Bundled in President Obama's 40-minute speech before the United Nations on Wednesday morning was a pitch for greater international support for the U.S.-led campaign against extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
The president began his plea by diving straight into the bad news.
"There is a pervasive unease in our world—a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces," Obama said at the U.N.'s 69th General Assembly in New York. "As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public-health systems in West Africa, and threatens to move rapidly across borders. Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness."
Focusing on the threat of extremism, Obama made it clear that the U.S. cannot combat the "brutality of terrorists" by itself. "Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment," he said.
"the only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. so the united states of america will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death." -- exact
"The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force," Obama said. "So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death."
Earlier this month, the president announced a campaign of airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq. The first strikes against the group in Syria came on Monday. U.S. forces took the lead on the attacks in Syria, bombarding elements of the Islamic State's infrastructure with air- and sea-launched missiles, with support from five Arab states: Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
"Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition," Obama said, referring to a larger international partnership that has pledged to support the U.S. military campaign. "Today, I ask the world to join in this effort."
Obama also called on the assembled nations to reject extremist ideologies at home, "by getting intolerance out of schools, stopping radicalization before it spreads, and promoting institutions and programs that build new bridges of understanding."
The president didn't exempt the U.S. from intolerance. "We have our own racial and ethnic tensions," Obama said, explicitly invoking the shooting death of Michael Brown and the fallout in Ferguson, Mo. "And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions we hold dear."
He spoke directly to the youth of the Muslim world, placing the onus for long-term change on the new generation in the Middle East. "You come from a great tradition that stands for education, not ignorance; innovation, not destruction; the dignity of life, not murder," he said. "Those who call you away from this path are betraying this tradition, not defending it."
Obama is expected to meet with world leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to try to secure their military, financial, or humanitarian contributions to the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq and Syria.
In addition to going after Islamic State targets, the White House and Pentagon have brought to attention a new, possibly "imminent" threat posed by a group called Khorasan, made up of what Obama called "seasoned al-Qaida veterans." The U.S. has struck Khorasan strongholds in the western parts of Syria. President Obama did not mention the group in his speech Wednesday.
This afternoon, Obama will chair a meeting of the Security Council as he did in 2009, marking only the second time in history that a U.S. president has led the meeting during the General Assembly. The Security Council will debate a legally binding resolution that would force every country to take steps to keep its own citizens from joining extremist groups like those the U.S. and others are fighting in Iraq and Syria.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.