I’m hoping Sameer will be able to confirm or deny this, but my guess is that President Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly this morning was met by a chorus of yawns. At a moment when he most needed to show his willingness to recommit to international institutions and robust multilateral cooperation, he gave us more of the same. And, in case you haven’t followed the previous six Bush addresses to the General Assembly, “the same” has been almost all bad and a little good (the little good being promises to reduce agricultural subsidies and commitments to do more on poverty and health).
The only new commitment President Bush announced this year was tighter sanctions on Myanmar.
Notably, Bush had the nerve to admonish the UN to “live up to its promise to promptly deploy peacekeeping forces to Darfur.” Meanwhile, the U.S. is in arrears of over $600 million to the UN for peacekeeping and President Bush’s FY08 budget, if adopted without changes, would raise our debt for peacekeeping by an additional $1 billion.
The most interesting aspect of Bush’s speech was what he didn’t say.
He managed to get through the entire speech without once mentioning climate change. Given that Secretary-General Ban has organized this General Assembly around the issue of climate change — and Bush himself is hosting a competing summit of “major economies” on climate change later this week — the omission is huge.
The other big surprise was the absence of saber-rattling on Iran. Bush mentioned Iran once in the context of oppressive regimes, but there was no talk of Iran’s nuclear program or the threat it poses to international peace and security. Nothing in here to suggest a rationale for going to war. For comparison, check out Bush’s 2002 speech. It’s all Iraq, all the time.
This could mean one of two things. Option 1: President Bush want to give diplomacy a chance and decided that this General Assembly was the wrong place for charged rhetoric. Option 2: President Bush and his team have already decided to take military action against Iran and don’t want to waste time explaining it to the UN.
I sure hope it’s option 1.
— Scott Paul