The Politics of Evil: At UN Speech, Barack Obama Channels His Inner George W. Bush Barack Obama


Obama at the U.N.

Every year, heads of state from around the world descend on New York City for a United Nations summit. Over the course of several days, presidents and prime ministers take to the podium to address their colleagues and, they like to think, the globe. Since 9/11, the U.S. president has generally used the late September speech to make the case for a war on terror. Although the Obama Administration prominently dropped the usage of the term "war on terror," it continued the strategies and actions that that term defined.

Earlier this week the U.S. began to bomb ISIS targets in Syria, an extension of an anti-ISIS campaign launched in Iraq. So the president's speech at the UN today focused on the airstrikes in Syria and the wider campaign against ISIS, a self-styled Islamic State.

President Obama called ISIS a "network of death," arguing that "there can be no reasoning,  no negotiation, with this brand of evil." In making the case for the anti-ISIS campaign President Obama has adopted the language George W. Bush deployed when first formulating the war on terror. "We face a brand of evil, the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time in the world," President Bush told airline employees on September 27, 2001. Later, he would place Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in an "axis of evil," a term that coud've been ripped from a comic book.

Bush was a fan of using the word "evil" to describe Islamist terrorists, and it shouldn't be surprising that President Obama has found the strong, unequivocal, and emotional word useful in defending the anti-ISIS campaign. ISIS has played into the characterization too, embracing it. It's hard to argue a bunch of nuts trying to start a government in the desert through a religiously-motivated campaign of mass murder aren't evil. They fit the definition pretty well. But U.S. foreign policy shouldn't, and can't, be about extinguishing evil the world over. Liberals seemed to understand that, or pretended they did, when George W. Bush was president. This week they're not protesting yet another unconstitutional war launched by an imperial executive. No. Instead, they're protesting climate change capitalism.


NEXT: Obama on ISIS: Nothing to Do But Kill Them All

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  1. But Global Warming Climate Change is the greatest crisis of our time! We must put a stop to the constant fluctuation of the climate between warm and cold periods that has been happening for millions of years!


    1. And we have to protect one of the most precious of all our treasures: the stable seasons God gave us.

      From activists to entrepreneurs, from investors to working men and women — together we will build new, modern, and clean energy, industrial, and transportation systems. — Al Gore…..-text.html

      1. What in the holy fuck? Do these people not have access to the Farmer’s Almanac? Stable seasons my hairy ass.

        1. It. Is. A. Religion.

          1. As it was in the forward of Earth in the Balance, is now and ever shall be. World without Season Change, amen, amen.


      Is it better than ISIS?

  2. Bush was lucky to still have Chavez, Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il around, at least they were an “identifiable” enemy.

  3. But U.S. foreign policy shouldn’t, and can’t, be about extinguishing evil the world over. Liberals seemed to understand that, or pretended they did, when George W. Bush was president. This week they’re not protesting yet another unconstitutional war launched by an imperial executive. No. Instead, they’re protesting climate change capitalism.

    Hypocritical? Maybe. But I hate this type of argument. Because it’s used against libertarians all the time. Often it’s used against Reason. The old, “This week Reason is championing marijuana legalization efforts meanwhile ignoring the pedophile ring in England.”

    I agree that Liberals are ignoring Obama’s war, but they were still protesting global warming and capitalism, even when George W. Bush was waging war.

    1. I think the real issue for many of us is that it is almost as if they have a list of issues that irritate us and they appear to be checking them off in order. For a bit of time, I kept telling myself that at least we weren’t likely to plunge into another suspicious war with no definitive end point and therefore no hope of victory. Uggh…I just hope that’s the last thing on their crazy ass list.

    2. In the past, we would have seen anti-war protesters and climate change protesters at the same time. It would not be improper to point out that the current scarcity of leftist anti-war protesters shows their hypocrisy. Furthermore, the way these Progressive alliances work, anti-war and climate change protesters should be supporting each other and protesting both issues, along with LGBT groups and other allies.

  4. The notion of evil is a silly fallacy. What’s the point in labeling ISIS ‘evil’ if the prevents you from understanding their grievances and historical context, and then precludes you from negotiating with them in the future, especially after it has established a state?

    1. Can’t tell if serious or….

        1. Send me the bill.

        2. Got me too. I should avoid certain other comment boards. Parody here is solemn pronouncement there.

    2. You know what else prevents you from understanding their grievances and historical context? Claiming that a movement run by an imam with a PhD calling for a literalist orthodox Islamic state has nothing to do with Islam.

      1. Well, who is more qualified to comment on what is Islam? An imam with a PhD calling for a literalist orthodox Islamic state, or Obama?

