President Obama's annual address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday offered a ringing affirmation of American principles and intentions.
Some U.N. members are unhappy that Mr. Obama has left to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the bilateral meetings with world leaders that are usually part of the schedule. This year, he is concentrating on his re-election campaign.
Yet his speech was both pertinent and eloquent. He paid tribute to assassinated U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, calling him "the best of America" and describing him as "deeply invested in the international cooperation that the U.N. represents."
Mr. Obama addressed the "deeper causes of this crisis," asserting that "violence and intolerance have no place among our United Nations."
In response to criticism of U.S. advocacy of regime change in Egypt, he said that "our support of democracy put us on the side of the people." Citing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 Atlantic Charter he pointed out that "freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture."
The President also pledged that "the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad." That was a timely affirmation of U.S. noninterference in the affairs of other countries, particularly in the Middle East.
Mr. Obama addressed the reprehensible video attacking the Prophet Mohammed that has produced turmoil across the Muslim world. He called it "crude and disgusting." He noted American respect of free speech, but added that no speech justifies mindless violence.
Mr. Obama reiterated goals of "a secure Jewish state of Israel," "an independent, prosperous Palestine," and a "united and inclusive" Syria. He stressed that diplomacy would remain the core of the U.S. approach to Iran. But he added that "the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" -- a clear warning to Tehran.
He cited joint global objectives of educating children, creating opportunities they deserve, protecting human rights, and extending democracy's promise.
Mr. Obama's U.N. speech reiterated basic national principles, focusing properly on the Middle East. It also provided some signals of what a second-term Obama foreign policy might look like.