Biden’s bid for relentless diplomacy

His first U.N. speech as president was a call to supplement military force with cooperation to address today’s common challenges.

President Biden talks with leaders of major economies at a Sept.17 energy and climate meeting.

After his first speech at the United Nations as president on Tuesday, Joe Biden will waste no time practicing what he preached.

With the United States finally at peace after ending its longest war – in Afghanistan – he promised an “era of relentless diplomacy.” Indeed, on Wednesday, he will lead the largest gathering of heads of state to address the coronavirus crisis. This Friday, he will hold his first in-person summit with leaders of four democracies in the Indo-Pacific, known as the Quad. A few days later, the U.S. and European Union will hold their first high-level meeting of the transatlantic Trade and Technology Council. All this follows a virtual gathering last week of world leaders to address climate change.

Mr. Biden’s faith in multilateral diplomacy is not new for an American president. Yet he does claim the world has never faced so many global issues that require international cooperation.

“Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” he said. Instead, the world needs unity against multiple and shared challenges, from COVID-19 to emerging technological threats. In addition, he added, the world cannot be divided into blocs as it was during the Cold War. Even the two-decade-long effort against the threat of terrorist attacks, he said, has shifted away from large military operations. “Today, we are better equipped to detect and prevent terrorist threats, and we are more resilient in our ability to repel them and to respond,” the president said.

What accounts for his optimism about global-scale diplomacy?

One clue came during a particularly emotional part of Mr. Biden’s speech before the 193-member U.N. General Assembly. The founders of the U.N., he said, were able to break a cycle of major wars and destruction by their vision, values, and faith in a collective future. That led to decades of relative peace and growing prosperity.

Mr. Biden is now suggesting that other cycles – of pandemics, climate change, cyberthreats, big-power polarization – can also be broken. “Now we must again come together to affirm the inherent humanity that unites us is much greater than any outward divisions or disagreements,” he said.

No wonder he speaks of a new era of diplomacy that will be “intensive” and “relentless.”

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