Nearly two years into his first term, President Obama has sought a foreign policy that has restrained America’s role on the world stage. Emphasizing a greater commitment to international institutions in handling security concerns, the Administration has relied on multilateral means for achieving this aim, primarily through the United Nations.
When attending the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama should keep in mind that multilateralism is only one of many tools in the diplomatic toolbox. This point is emphasized in former Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes’s chapter in ConUNdrum, “Smart Multilateralism: When and When Not to Rely on the United Nations.”
The United States faces numerous challenges this week at the U.N. General Assembly. Working on equal footing with authoritarian regimes dilutes American leadership on crucial issues. When the U.S.’s vote counts the same as Robert Mugabe’s, liberty, respect for human rights, and equality are unlikely to get very far. If the U.S. is to successfully pursue the U.N. as a forum for diplomatic negotiations, then it must do so in a way that advances America’s interests and serves to advance liberty. The Obama Administration should dig deeper in its diplomatic toolbox if it hopes to achieve tangible results.