President Bush’s speech before the United Nations was literally terrifying. He mentioned “terror” (or “terrorists” or “terrorism”) 32 times, “extremists” 7 times, and “tyranny” 4 times. “Millennium Development Goals, “climate change,” and “environment,” did not merit a single reference. “Disease” got 3 mentions, while “poverty” and “education’ each got 2. “Health” got 1.
The imbalance in the President’s approach to the world is stunning. This is the week, after all, in which the world leaders have assembled at the United Nations to ensure the success of the Millennium Development Goals, now at their halfway mark to 2015. This is the year in which progress in climate change was to be made in advance of a planned Copenhagen Protocol next year.
It is this relentless disregard for the concerns of the rest of the world that has sent the U.S. into its biggest tailspin in modern history. The U.S. stands alone, diplomatically, financially, and politically. Or more accurately, the world feels the brunt of U.S. neglect, whether its neglect of poverty reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, or financial market regulation.
The U.S. Government willfully ignores, or seems to be unaware, of its own commitments in these areas. After all, the U.S. Government committed in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002 (with Bush present), to make concrete efforts to reach 0.7 percent of GNP in official development assistance. The U.S. Government committed in Rio in 1992 (with Bush’s father present) to stabilize greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference.
One might have thought that with miserable economic mismanagement by the Bush Administration now threatening the entire global economy, Bush might have been slightly more attuned to the needs and concerns of the rest of the world.
He might have offered his good offices to address common problems. But we should know better by now. For that approach we will have to await the next Administration, and indeed hope for the best.
America’s ill-conceived and even worse-implemented “war on terror” has actually stoked terror while leaving neglected the very basic factors – poverty, famine, bulging populations, financial plunder – that have done so much to foment global instability.