The opening days of the United Nations’ General Assembly debate were unusually entertaining last week. Americans heard Iran’s militant Islamic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rant about the evils of Zionism and Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chavez refer to President George W. Bush as the “devil.” Such colorful discussions among world leaders don’t take place every day.
These are leaders of relatively large and influential nations, and the otherworldly ideas they espoused served the purpose of reminding viewers that there are no easy answers to international problems. Whatever one thinks of America’s oftentimes hubristic foreign policy, this confab should remind us that peaceful international relations cannot be achieved simply by getting leaders together to “talk.”
Ahmadinejad might be shrewd and wily, as some observers say, but it’s hard not to be concerned about the effect of his nation acquiring nuclear weapons, given his support for Islamic militant movements such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Iranian leader called for the United Nations to include in its Security Council the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an organization of 57 states formed in 1969 to strengthen Islamic solidarity.
Many member states, such as Yemen, actively support terrorists. Giving them a seat would not be much different from giving Osama bin Laden a seat at the U.N.
Chavez’s talk had that retro feel to it, reminding us of the days when the Soviet Union was funding revolutionary movements in Central and South America. The Venezuelan government doesn’t pose any threat to the United States or most anyone else these days, but it is a large oil-producing nation on which America has come to depend. The annoyance factor is relatively high.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan gave his last major address as U.N. chief before he retires, and it successfully encapsulated the many half-truths and fantasies embodied in mainstream U.N. thinking. He, too, blamed many of the world’s problems on Israel’s “occupation,” though Israel has pulled out of most of the so-called occupied territories.
Even President Bush’s speech was a yawner, filled with the usual “peace and freedom” platitudes.
All this took place against a backdrop of back-room diplomacy in which the United States and France tried to cobble together a consistent position on what to do about Iranian nuclear developments. The Iranians seemed willing to negotiate here, but as American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin wrote in the Wall Street Journal, the Iranian regime “will say and do anything to buy the time necessary to acquire nuclear capability.”
There’s no great lesson we take away from the meeting, except to be reminded that the world is a crazy place, and gathering together its leaders only reinforces that reality.