The fight against ISIS is not going well. In Iraq, the Obama Administration's declared main theater of the battle, an anti-ISIS military offensive has stalled amid allegations of politicized intelligence.
One could not have guessed that President Barack Obama was in his last years in office. He dropped gentle diplomacy and bluntly criticized Russia, China and even Iran, during his address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Both President Obama and President Putin addressed the tragic problems in Syria during their speeches at the United Nations. While they both want to destroy ISIS the difference in their views of how to deal with the failing nation of Syria and the horrors of ISIS is clear.
The Russians apparently learned little from their miserable years in Afghanistan and now are heading for a debilitating exercise in futility that might distract them from their efforts to undermine NATO and destabilize parts of Eastern Europe.
There appears to be a gaping flaw in Russia's agenda if, indeed, it is based on promoting the safety and security of the Syrian people. Putin's posturing on his Western flank over the last two years might reveal a renewed desire to protect regional strategic assets.
While the American media was enamored by the charismatic pope's "historic" visit to the United States (I seem to remember popes have visited before), more important earthly developments occurred.
Have no doubt, his trail is laced with destruction, he has also left his country with a terrible image world wide. He further damaged the weak European unity. He lacked the finesse to combine hard power with soft power, for it is the prior that he really understands. But he also understood that the disorderly way Europe has been tackling the crisis plays in his hand.
Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin will address the United Nations General Assembly in New York for the first time since 2005. He is expected to talk about Russia's increased military activity in Syria and the role that Russia hopes to play in battling the Islamic State.
As an old Arab saying goes, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." But even though the U.S. and its allies, Russia, Iran, Iraq, the Kurds and Syria all have an urgent need to defeat ISIS, their competing interests make a solution difficult to achieve.
Information warfare requires an infrastructure of broadcasting, social media, and other communication assets that can direct messages to the same audiences the Russians target, but do so more effectively.
Obama's China syndrome is that he seeks both to engage China and to contain China. Both are appropriate and arguably quite necessary goals for American statecraft. But they presuppose a state of creative tension between the established superpower and would-be superpower.
Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping were both in Washington and New York this week for engagements at the White House and the United Nations. They didn't meet. But their paths certainly crossed. The pope made the moral case for tackling poverty and climate change. President Xi affirmed he will intensify the "reform and opening up" policies that have lifted 500 million people in China out of poverty over the last 30 years -- a feat accomplished more rapidly than any other society in history. And, as the leader of the world's second-largest economy, he pledged to join forces with the U.S. and others to spearhead the global battle against climate change. Francis' detractors may call him a "communist in a cassock" while Xi's party is Communist in name only, but this alliance of purpose that pairs the prayers of the pope with the formidable state capacity of China could actually move the big needle. (continued)
What started as a civil war in Syria nearly five years ago has now evolved into an international crisis unmatched by any other since World War II. The global community now has a solemn obligation to end this humanitarian disaster, but it cannot do so unless all the powers affected by the conflict set aside their differences.
This is a lead in to the three days of speeches (Friday to Sunday) on a new development agenda for the next 15 years that applies to rich and poor countries alike, hopes to eradicate poverty, achieve gender equality, improve living standards and take action to combat climate change.
"Forty years of crisscrossing the planet has led me to suspect that the world isn't growing smaller," the inveterate traveler and literary journalist Pico Iyer laments. "If anything, the differences, the distances between us, are growing greater than they've ever been. In the Age of Information, many of us know less about other perspectives and other cultures than ever before." This week, the Berggruen Institute announced the launch of a philosophy and culture center that responds to this rift by connecting minds across borders through an exchange of scholars from East and West that will be hosted at prestigious universities from Cambridge and Harvard to Stanford and Tsinghua in Beijing. In order to promote foundational concepts for the future, the center will co-sponsor an ideas contest with the Aspen Institute as well as establish an annual $1 million Nobel-like prize for philosophy. (continued)
President Obama may have prevailed in his efforts to thwart a Congressional resolution of disapproval against the Iran nuclear agreement, but if a Congressional vote were to occur against his Syria policy he would lose hands down in a total bi-partisan meltdown.