The United States Congress will “inevitably” lift the economic blockade it has maintained against Cuba for more than half a century, President Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly Monday.
Referring to Cuba, Obama said that to move forward in this new era, “we have to be strong enough to acknowledge when what you’re doing is not working.”
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Obama’s speech focused on the benefits of diplomacy, saying, “We all have a stake in each others' success,” but made it clear that the United States will continue to pursue military options, despite catastrophic interventions during recent years.
“Where order has completely broken down we must act … we will do so mindful of the lessons of the past,” he said, naming Iraq and Libya as two such lessons.
In Libya, Obama said, “Our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind.”
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In Syria, Obama said, “The United Nations is willing to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” however, he also criticized Russia and blamed it of intervening in Eastern Ukraine.
“We cannot stand by when the sovereignty of a nation is flagrantly violated,” Obama said, praising the effects of U.S.-promoted sanctions on Russia in prompting capital flight and devaluing the ruble. He said he wanted a Russia that was interested in “strengthening the international system as a whole.”
Obama went to lengths to emphasize the importance of free trade, mentioning that within the United States movements on the far right and sometimes the left try to block trade, while also referencing the South China Sea dispute his country is currently engaged in with China. “We have an interest in upholding the basic principles of … the flow of commerce,” the U.S. leader said.
He also mentioned the Trans Pacific Partnership, which he says will protect workers and the environment, despite concerns by U.S. trade unions and environmental groups.
There were other contradictions among Obama’s statements.
“We cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion, we cannot look backward,” he said, while also saying he will “never hesitate to protect my country or our allies by force if necessary.”
He also said that “Strong nations have a responsibility to uphold this international order.”
Overall, Obama’s speech stressed the need to work together, saying, “diplomacy is hard. The outcomes are sometimes unsatisfying. It's rarely politically popular.”
While our progress can be measured in “lives saved, agreements forged, mouths fed,” Obama stressed, “our work is far from complete.”