Bush at the United Nations

George W. Bush took to the podium at the United Nations today buoyed by a 44 percent approval rating and a growing sense that the Republicans might just survive the mid-terms – but also three-quarters of an hour late. (It somehow says it all about the United Nations that, even on the first morning of ...

607028_BushUN5.jpg
607028_BushUN5.jpg

George W. Bush took to the podium at the United Nations today buoyed by a 44 percent approval rating and a growing sense that the Republicans might just survive the mid-terms - but also three-quarters of an hour late. (It somehow says it all about the United Nations that, even on the first morning of speeches to the General Assembly, it is running behind schedule).

The address was delivered in a more circumspect manner than some of his previous remarks to the General Assembly. The message, though, was the same: There's a great ideological struggle between freedom-loving moderates and violence-loving extremists and the world needs to pick sides. In a nice touch, Bush used the United Nations' own Universal Declaration on Human Rights—written by a Lebanese citizen—to make the point that all human beings deserve to live in liberty. But Bush did seem to make a concession to pragmatism with the line that "[e]very nation that travels the road to freedom moves at a different pace."

Much of the speech was given over to talking directly to the people of the Muslim world. The Iran section, in which he stressed the United States' "respect" for Iran and its history and culture and that it had "no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program," was well crafted. It was also smart to try and tap into Iranian discontent over the dire economic situation and the amount of money Ahmadinejad is funneling to Hezbollah.

George W. Bush took to the podium at the United Nations today buoyed by a 44 percent approval rating and a growing sense that the Republicans might just survive the mid-terms – but also three-quarters of an hour late. (It somehow says it all about the United Nations that, even on the first morning of speeches to the General Assembly, it is running behind schedule).

The address was delivered in a more circumspect manner than some of his previous remarks to the General Assembly. The message, though, was the same: There’s a great ideological struggle between freedom-loving moderates and violence-loving extremists and the world needs to pick sides. In a nice touch, Bush used the United Nations’ own Universal Declaration on Human Rights—written by a Lebanese citizen—to make the point that all human beings deserve to live in liberty. But Bush did seem to make a concession to pragmatism with the line that “[e]very nation that travels the road to freedom moves at a different pace.”

Much of the speech was given over to talking directly to the people of the Muslim world. The Iran section, in which he stressed the United States’ “respect” for Iran and its history and culture and that it had “no objection to Iran’s pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program,” was well crafted. It was also smart to try and tap into Iranian discontent over the dire economic situation and the amount of money Ahmadinejad is funneling to Hezbollah.

The harshest language, though, was reserved not for the Iranian regime, but the Syrians. More after the JUMP.

Bush announced to the Syrian people that their government was turning them into “a tool of Iran.” On Israel/Palestine, Bush took the opportunity to reiterate his support for a two-state solution, calling it “one of the great objectives of my presidency.” Bush was strong on Darfur, calling it “genocide” and announcing a new presidential envoy, Andrew Natsios. We shall, though, have to wait and see if this brings about any real improvements on the ground.

Summing up the United States’ position, Bush proclaimed that “our country desires peace” and that “[w]e respect Islam but we will protect our people from those who pervert Islam to sow death and destruction.” Expect to hear the word “protect” as many times between now and November as we’ll hear “respect” at Turtle Bay this week.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.