Every year, the United Nations General Assembly has been the main forum for countries to present their world view to the world, as well as to present projects their respective governments deem to be crucial. According to this model, the U.N. General Assembly also operates as a platform for the U.S. president, and many other leaders, to raise concerns and relevant projects.
Nevertheless, it has not always been this way. During the 1960s and '70s, the U.N. was turned into an echo chamber for "third world-ism" and a key instrument of Soviet propaganda in its struggle against the United States and Western democracies. It was the Cold War era.
That was evident in the appearance of Yasser Arafat, a leader of world terrorism with a visible revolver at the hip, being acclaimed at a U.N. plenary meeting. Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, was another hero of terror, and as if that weren’t enough, of African cannibalism, and was also awarded with a celebrated appearance before the U.N. Assembly. There were other guests of that ilk.
Fortunately, the Cold War waned during the '80s. With Ronald Reagan in the American presidency, the strategic descent of the USSR accelerated, ending with the implosion of the Soviet state in 1989. A new era debuted at the United Nations.
Since his election in 2008, U.S. President Barack Obama has reiterated his pacifist vocation before the U.N. General Assembly. However, he has now hardened his rhetoric.
Obama became president under a pacifist banner. To that purpose, plans had already been made public for the exit of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding this phenomenon, last year, before the General Assembly, Obama said that the U.S. was increasingly moving away from the idea of being permanently at war.
However, events in the Middle East, especially the fast expansion of the Islamic front known as the Islamic State, together with the imminent disintegration of Iraq that was looming as a result of the internal struggle between Sunnis and Shiites, set off alarms across the administration.
The White House remained disconcerted. As a result of Obama’s public statements about how he lacked a strategy, the president’s job approval ratings collapsed, and Democratic Party leaders expressed concern over the fate of their candidates to the House of Representatives and Senate in the mid-term elections in November.
The founding of an Islamic caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, proclaimed by the Islamic State group, and the televised decapitation of two Americans and a British man, had an immediate impact on the U.S. public.
This juncture moved Obama, too, and in a few days, he announced the alliance he was promoting across Washington to take higher-caliber action against the Islamic State group. The announced alliance quickly took shape and included Sunni allies. In the first aerial actions a few days ago, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Dubai, the Gulf Emirates, and in a supporting role, Qatar, all took part. This Arab presence in the first bombardments has changed public opinion in the U.S. in Obama’s favor. Military actions are multiplying and destroying Islamic State positions in Iraq and now, Syria: a more promising landscape, no doubt.
Against this background, there has been a visible transformation of the president, who lately has appeared in public with a more firm and resolute attitude. This development became obvious in his address before the U.N. this past Wednesday. In his message, he made clear that regardless of the participation of other countries, he was at the helm.
The military campaign will take time, and the number of troops from Iraq and Syria, which are already fighting in their country against the Assad regime, remain to be determined.
The U.S. and other countries, for their part, have already initiated the training of local forces. A positive outlook already prevails in the Levant, nor are there any major doubts about the favorable electoral impact this war will have on the Democratic ranks.