Obama looking for partners on many fronts

Obama's new image: wartime President
Obama's new image: wartime President

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Obama's new image: wartime President 01:42

Story highlights

  • Obama made clear at the U.N. that the U.S. isn't going to take the world's problems alone
  • Obama's main issues at U.N. -- ISIS, climate change, Ebola -- could spiral out of control
  • "Resolutions alone will not be enough. Promises on paper cannot keep us safe."
On Tuesday, it was climate change. Wednesday, terrorists. And on Thursday, President Barack Obama confronted yet another emergency that threatens wide destruction overseas: the Ebola outbreak spreading in West Africa.
Crisis management has become a hallmark of Obama's second term, perhaps seen nowhere better than at the annual United Nations General Assembly, where the world's leaders -- and their attendant calamities -- converge upon New York.
Obama's three main issues here -- climate change, ISIS and Ebola -- each has the potential to rapidly spiral out of control, officials suggest, with the effects of a warming planet already being registered and Americans overseas already being killed both by terrorists with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and by the deadly virus spreading in Africa.
Hoping to demonstrate to fellow leaders his government's handle on the problems, Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. "will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done" when it comes to helping solve the world's problems.
Obama: U.S. can't fight Ebola alone
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Obama: No nation immune to climate change
Obama: No nation immune to climate change

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Obama: Ebola a threat to global security

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Rouhani's advice for Obama & Congress
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But throughout his 48 hours at the United Nations, Obama made clear he wasn't going to take it all on himself.
"We cannot do this alone," he said during remarks at a session on combating Ebola, which has struck three countries in West Africa and prompted a large-scale U.S. military effort to stop its spread.
"We don't have the capacity to do all of this by ourselves," he said, adding, "I hope I'm properly communicating the sense of urgency here. Do not stand by thinking that somehow because of what we've done, that it's taken care of. It's not."
That warning of the limits to U.S. power is broadly the same message Obama wanted to deliver on climate change and ISIS, which he focused on this week.
Both threats, Obama said at various points, will require coalitions of governments to act rather than the U.S. alone.
"Nobody gets a pass" when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, Obama said, singling out China as a country that has a "special responsibility" to figure out ways of emitting fewer gases that scientists believe lead to global warming.
As he directs the U.S. to rein in pollution from coal-powered plants, Obama hopes other nations that emit large amounts of carbon will follow along, though commitments from China, India and Russia have been modest.
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Obama condemns Islamic extremism
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Obama toasts peacekeepers at UNGA lunch
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Without firm plans from those countries to reduce carbon use, climate experts say, there's little hope of turning around warming trends that threaten the global population.
So, too, will the threat from ISIS be contained only through coalition pressure, Obama and his aides maintained at the U.N.
"We cannot do this for you" was his message to newly elected Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi during a meeting Wednesday, saying that any resolution to Iraq's problems could come only from a lasting, inclusive government.
The coalition of Arab countries that joined in the U.S. air campaign over Syria -- a victory for Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry -- can help "de-legitimize" the ideology espoused by ISIS, U.S. officials say, making the group an essential part of Obama's war plan.
"This is not America's fight alone," he said Tuesday before leaving for the global gathering in New York.
Commitments have been forthcoming, including a unanimous vote at the Security Council for new standards in stemming the flow of foreign fighters. But even that measure will be hard to enforce, underscoring the difficultly in getting even like-minded nations moving in the same direction.
"Resolutions alone will not be enough," Obama said. "Promises on paper cannot keep us safe.
"The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds -- concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead but for years to come."