        1. You didn’t hear? He’s not just a constitutional scholar anymore, he’s also a Koran and Haditha scholar now.

          1. Obama is perfectly comfortable in this new role, because words mean precisely what he wants them to mean. It is literally impossible for Obama to misinterpret Islamic texts even though they are written in 7th century C.E. Arabic, a language that he cannot read.

    3. “Established a state”?

      That would have to be ratified by other nations and from what I read I don’t think Arab countries would be too quick to do so either.

      For its part, Turkey would never allow a terrorist network (as they’ve said publicly) to become a state. Probably not even Iran.

      As for the rest, I don’t believe it’s a silly fallacy necessarily. Nazis were evil in my view. It’s pretty easy to conclude ISIS is evil – for me anyway.

      What grievances (legitimate ones) do they have besides their ultimate state goal of setting up a world wide Caliphate?

      1. stated

      2. That would have to be ratified by other nations and from what I read I don’t think Arab countries would be too quick to do so either.

        International recognition is preferable but not necessary to statehood. The old saying “if it quacks like a duck…” would apply here. If it has a monopoly of taxation, law and/or judicial services, it’s a state. Though you can argue about the exact defining characteristics of a state, we can safely rule out “recognition by other states” as a prerequisite using logic alone.

        If there were a world state and therefore no other states to recognize it, does it cease to be a state?

        If the existence of a state requires other states to recognize it’s statehood, then how did the first state achieve statehood?

        1. Good point. Somaliland, Transnistria, and Nogorno-Karabach come to mind. Nobody else recognizes them yet they are clearly states. They fit the definition in all respects.

          Taiwan? Neither the US nor the UN recognize it.

          If a tree falls and everybody agrees to say “no, we did not see it fall”, does that mean it did not fall?

    4. Shwew. I thought when you said evil is a silly fallacy, you were going to go into moral relativism.

    5. Well you seem to have a problem with semantics. Evil is an applicable adjective that we can readily apply to such things as human sacrifice, murder, rape et cetera. If you don’t think “evil” real and that it’s an abstraction that’s perfectly fine, it is however an abstract descriptor used to describe real things. I mean you can call baby rape “superduper not preferable behavior” but “evil” is also a valid description, if not more so.

      “Evil will always triumph because good, is dumb.”

  5. Has somebody notified the NYPD that there’s some black guy traveling with an armed posse on the loose in NYC making inflammatory statements and inciting violence?

    1. I think the LAPD would actually get on a plane to make that arrest.

    2. (If it helps, I can produce pictures of said black guy smoking dope so you’ve got reasonable suspicion if not probable cause.)

  6. Fear sells to the stupid majority.

  7. Good thing that the intelligent people all realized what a war monger McCain is and voted against him back in ’08.

    1. Oh man. If McCain were president you can bet we’d be in all sorts of military engagements all over the world. Hell, we’d probably be fighting a full scale war with Russia in Ukraine right now.

        1. Slight update: This time we meet the Chinese in Turkmenistan.

      1. Yeah, McCain was a special breed of warboner psycho. Obama and Romney foreign policies might look largely the same, but McCain fashioned himself a modern day TR and would’ve bombed the world over just so the shriveled old man could get a semi-chub.

        1. *Yeah, McCain was a special breed of warboner psycho. *

          With such soaring rhetoric as this, it’s a wonder why the Libertarian Party isn’t winning supermajorities all over these United States.

      2. Maybe. And maybe his warmongering would be so front and center in the public consciousness due to Team Blue and it’s Mighty Media Machine that he would have to temper his violent impulses.

    2. McCain’s been backing Obama’s foreign policy throughout this entire presidency. The only thing i think would be different had McCain won is we wouldn’t have Obamacare.

  8. “there can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil.”

    Did he just call ISIS The Terminator?

    1. +1 Listen, and understand. That evil organization is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

  9. Are progressives sputtering all over themselves right now?

    Are they just ignoring all of this?

    I guess the establishment Republicans aren’t about to complain about Obama acting like Bush either…

    And this really is like during the Bush Administration in terms of the opposition, too. Just like the Democrats quietly rubber stamped everything the Bush Administration wanted to do back then, are the Republicans in Congress all about being loyal and nothing about being opposition?

    I guess Rand Paul can’t oppose the Republican establishment until he seals up the nomination, but I hope some kind of opposition materializes before then. Where are all those grass roots anti-war people that swept Obama into the White House? Don’t they care about that stuff anymore?

    1. What we’re learning is that cognitive dissonance can be cured by ignorance. If you ignore new information, then it can’t hurt you.

