On Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden delivered a half-hour speech before the United Nations. The topics covered were wide-ranging—from the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic to human rights and democracy—but the biggest message was that the United States is once again a serious nation, ready to address issues on the basis of facts and deal with allies on a basis of mutual cooperation. In other words, this is not Donald Trump’s America. And with reasonable people in charge, the United States is ready to take its place again among the nations of the world as a partner in dealing with the two largest, most immediate issues facing the planet: the ongoing pandemic and the climate crisis.

“As the United States seeks to rally the world to action, we will lead not just with the example of our power but, god willing, with the power of our example.”

Whether the speech was enough to reassure foreign leaders and the populations of allied nations, who saw how quickly the United States could go from reasonable ally under President Obama to delusional xenophobe under Donald Trump, is still to be seen. However, it was a strong, far-ranging speech that included some solid statements about where the United States is now and where Biden intends to take the nation over the space of his term.

In many ways, the speech was one that might just as well have been delivered to a domestic audience. It acknowledged the challenges in the world, and the difficulty in dealing with the massive issues facing every nation. But there were two messages that Biden delivered today that were definitely meant for leaders of other nations to hear. The first was that the United States does not seek a new cold war with China, and the second is that the United States will stop trying to solve every issue with a threat of violence.

And Biden delivered a line that should make many, both inside this nation and elsewhere, cheer in relief. “I stand here today for the first time in 20 years,” said Biden, “with the United States not at war.”

With the wars that started in 2003 now in the past, Biden promised that the U.S. would remain vigilant, willing, and capable of defending itself, but would treat military action as the last resort rather than the first option.

“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, of proving that no matter how challenging or how complex the problems we’re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people.”

While the media in America still seems to be riding the Republican train and treating the end of the war in Afghanistan as a failure, Biden did not shy away from holding out that conclusion as a signpost of where he wants to take the nation. By removing the United States from military conflict, Biden said that America was finally positioned to make positive contributions toward addressing the climate crisis, ending the pandemic, and a “new era of relentless diplomacy.”

“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes on devoting our resources into the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future. Ending this pandemic, addressing the climate crisis, managing the shifts in global power dynamics, shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber and emerging technologies, and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today.”

On the pandemic front, Biden pointed out that the United States has not only promised to deliver 130 million doses of vaccine from its own supply to other nations, but has purchased half a billion more doses purely for the purpose of delivering them outside the U.S. Those vaccines are starting to reach people now—and they’re making a difference. Vaccines sent by the United States have already arrived in over 100 nations, delivering “a little dose of hope” for those facing the ongoing pandemic, and much more assistance, financial as well as medical is on the way. Biden made it clear that the cost of failing to address the pandemic globally has an impact that will also be felt globally.

“Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants. To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will. We need to get shots in arms as fast as possible and expand access to oxygen, tests, treatments to save lives around the world.”

But again and again, Biden returned to the threat of the climate crisis, both as something that the world is already experiencing and something that in the very near future threatens to upend global stability.

“The extreme weather events that we have seen in every part of the world, and you all know it and feel it, represent what the secretary general has rightly called ‘code red for humanity,'”

Combined with the pandemic, Biden made it clear that not only will the United States not seek to solve these problems with force of arms, but recognizes that these are problems that cannot be solved with a new warship or a next-generation fighter plane.

But there was another global threat that Biden recognized: the threat generated by growing economic inequity. That threat also drives political instability, and if it isn’t dealt with, the stable, cooperative nations necessary to deal with the threats of COVID-19 and the climate crisis simply won’t exist. Instead, sharing the wealth generated through globalization “broadly through society” and addressing human rights and individual needs is required to maintain a world capable of dealing with the other challenges it faces.

While the major themes of the speech were returning the United States to the world stage and addressing the major crises now threatening the world, there were a number of topics where world leaders got an update on Biden’s standing:

  • A declaration of belief that “a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state” while emphasizing that the U.S. will continue to have “unequivocal” support for Israel’s right to exist.
  • An announcement of $10 billion in funding to fight hunger. However, this was both “at home and abroad,” so it’s unclear how much of this is heading overseas.
  • Providing $100 billion to deal with the climate crisis in developing nations, especially those being affected by extreme weather events.
  • Dealing with terrorism through improved intelligence, working with partner nations, and not being reliant on “large scale military deployments.”
  • Enhancing global security by ”seeking to improve the lives of the people all over the world who see that their governments are not serving their needs.”
  • Upholding human rights and human dignity against movements that threaten to see these goals “trampled and twisted in the pursuit of naked political power.”

In the speech, Biden did not mention China directly, but made it clear the U.S. was “ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreement in other areas.” Biden also said that the U.S. is “not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks.”

How this speech will be received by a world that was so recently provided an example of how badly the United States can go off track isn’t clear. But it was clearly a speech that was designed exactly for the purposes of aligning the United States with the forces of good.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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