Obama stresses importance of diplomacy over force in U.N. speech

Obama U.N.
(Image credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, stressing the importance of the U.S. working peacefully with other nations to keep international order.

"We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force — that cooperation and diplomacy will not work," he said in New York City. "As president of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face. They cross my desk every morning. I lead the strongest military the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country and our allies, unilaterally and by force, when necessary. But I stand before you today believing in my core that we, the nations in the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion. We cannot look backwards."

Before a much-anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama vowed to work with "any country" to address the ongoing civil war in Syria, including Russia and Iran. Russia has been upping its military presence in the country, while the U.S. is looking for support from the Kremlin in ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Obama encouraged global leaders to keep pushing for peacekeeping, especially in the face of international terrorist groups like ISIS, which he dubbed "an apocalyptic cult." He also acknowledged that diplomacy is not "politically popular," but touted the deal the U.S. and other world powers negotiated with Iran, which will curb the nation's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

"Human progress never travels in straight lines," Obama said. "Our work is far from complete."

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Julie Kliegman

Julie Kliegman is a freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in BuzzFeed, Vox, Mental Floss, Paste, the Tampa Bay Times and PolitiFact. Her cats can do somersaults.