From Informed Comment
President Joe Biden addressed the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, laying out his vision of the global challenges facing the United States and the world.Biden, as expected, used his speech to announce a pivot by the United States away from its 20-year "war on terror," of which the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq were centerpieces. He said of the latter...
- "We've ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan. And as we close this period of relentless war, we're opening a new era of relentless diplomacy; of using the power of our development aid to invest in new ways of lifting people up around the world; of renewing and defending democracy . . ."
The U.S. wars of the 21st century had a split personality. Afghanistan was a multilateral venture, authorized by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which declares that an attack on one is an attack on all.
Iraq was a largely unilateral intervention by the Bush administration, with Britain as the initial battlefield ally and Spain and others coming in after the Baathist government was overthrown as a token "alliance of the willing."
Although George W. Bush is now attempting to fashion himself as the anti-Trump by attacking domestic white supremacism, in international affairs he pioneered the sort of dismissal of the concerns of allies for which Trump became notorious. France and Germany told him not to attack Iraq, and Jacques Chiraoc f warned him not to treat a criminal act like the September 11 attacks as a pretext for a new sort of war -- France it should, he said, be dealt with as a crime.
In Biden's vision of the American future, multilateral cooperation comes back to the fore. The threat of terrorism is seen as much diminished and as susceptible of being combated by the counter-terrorism tools the US and allies have developed over the past two decades.
Diplomacy ("relentless diplomacy") will also be harnessed to addressing the current wars:
- "We cannot give up on solving raging civil conflicts, including in Ethiopia and Yemen, where fighting between warring parties is driving famine, horrific violence, human rights violations against civilians, including the unconscionable use of rape as a weapon of war."
He even tepidly said some things about a Palestinian state.
In Biden's view, in the second quarter of the 21st century, the primary new threats are the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency, neither of which can be taken on successfully without intense global cooperation. Biden dedicated the America of this decade to that collaborative enterprise.
With regard to the pandemic, Biden said,
- "Already, the United States has put more than $15 billion toward global COVID response. We've shipped more than 160 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to other countries. This includes 130 million doses from our own supply and the first tranches of the half a billion doses of Pfizer vaccine we purchased to donate through COVAX.
"Planes carrying vaccines from the United States have already landed in 100 countries, bringing people all over the world a little "dose of hope," as one American nurse termed it to me. A 'dose of hope,' direct from the American people and, importantly, no strings attached."
That is, Biden has so far pledged 630 million vaccine doses. It is not nearly enough as Jody Heymann and Timothy Brewer, argue, but it a step in the right direction.
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Juan Cole is an American academic and commentator on the modern Middle East and South Asia. He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, Informed Comment (more...)