      1. I just looked up Cindy Sheehan again. I guess she’s been highly critical of Obama’s foreign policy, too…

        Now that she’s served her purpose, I guess the progressives don’t give a shit about her anymore.

        1. Yeah Code Pink is still going crazy over this shit. The difference is that the media strangely doesn’t think their dissent noteworthy any more.

          1. Funny how that works.

        2. The Democrat “progressives” threw her under the bus years ago. Just as they did with Karen Kwaitowski and Adam Kokesh.

          When it cones to warmongering, Democrats have always been worse than Republicans. It is possible to cherry pick exceptions, the 1860s come to mind, and *very* arguably 1972, but that’s about it.

    2. I guess the establishment Republicans aren’t about to complain about Obama acting like Bush either…

      I’ll at least give the mainstream GOPers credit for consistency. While I still obviously think they’re wrong, it’s nonetheless appreciated that they may be consistently wrong for reasons of misguided principle than waver between wrong and right depending on the principal undertaking an action.

      1. That kind of consistency may not serve those of us who want to see Rand Paul win their nomination for president.

        And I’m not sure being consistently wrong is better than sometimes being wrong and sometimes being right.

        I sure as hell don’t give the progressives any credit for being consistently wrong about capitalism.

        1. It may be hard to believe, but Democrats have occasionally been more free market oriented than Republicans. For example, deregulation of the trucking and airline industries was largely a Democrat initiative. I’m pretty sure Ted Kennedy was sponsor of legislation to deregulate. The Teamsters were naturally opposed to deregulation. Since they supported the GOP in the 70s, the Democrats felt free to ignore them.

    3. Are progressives sputtering all over themselves right now?/

      There’s an air of impotent rage at Daily Kos. A sort of sense that this isn’t what they voted for.

      1. Except with the blockquote fixed.

  10. He’s really cramming all that Hope and Change down our throats.

    1. Hope and Regime Change!

  11. In his UN speech Obama praised America “Because we fight for our ideals”, which was precisely why he condemned ISIL.

    Ideals don’t mean shit unless they are the right ideals. Obama should have spelled out the ideals he likes, and contrasted those with the aspects of Islam that he finds objectionable in the orthodox Sunni version that ISIL represents. Instead, he condemned ISIL’s tactics, even though they are quite compatible with, and in some cases prescribed by, the “founding documents” of orthodox Sunni Islam. Tactics, strategy, objectives, and ideals are different things.

    ISIL Ideals = Orthodox Sunni Islam (of the Wahhabi variety sponsored by our friends, the Saudis)

    ISIL Objective = Ideal Caliphate

    ISIL Strategy = Make the enemy kill himself. Worked for the USSR; USA is next. Bankrupt the Western infidels, and destroy the confidence of people in their state and religious institutions.

    ISIL Tactics = Terrorism by a growing number of Sunnis who become convinced that this US-led coalition of infidels and apostates poses an existential threat to Islam.

    1. Sure, ISIL are brutal, and that their behavior is outrageous. It is a bunch of medieval religious zealots acting out on a genuine expression of orthodox Sunni Islam with relatively modern weaponry. However, that’s par for the course in that part of the world. Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian organizations, Hezbollah, the Assad family, the Hussein family, the Hashemite kings, the Ayatollahs, the Sykes-Picot imperial powers, Turkey, and the US/Saudi alliance have all engaged in outrageous actions in the region that should properly be classified as either crimes against humanity or war crimes. All of them. The only thing that is peculiar about ISIL is that it deliberately advertised its crimes to provoke the US in particular, knowing full-well that the US would respond as reliably as Pavlov’s dogs. ISIL did this in the hope that the US will intervene militarily, which proves their point that the existing state structure in the region is not genuinely Islamic, that it is a corruption of Sunni Islam that will ally with atheists, crusaders, infidels, and Shi’ites to oppose the genuine, orthodox Sunni model offered by ISIL. The logical conclusion of that is that true Sunni Islam faces an existential threat from the US crusaders and its puppet states in the region, and that it is the responsibility of all Muslims to mount a resistance. This is a strong argument to Muslims everywhere who hold the Wahhabi worldview, which to some extent is held by all observant Sunnis.

  12. Bush was a fan of using the word “evil” to describe Islamist terrorists, and it shouldn’t be surprising that President Obama has found the strong, unequivocal, and emotional word useful in defending the anti-ISIS campaign.

    I can’t say I mind that someone is describing them as evil. Because they are.

  13. Let’s terrorize the terrorists. Great idea! Wish I’d thought of it, like the Jews.

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