General Assembly session: Obama hits at populist strongmen in last UN address

By AFP
Published: September 21, 2016
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US President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, September 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

US President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, September 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS: US President Barack Obama used his farewell UN address on Tuesday to castigate strongmen and populists, taking aim at Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump’s rise at home.

Obama told the General Assembly that democracy was a better path toward prosperity than the ‘crude populism’ that is mushrooming in the US and around the world. “Some argue the future favors the strong man. I believe this thinking is wrong,” he said.

“History shows that strong men are then left with two paths: Permanent crackdown, which sparks strife at home, or scapegoating enemies abroad, which can lead to war.”

Obama’s comments come amid a scorched-earth campaign to succeed him, which has seen a wave of popular support for Republican Party nominee Trump, who holds far-right stances on immigration and national security.

Obama challenged that thinking, saying: “We have to open our hearts and do more to help refugees who are desperate for a home. We have to imagine what it would be like for our family, for our children if the unspeakable happened to us.”

Obama admitted, however, that a ‘course correction’ was needed to smooth the serrated edges of globalisation.

He had a more direct message for his Russian counterpart. “In a world that left the age of empire behind, we see Russia attempting to recover lost glory through force,” Obama said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2016.

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