It is important to recall that many other important events are taking place in New York as part of the annual fall U.N. General Assembly international gala, lest we as Pittsburghers get carried away with our posture, starting tomorrow, as the center of the known world.
These involve President Barack Obama in a central role, as chief executive of the nation which, for better or for worse, leads the parade on many of the issues. His first speech to the General Assembly as American president will take place today. It will be an important statement of U.S. policy on a broad range of issues.
Another subject that will be addressed at the leader level in New York will be nuclear disarmament and the limitation of nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama has shown particular interest in this topic and will chair a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject tomorrow. Important negotiations are under way with Russia, and blunting Iran's and North Korea's aspirations in that area remains a top-level U.S. foreign policy objective. Also, the lingering problem of three nations, India, Israel and Pakistan, which possess nuclear weapons but have not yet signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, remains on the table to be addressed.
A third matter that Mr. Obama will seek to address in New York is his campaign to move the Middle East peace process forward to a two-state accord between the Israelis and Palestinians. He will be working with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to build on Special Envoy George J. Mitchell's so far unsuccessful efforts to get serious negotiations going between them.
Prospects are not bright: The Israelis insist on continuing construction of settlements on Palestinian land and the Palestinians remain divided among themselves between the Fatah party of Mr. Abbas, whose term as president has expired, and Hamas, firmly installed in Gaza.
The fourth and perhaps most important issue that Mr. Obama will have to get his teeth into in New York is preparations for the December climate change summit in Copenhagen. This is a question that will no doubt continue to be pursued here in Pittsburgh at the end of the week. The Chinese are taking the lead at the moment, having pledged to reduce their energy consumption of nonrenewable fuels to 85 percent of current levels by 2020.
The U.S. position on the subject is so tied in knots by Congress that Mr. Obama may not even be able to go to Copenhagen with a constructive, coherent U.S. position in hand. The House has passed legislation, but the Senate bill is stuck in two committees, Environment and Public Works and Foreign Relations, due to the financial stranglehold big oil and big coal have on senators on those committees.
Developments in New York will be important to watch before the scene shifts here for the second act.