During the riot, Mr. King came out and famously said, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all just get along?”
The topic at the U.N. was Mr. Obama’s wish for the Palestinians and Israelis to be at peace in two nations, side by side. Meanwhile, the Security Council was considering recognizing an independent Palestinian state.
But the real message seemed to be Mr. Obama’s taking the dais as king of the world. He touched on every theme imaginable to make “our children” happy, wealthy and wise. He talked about curing various diseases; stopping war and climate change; advancing science, prosperity and, yes, even homosexual rights, throwing in a line suited to a fundraiser in San Francisco.
Of course, with his converting the U.S. military into the largest homosexual-sensitivity training unit in history this week, why should we be surprised?
Mr. Obama spoke as if the interests of the world were the same as those of the United States. He stroked the attendees repeatedly, reminding them of the U.N.’s importance and noting that “the United Nations helped avert a third world war.”
Actually, it was the United States’ nuclear deterrent and expenditure of blood and treasure around the world that set the stage for Ronald Reagan’s call to “tear down” the Berlin Wall and free Eastern Europe from Soviet tyranny.
Noting that he inherited two wars, and without crediting his predecessor, Mr. Obama boasted of knocking off the “violent extremist” Osama bin Laden and setting “a new direction”: “The tide of war is receding. When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline.”
Mr. Obama eloquently recounted Sept. 11, 2001, and went on to observe that “this has been a difficult decade. But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace. To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution.”
It might, indeed, have been rude to remind the U.N. delegates how much they have depended on America over the years, but Mr. Obama went overboard by implying that everyone is equally dedicated to freedom.
Another snippet: “So this has been a remarkable year. The Gadhafi regime is over. [Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent] Gbagbo, [Tunisian President Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali, [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak are no longer in power. Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him.”
Stirring stuff. But if violence is no longer necessary, why did Mr. Obama send jets to pound Col. Gadhafi’s forces in Libya?
Here’s more: “Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way that they will be.” He stopped short of promising that the oceans would cease rising and the planet would heal.
Solomon wrote nearly 3,000 years ago, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
The idea that people are basically good and would share and live in peace if only the right system would come along is an enduring human conceit, revealed as a lie in the horrors inflicted by communism. It’s not that people don’t have admirable qualities, but no one ever had to teach a child how to misbehave.
Taming our natural bent toward vices takes a lifetime and divine intervention. In the case of people who mean to do evil, the only solution is force. Nations, which are composed of people, will break treaties the minute it is in their interest to do so.
In discussing prospects for peace in the Middle East, Mr. Obama strongly asserted America’s commitment to Israel while noting Palestinians’ desires. But he did some pipe-dreaming as well: “The deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other’s shoes; each side can see the world through the other’s eyes.” It would help if Hamas rewrote its charter to remove the part about eliminating Israel. It’s hard to stand in someone’s shoes while advocating their owner’s violent death.
What Mr. Obama hails as a universal longing for human rights is a fairly recent Western invention. As America’s founders explained, we deserve rights only because we are created in the image of God, and we have laws because we are not angels.
Around the world, the idea of individual human rights took root precisely where Christianity penetrated cultures. It took root at the U.N. when it adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
The declaration mirrors many rights in our Constitution but also incorporates fuzzy utopianism, such as each person’s “social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality” and the right “to enjoy the arts.” This kind of stuff creeps in when you let Eleanor Roosevelt call the shots.
Upon reflection, instead of Rodney King, it would be better to compare Mr. Obama to Jack Dawson, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character who, standing on the Titanic’s bow, declared himself “king of the world.” Massive government debt is, of course, the iceberg.
Much of Mr. Obama’s speech touched on positive developments, such as peace in Northern Ireland, the birth of South Sudan and optimism over the Arab Spring. Overall, it was an upper.
But while he is practiced speaking for the entire world, it would be nice if Mr. Obama spoke on behalf of the United States once in a while.