Give People What They Want
Robert Mugabe, that irascible Big Man of Zimbabwe, was very disappointed with the just concluded 67th Session of the UN General Assembly. On arrival back in Harare from New York, he complained that issues of multilateralism and unilateralism were sidelined for listless statements that did not create real movement for the developing world. For instance, in Mr. Mugabe’s opinion, [U.S. President] Obama’s piece about his freshly slain ambassador to Libya did ‘nothing [that was] global, in terms of how the world should move in reforming the United Nations.’
Please pardon the uncharacteristic outburst in an editorial; we do not mean to scandalize you or disparage our brother, Comrade Mugabe. But COME ON! … Has this former freedom fighter become too deaf and too blind to understand the overt message Obama was directing at country leaders such as himself? Apparently, if the above interview is anything to go by, Mugabe missed the essence of Obama’s speech!
Basically, following a week where an amateur video insulting the prophet Mohammed triggered ‘sporadic’ and sometimes violent anti American protests in Libya, Egypt, Sudan, other parts of the Middle East and some Asian countries, some demurred that Obama was seeking to reset the U.S. relations with the Arab World. But Mr. Obama was doing no such thing. Instead, he went to the UN to mourn his late ambassador and the 3 Americans that perished in Benghazi; to talk tough to an obtuse Israel and a recalcitrant Iran; and especially to admonish those leaders with spotty human rights records.
Mr. Obama presented the oxymoron of a functional state: A state authority that gives its people the freedom to want and need with fearing that this freedom threatens national security. In their natural state, functional states simply need to be effective without necessarily being heavy handed. In case Mr. Mugabe and his fellow pariahs missed it, Obama said this:
‘In 2012, at a time when anyone with a cellphone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we [leaders and the state] can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond.’
Although he criticized the infamous video as ‘crude and disgusting,’ and while he denied the American government’s hand in its creation, he also vehemently defended the Egyptian American film maker’s right to express himself. Of course, this message was probably lost on those who need to heed it the most.