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Obama- The Cold Logic of Mass Graves

US President Barack ObamaUS President Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 24 should rank as a rare breath of fresh air in a body that for decades has been accustomed mostly to rant and rhetoric.

Obama spoke truth to power in a refreshingly frank and painstaking manner.  Given the turmoil that exists in the Middle East his remarks on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict received the most media attention.  Important though those remarks are, President Obama said a lot more to which the world should be paying keen attention.

Of particular significance are his remarks about policing the world and protecting people from conflicts both across borders and within territorial boundaries.  While the US is accused of intervening in the affairs of States in pursuit of its own objectives, the President pointed out that “the danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries”. The danger is that the United States “may disengage creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill”. 

He sounded a warning that should not be ignored.  “When America’s core interests are not directly threatened we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights. But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone”. 

In the absence of a standing UN army that is empowered to intervene to stop wars between States and civil wars within them, the global community has looked to the US to use what he called “the sacrifice of its blood and its treasure” to stand up for the interests of all.  No other nation has shown itself able or willing to perform this crucial policing task without which many regions of the world would become increasingly unstable.

President Obama returned to the beliefs that he had set-out in his first campaign for the Presidency. He said: “Objectives can rarely be achieved through unilateral American action, particularly through military action.  These objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the (affected) region”.

But, he made it clear that his government was prepared to secure its “core interests” in the Middle-East including by using military force.  He identified core interests as external aggression against America’s allies; the free flow of energy to the world (though he stressed that the US is reducing its own dependence on imported oil); terrorist networks; and the development or use of weapons of mass destruction.  While he identified these as America’s core interests, they should also be the interests of all five veto-States of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and of responsible governments the world over.  In this regard, in an ideal world, the UNSC should act together to secure these interests. But jockeying for advantage over one another continues to dominate the actions of the veto-States and so stymies joint action and perpetuates conflicts in regions and States.

In less publicised aspects of his important speech, President Obama made the point that “sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye”.

In Syria, as Obama pointed out, as the country was exploding into sectarian violence and civil war, “the international community recognised the stakes early on, but the response has not matched the scale of the challenge”.

He asked the searching question: “Should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of (the atrocities in) Rwanda or Srebrenica”?  He answered his own question with a transfixing observation: “If that’s the world people want to live in, they should say so and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves”.

Obama declared in a haunting phrase:  “We live in a world of imperfect choices”. It is a phrase that assumes a compelling relevance in today’s world where there are fewer wars between States and more wars within States.  The UN was created to deal with the former, not the latter.  The notions of “sovereignty” and “non-interference in the internal affairs of States” have provided cover for opposing forces within States to slaughter innocent people including children while the world sits by as mere spectators. 

Increasingly, this is the issue that the United Nations will have to face in the future.  So far, it has done little but to sidestep it in UNSC and to ignore it in the UNGA. 

The world ought not to hold its breath for change in the UN to democratise the UNSC by getting rid of the veto powers of its five permanent members, or for an amendment to the Charter to expressly address dealing with conflicts and civil wars within States.  The vested interests of each of the five veto-States and their allies will ensure the continuing contradiction of an undemocratic process controlling a Charter that stipulates the pursuit of democracy as a core objective.

On September 24, Barack Obama carefully and conscientiously explained the grave dangers and the perilous pitfalls that confront the world in a way no contemporary world leader has even tried to do.  Did other leaders listen, and were they motivated to act?  That remains very doubtful. But whatever comes of his summons for a more peaceful, prosperous and just world, the international community is fortunate today to have Barack Obama as President of the globe’s still most powerful State.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean diplomat.

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8 Comments In This Article   

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still boggy

#8 joe grind » 2013-09-30 01:19

still boggy peak to me!
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joe grind

RE: Obama- The Cold Logic of Mass Graves

#7 J S » 2013-09-29 19:23

Talk is cheap. When Obama was presidential candidate he had so much chat on international relation and even talked about improving relation with Cuba.
Nothing has really changed. America is still the big, bad bully and gets its way everytime. Even the little pitance it owes Antigua it fails to pay.
Whether black wolf or white wolf, still a wolf in sheep's clothing.
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J S

Great people

#6 JD » 2013-09-29 18:39

Whatever great words a charismatic person might speak or write, be they a politician or sage or otherwise, the truth and reality of the person they are lies in their actions and sincerity.
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JD

SOCIALIST!

#5 joe grind » 2013-09-29 14:26

Tax the working class & give to the lazy, welfare, crack heads of America foundation. America is doomed with the uprising sit-back and collect a government check society. Soon there will be too many welfare checks goin out then working class people.

That is all I think of when I see him on the news.
Socialism - one step closer to communism.
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joe grind

The O.E.C.S. Charter was undermined Part 2

#4 King Court » 2013-09-29 11:51

Additionally, double "Sir" there was no external aggression, just political hypocrisy. In the same manner the UNSC vote to condemn the Grenada invasion was vetoed by the U.S. Three Caribbean countries used the O.E.C.S. charter and stood up against the policy of militarization. The O.E.C.S. Charter was hijacked by the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

The OECS Charter was not unanimous, so how did the U.S. manage to undermine the O.E.C.S Charter to invade a small Caribbean country by using the UNSC? And if there is no expected change regarding veto power, the powerful U.S. will continue along the path of political hegemony.
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King Court

The O.E.C.S. Charter was undermined Part 1

#3 King Court » 2013-09-29 11:47

Double "Sir" I agree the world is truly fortunate to have President Barrack Obama today. However, during ALPs reign your rage was surprisingly silent amidst many atrocities. There was approval for sending arms to the racist regime in South Africa, endorsing the Grenada invasion, and turning away from the Rwanda Genocides! In addition to U.S mining of Nicaraguan harbors, the suppression of human rights in Antigua & Barbuda, and the economic blockade of Cuba. There was no action on your part to stop these injustices.

Today, you talk about the UNSC, but forgot to mention that three Caribbean countries voted against the U.S. invasion of Grenada: St. Kitts & Nevis, Montserrat, and Grenada.

There was no external aggression, just political hypocrisy. In the same manner the UNSC vote to condemn the Grenada invasion was vetoed by the U.S.Three Caribbean countries had the O.E.C.S. charter and stood up against the policy of militarization. The O.E.C.S. Charter was hijacked by the U.S. invasion of Grenada.
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King Court

RE: Obama- The Cold Logic of Mass Graves

#2 Hegemony or survival » 2013-09-29 06:53

my understanding of his speech is that United States will intervene in other nations whenever and where ever its interests are at stake. I will bomb and assassinate leaders whenever doing so serves its interest with or without UN approval....... It will engineer and direct covert wars at will. Perhaps a study of the first 9/11 which took place 40 years ago will shed some insights to what Obama really meant to say
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Hegemony or survival

RE: Obama- The Cold Logic of Mass Graves

#1 NYC » 2013-09-29 06:22

However, BS brought some outdated cold war rants to the UN General Assembly in his speech.
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NYC

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Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on Small States in the global community.

 

 

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