George Bush has just finished addressing the UN General Assembly. Poor Dubya. He should have paid more attention to his Dad who actually had a few diplomatic skills (although who could forget this incident). Dubya however has never quite been able to get the tone right. It’s a pity because there were some important ideas in the speech (read here). In particular the speech was grounded in the idea of the dignity and value of all human life and the responsibilities attendant with that belief (something we’ve written about before). This–as Bush pointed–out has important implications for the international community in responding to the global AIDS crisis, genocide in Sudan, and development in general.
Unfortunately Bush’s speech suffered from numerous problems including:
* his determination to categorize everything (Iraq, Afghanistan, and all terrorist attacks) as part of the global war on terror (analytically weak and misleading)
* the massive gulf between his words and his actions (for eg. only $350 million of Bush’s much vaunted $15 billion to combat AIDS has actually been dispersed, and how he plans to spend the rest is a disaster — read here)
* his Orwellian spin about progress in Afghanistan and Iraq (commentators are referring to the “two Iraqs” — the one Bush talks about and the one the rest of the world is seeing on the news every night)
And then of course there’s the “Bush problem”. In the 3 short years since 9/11 Bush has managed to squander the goodwill of the world and alienate much of the international community (check out <a href="http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Pres_Election_04/html/new_9_08_04.html
“>this poll). This time 2 years ago Bush fronted the UNGA and declared that Saddam had WMD and that the UN had to act immediately. Today–in accordance with his usual “no-retreat-no-apology” approach–he offered not even the slightest diplomatic acknowledgement of the Iraq debacle.
And this is the problem. As we’ve been arguing (read here), the world desperately needs some good leadership right now. Bush’s credibility however is shot. Indeed, as the broadcast wrapped up, I couldn’t help but think how revealing the footage of this mornings event was of Bush’s approach to the UN. The news channels showed Bush rolling up just in time for his speech, and leaving the minute it was over. In and out. Obviously he’s has got a lot on at the moment, but it’s unfortunately one of those pictures that’s worth a thousand words.
[Posted by David Madden]