WASHINGTON – What a moment for President Obama to deliver his valedictory address to the United Nations on Tuesday – defending the liberal international order at a time when it’s under severe stress around the world.
Obama’s speech was preceded by some sickening reminders of how global security is fraying: The day before, a Syrian, or perhaps Russian, airstrike had ravaged a U.N. aid convoy trying to relieve Aleppo; over the weekend, a lone-wolf terrorist had tried to slaughter innocents in the New York area; three days before, errant American bombs had incinerated a camp of Syrian soldiers and, in the process, torched a fragile cease-fire. Amid this disordered world, Obama displayed his sterling assets: his idealism, moral clarity and calm intellect.
But those good qualities seemed unequal this past week to containing the bad forces that are loose in the world. As this gifted but sometimes vexed leader prepares to leave office, the world seems more disordered than when he arrived.
Obama’s address was personal and polyphonous: One part was a campaign speech, touting “the progress that we’ve made these last eight years” and criticizing “crude populism,” an obvious reference to Donald Trump.