As his presidency winds down to its end and the ignominy that awaits, the hubris that has marked it was never more evident in his depiction of a world in which the US remains the one indispensable nation, that "shining city on a hill" of which its adherents are never done reminding us makes it better than every other nation.
Though the President was right to claim there has been a sharp reduction in global poverty in recent years, he was wrong to reduce the cause as the spread of "open markets" and "democracy."
The primary cause of said reduction has been China's achievement in lifting millions of its own people out of poverty, along with millions more across the Global South with its huge investment in Africa and elsewhere. Significantly, it is investment that comes as part of a developmental model that does not, in contrast to the alternative offered by the US-dominated World Bank and IMF, take out more than it puts in.
Unlike its western variant, Beijing values the role of a strong government and institutions in the interests of ensuring the political stability without which economic stability and growth is unsustainable. Economic liberalization at the hands of US-driven free market fundamentalism is accompanied by political liberalization, which until China's emergence as an alternative engine of global economic growth been a key factor in the spread of political instability across a large part of the globe.
So when Obama cited "open markets" as the prime reason for the reduction in global poverty during his address to the General Assembly, he conveniently abstracted the role of the shift away from the aforementioned US-led developmental model towards the Beijing-led alternative, one that places a premium on political and national sovereignty.
When Obama said, "We've taken away terrorist safe havens, strengthened the nonproliferation regime," he must have temporarily forgotten the existence of Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan.
For the citizens of those countries, terrorism is the new normal courtesy of US foreign policy both pre and post-9/11.
Specifically on Obama's watch, the world has witnessed the destruction of Libya after a US-supported NATO air campaign for regime change, along with the emergence and spread of Daesh brutality and barbarism in Iraq and Syria. The proliferation of terrorist attacks across the world — including the US and Europe — has been a direct consequence.
On non-proliferation, North Korea's ongoing efforts to develop nuclear weapons, along with the revelation contained in a recently released classified memo from former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, that Israel has 200 undeclared nuclear warheads pointed at Iran, the disconnect between Obama's rhetoric and reality is again astounding.
Indeed, so astounding was the disconnect on display during his address, it was like watching a man standing in a burning house assuring his wife and kids that everything is fine.
The lack of anything resembling a peaceful resolution to a conflict that has now been raging for five long years at enormous human cost is a deplorable state of affairs.
Throughout that time, Washington has remained firm in its determination to draw a moral equivalence between the country's non-sectarian, secular government and an opposition dominated by the most barbaric, sectarian, and merciless groups since the Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia into a vast killing field.
There were moments during his address to the UN when Obama appeared to be making stump speech on behalf of the Clinton campaign for the upcoming US presidential election.
"Today, a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself," he said, making a clear reference to Donald Trump's pledge to build a wall on America's border with Mexico in the event he wins the race for the White House.
Lack of Awareness
While no right thinking person could possibly disagree with Obama's words, the ongoing controversy over the spiral of police violence against black people across the country puts into perspective the scale of his administration's failure to make any progress when it comes to the deep racial polarization that continues to scar US society 150 years after the Civil War ended slavery in the South.
Of course, Barack Obama cannot be held solely responsible for the parlous state of race relations in the United States. It is a product of cultural values that have long been entrenched and exacerbated by socioeconomic factors of poverty, alienation, and the ridiculously wide availability of firearms.
It is also a product of the militarization of law enforcement in the US, to the point where police departments are today more akin to armies of occupation than institutions concerned with protecting the public. But what it does reflect is the lack of awareness on the part of a President who, as with his predecessors, has taken every opportunity to lecture the rest of the world on issues of democracy, human rights, international law, and good governance.
Given Washington's record when it comes to all of those things, this has been like repeatedly being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Barack Obama's final address to the United Nations General Assembly revealed that the wall he should be most concerned about is the wall of mythology behind which a country fed on a diet of its own exceptionalism continues to exist.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.