Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 25, 2014

Evil at the United Nations

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 25, 2014

Yesterday President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly.  Given the importance of counterterrorism in the homeland security portfolio, the entire speech is worth your consideration.

Given our recent attention to the use of “evil” to characterize our homeland security challenge, I highlight the following few lines:

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: we come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope…

There is a pervasive unease in our world – a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces. As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa, and threatens to move rapidly across borders. Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.

Each of these problems demands urgent attention. But they are also symptoms of a broader problem – the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world. We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries. Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe…

As an international community, we must meet this challenge with a focus on four areas.  First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death. 

The other three action areas set out by the President are as strategically important and — indirectly — as helpful to hearing what he means by evil.  It is, I perceive, a highly Niebuhrian notion of evil… as I try to explain in the next post, finished about 24 hours before the President’s speech in New York.

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12 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 25, 2014 @ 12:36 am

Thanks Phil and here’s to banishing “evil” wherever it resides.

Comment by Donald Quixote

September 25, 2014 @ 8:43 am

It is hard to be against refugees and victims and pro beheadings and evil (whatever it may be defined and identified as). Few are re-elected for supporting something identified and/or perceived as evil. Much of the ISIL/ISIS/IS actions, events and intentions surely fit into that term through our view of the world.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 25, 2014 @ 9:31 am

Donald Quixote: I hear in the President’s UN speech — and in other remarks on evil (and related) — two contending views of reality: On the one hand evil is something active that can only be contained or destroyed through application of force. On the other hand evil is something that arises from an absence — a sort of moral vacuum — that forms when connections, relationships, other expressions of meaning decay. It seems to me that this intellectual dissonance could explain several aspects of what we see and don’t see playing out in practical policy. Resolving this dissonance could prompt a shift in policy.

Language is how most of us think, and this President in particular. I’m perceiving a potential intellectual kink and trying to make sense of it.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 25, 2014 @ 10:16 am

Evil at the UN, how about on the federal level where DHS allows felons to roam the streets and there is a hidden agenda for a fella who leaves his post and then five terrorists are permitted to return to the front line in ops against us –

God Bless America! Thank God for such Blessings….Now maybe local law enforcement like in Cambridge (MA) and Ferguson (MO) can do their job w/o federal interference without first conferring with the locals and knowing the facts….an ambulance chaser we do Not need….

Like the former DHS boss, the sooner this AG resigns, the better off this nation will be….he like this eight year resident of the WH, so divisive, so much untrustworthy and yes, evil maybe like so many at the UN, an organization we have no business funding….

Breaking News:

| BREAKING NEWS ALERT
NYTimes.com
BREAKING NEWS Thursday, September 25, 2014 10:56 AM EDT

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to Resign
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will resign his post, the Justice Department said Thursday. Mr. Holder will remain in office until a successor is nominated and confirmed.

Mr. Holder, the 82nd attorney general and the first African-American to serve in that position, had previously said he planned to leave office by the end of this year.
Particularly in President Obama’s second term, Mr. Holder has been the most prominent liberal voice of the administration.
The Justice Department said Mr. Holder finalized his plans to leave in an hourlong conversation with Mr. Obama at the White House over Labor Day weekend.

Comment by Donald Quixote

September 25, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

I wonder if an analysis for the meaning or definition may be too complex. The word may just be a means to an end for a policy shift. It is a strong word which generates strong feelings and beliefs to rally alliances. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

The impact of regional and global moral, geopolitical and other vacuums is another interesting discussion. I expect that we will discuss this topic again in the future.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 26, 2014 @ 6:22 am

Donald Quixote: Analyzing evil is almost certainly too complex for a blog and probably for my personal capacity. But I often feel compelled to do what I can with what I’ve got, even when I am sure it is not enough. Sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 26, 2014 @ 8:22 am

After some thought have concluded that the “evil” rehtoric [sic] is designed to help conceal US policy and goals.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 26, 2014 @ 8:25 am

What are [is?] the US FP goals and objectives? To allow the USA to continue to consume annually 25% of the world’s resources, however defined.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 27, 2014 @ 7:18 am

Bill: In regard to your comment that the rhetoric is designed to conceal US policy objectives: In your judgment, is this design self-consciously intentional or self-indulgently convenient and not fully recognized even by policy makers? Or perhaps you perceive some other state-of-mind. In my experience, the state-of-mind (what Boyd called the “orientation”) of the policy maker is important.

Comment by Henry Higgins

September 27, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

Mr. Palin,

Are you also Christopher Tingus? In a dozen different ways you seem to say again and again that a lack of self-critical awareness is the source of evil or some other problem. Depending on the problem I can be inclined to think that you are either being too superficial or too complicated. Then there is a comment signed by Christopher Tingus that reinforces your point with words that at least seem entirely devoid of self-critical awareness. It’s almost too convenient. While I can appreciate the use of avatars.This sort of use on this sort of blog would strike me as egregious.

My avatar today is Henry Higgins.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 27, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

Mr. Higgins: What a weirdly wonderful question. No, Christopher Tingus is not my online alter-ego. But I appreciate your helpful synopsis of my angle on evil. While I do perceive the absence of self-critical awareness to be a major contributing factor, it is not the only absence worth our attention. It is, though, a good example of a fundamental challenge. Even if I could persuade you this is right diagnosis, what would we/could we do about it?

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Evil as a non-integrated gap

October 2, 2014 @ 12:11 am

[…] This is the fifth — and probably penultimate — post on the use of “evil” in homeland security rhetoric. (Prior posts: as referenced on September 10, as otherwise used by President Obama, as self-assertion, and at the United Nations.) […]

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