Obama vs. Sovereignty

An angry Obama delivered a Tony Blair style diatribe against the principle of sovereignty, with the tone of Dick Cheney to the United Nations General Assembly, in which he threatened that the UN is being put to the test of whether it is up today’s challenges, where conflicts within nations have to be addressed, and “yes, sometimes” —at this point clenching his fist and almost banging it on the table before he recovered some control— ‘multilateral military force may be required.’ The centerpiece of his speech was laying out his policy towards North Africa and the Middle East, in the context of answering the questions of how to respond to conflicts within countries; role of force in answering threats; and role of UN an international law in meeting cries for justice. Here is a brief overview:

  • 1. Syria: Assad’s principal allies cite principle of sovereignty to protect him. It is an “insult to human reason and this body” to insist anyone but Assad used Chemical Weapons. Without a credible military threat, no agreement would have happened, and there must be a strong UNSC resolution which must include “consequences” if the Chemical Weapon agreement is not adhered to. If we can’t agree even on this, it will show the UN is worthless. Political track is great but it is time for Russia and Iran to recognize their policies are creating grounds for extremism. Resolution can’t include a leader who gassed his own people.
  • 2. I’m going to outline what has been and will be my policy until the end of my term: a). We are prepared to use everything, including military force, to secure our interest in region, including free flow of energy; b). We will dismantle terrorist networks vigorously. [drones] c). “wherever possible,” (!) we will protect sovereignty, BUT we will take action where necessary. d). Reject development of WMD, specifying nuclear
  • 3. Focus going forward on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and Israeli-Palestinian peace. Iran: Again, prefer to resolve peacefully, but, statements by Supreme Leader and Rouhani should give basis for agreement, but words must have verifiable actions. Diplomatic path must be tested. Kerry instructed to do so.
  • 4. Obama then went into a defense of his response to the Arab Spring, with Egypt showcased: that we won’t chose sides between the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and a transitional regime. “Although we will be wary of using military force to impose democracy,” we will not stop asserting our principles and wil will be engaged in North Africa and the Middle East. The biggest danger is not American empire, but American disengagement. “I believe America is exceptional,” willing to stand for the interests of all.
  • 5. Obama concluded with a defense of Tony Blair’s ‘Right to Protect’ doctrine, including the statement that ‘is there anyone who believes that Libya would be better off under Qaddafi? Even though, yes, we lost Chris Stevens… Sovereignty cannot be an excuse for the international community to not take action.’

Then he went into the above-mentioned almost-fist-banging routine, but stopped short of taking off his shoe and banging it on the podium.

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