In New Jersey, US ambassador for UN defends foreign policy
President Barack Obama's foreign policy has successfully engaged foes and galvanized allies to face challenges such as global warming, Ebola and the rise of the Islamic State group without compromising America's leadership position in the world, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Wednesday.
The United Nations ambassador also reiterated the administration's stance on opening U.S. borders to refugees fleeing oppression and war and discussed the possibility of the U.N. naming its first female secretary general.
Power's appearance at a town hall in Seton Hall University came a day after the State of the Union address in which Obama spoke in detail about America's foreign policy challenges.
Responding to attacks from Republican presidential candidates without mentioning any by name, Power said that American leadership in the world hasn't been diminished but that other countries' expectations often are unrealistically high.
Other countries "aren't always pulling their weight or doing their fair share" out of a belief that the U.S. "can snap our fingers and remake the world by ourselves," she said.
She pointed to the quelling of the Ebola epidemic, the development of a global agreement on climate change and the multipronged effort to reduce the influence of the Islamic State group as examples of the U.S. building coalitions rather than acting unilaterally.
"When the world needs an all-hands-on-deck effort, American not only does its part, we step up and we lead," she said.
Obama has pursued a diplomatic path with countries including Cuba and Iran that has yielded gains while not turning a blind eye to potential threats, she said. Sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and helped forge a deal that "will cut its pathways to a nuclear weapon," she said, while restoring relations with Cuba has removed the U.S. embargo as "the regime's boogeyman."
Power added that America must not compromise its values by turning away refugees from countries like Syria, as some Republicans have advocated. She said those who seek to close America's borders to refugees "misunderstand who we are and what makes us strong."
Asked whether the U.N. was ready to choose its first female secretary general, Power said she participated in the drafting of a letter last month encouraging candidates to apply that specifically mentioned female candidates.
"The U.N. has existed for 70 years and it is peculiar that a woman secretary general hasn't taken the helm before now," she said Wednesday. "We certainly agree there should be lots of capable woman leaders around the world who should be part of this process. We're very excited about the year that lies ahead in order to try and choose the best possible secretary general at such an important time for that role."
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