Naïveté

You know what I love about the British? The accent.

You can tell someone that their house just burned down, their daughter’s knocked up, and there’s $100 missing from their wallet. But if you do it with a snappy British accent and in the Queen’s English* it seems incredibly palatable.**

I also love the fact that the UK has a penchant for not sugar coating things. Take, for instance, this report on the Pres1dent’s speech to the UN.

In fact human rights issues were strikingly downplayed in Obama’s address, which is not surprising since they are rarely on the radar screen of this administration. Nor did the words liberty or freedom feature prominently. This was a speech designed to appease opinion in a world body in which full democracies make up only a minority of its members.

Was this though Obama’s most naïve speech ever? It is a very strong candidate, but I think there is intense competition for that accolade. The president’s speeches in Cairo, Strasbourg and Prague would all vie for that title. Still, his address today will go down in history as one of the weakest major addresses by a US president on foreign policy in a generation, by a leader who seems embarrassed, even ashamed, by the power and greatness of his own country.

This was an exceedingly dull, poor speech that overwhelmingly failed to advance US interests on the world stage, or project American values and principles onto the rest of the globe. As Barack Obama will eventually discover, soft power will only get you so far when you have to confront and defeat brutal enemies that seek America’s destruction.

Nicely put, old chap!!

* The Queen’s English being a strikingly more formal version than American. It seems almost apologetic, even when they’re telling you to piss off.
** At the Staff College, we always made the Brit or Aussie open the practice new conferences. “Hey man, bad news always sounds better with an accent!”

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5 Responses to Naïveté

  1. Niall says:

    This guy lost me when he denies the US under Bush ever condoned torture. It is an established fact, documented exhaustively, that the Bush administration did in fact condone torture. That’s not even an open question anymore.

    So if this guy can’t face reality on that very important subject, then I doubt his appraisal of Obama’s speech is going to be particularly reality based.

  2. fastnav says:

    It’s documented extensively that the Bush administration condoned acts that are considered torture by many people.

    I think the point being made here is that the President’s speech implies that Bush said “Hell yes, torture is good to go.” Which is not true, they tried to hide behing legal definitions and the like.

    It’s not as clear cut as we’d like to think.

  3. Niall says:

    But isn’t that a distinction without a difference? To condone torture de facto, even if in public you’re lying about that fact, is still condoning torture. Right?

    However, if the guy had put it the way do, I wouldn’t think so badly of him.

    I think he’s coming from the old Bush space, where the US can tell the rest of the world to fuck off, and any attempt to actually work with other countries is a sign of weakness, blah blah blah. I think Obama is just trying to reset America’s image at the UN, in the hope of getting some much needed cooperation on issues important to us. Cooperation that we now need because (a) we’re broke and (b) our military is stretched way too thin around the world.

    That’s the irony. It’s Bush’s stupid, failed policies that have turned us into a supplicant at the UN. That’s hardly Obama’s fault.

  4. fastnav says:

    “But isn’t that a distinction without a difference? To condone torture de facto, even if in public you’re lying about that fact, is still condoning torture. Right?”

    I agree. But what the article is saying is that Bush never said “We condone torture.” So for Obama to come out and say “I’ve stated we won’t condone torture any longer” is a bit disingenuous. Just keeping strictly to the world of rhetoric, not the intentions behind the words.

    on the sign of weakness point, I don’t think the idea was that working with other countries is a sign of weakness, it’s that working with other countries is a tedious process and (as we see in Afghanistan) other countries don’t always do their part, so we’ll go it alone if we have to in the name of progress.

    But you’re right, we’re broke and stretched thin.

  5. Niall says:

    We need to get our asses out of Afghanistan, that’s for sure.

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