Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

Patrick assesses the future of world order, state sovereignty, and multilateral cooperation.

Syria: The Elephant in the Room

by Stewart M. Patrick Thursday, September 27, 2012
Members of the Free Syrian Army holding weapons sit at the back of a truck in Aleppo,Syria on September 23, 2012 (Shaam News Network/Courtesy Reuters).

As over 120 leaders meet in New York for the UN General Assembly, the civil war in Syria is generating significant attention but little collective action. After eighteen months, the toll is dire: nearly 30,000 killed, more than a million internally displaced, and at least 25,000 detained. At the same time, the conflict is increasingly taking on international dimensions, as violence spills over into Lebanon and Israel and hundreds of thousands of refugees pour into Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. In his opening remarks to the assembled delegates , UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called Syria “a regional calamity with global ramifications.” He added, “The international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control.” Read more »

Obama’s Message to the Muslim World at the UN

by Stewart M. Patrick Tuesday, September 25, 2012
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012 (Keith Bedford/Courtesy Reuters).

From the podium at the opening session of the 67th UN General Assembly, President Barack Obama  defended freedom of speech as a human right that must not be infringed and expressed confidence that “the rising tide of liberty”—as witnessed in the Arab spring—“will never be reversed.” His speech was a welcome riposte to demands from Muslim leaders, outraged by a crude video mocking the prophet Mohammed, for global rules against the defamation of religion. At the same time, his address reminded us of how turbulent the “Arab spring” that Obama lauded in last year’s speech had become. Read more »

Obama’s Balancing Act With the Muslim World

by Stewart M. Patrick Friday, September 21, 2012
U.S. president Barack Obama delivers a speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University June 4, 2009. Obama sought a "new beginning" between the United States and the Muslim world (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters).

Today interviewed me about the upcoming opening of the UN General Assembly. One particularly interesting question that Bernard Gwertzman, the CFR consulting editor, asked me, revolved around President Obama’s effort to balance his initial hope to improve relations with the Muslim World with the recent anti-American protests and Afghan “insider” attacks on U.S. coalition troops. It’s a difficult question. As I told Bernie: Read more »

U.S. Priorities at the UN General Assembly

by Stewart M. Patrick Wednesday, September 19, 2012
U.S. president Barack Obama speaking at the 2011 United Nations General Assembly (Jessica Rinaldi/Courtesy Reuters).

Next week, Obama will deliver his fourth (and perhaps last) speech from the podium in the Great Hall of the United Nations General Assembly. Given elections on November 6, the intended audience will, of course, be as much domestic as international.

The overall message of his address will be that “engagement” has paid off in spades, that the United States has restored its standing and good working relationships in New York, and that the hard work of retail diplomacy—of rolling up your sleeves and negotiating—has paid off. Read more »

Some Perspective on the United Nations

by Stewart M. Patrick Monday, September 17, 2012
A photo of the United Nations General Assembly from February 16, 2012 during a vote that approved a non-binding resolution endorsing an Arab League plan urging Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down (Andrew Kelly/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, I participated in the U.S. State Department’s online interview program, “Conversations with America,” alongside Esther Brimmer, the assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at State, and Heather Hurlburt, the executive director of the National Security Network.  Watch the program online at and join the conversation about addressing global challenges at the United Nations (UN). Some highlights below: Read more »

Middle East Turmoil Will Greet Opening of UN General Assembly

by Stewart M. Patrick Friday, September 14, 2012
A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. Four American embassy personnel were killed. (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

This week, foreign policy took center stage in the presidential campaign, and it appears that it may stay in the conversation for Candidate Romney and President Obama next week as well. Listen to The World Next Week podcast, where Bob McMahon and I discuss the attack in Libya that killed four U.S. embassy personnel, the opening session of the sixty-seventh UN General Assembly, and the improvements of the Human Rights Council: Read more »

Are Criminals, Terrorists, and Bolivarians Teaming Up Against the United States?

by Stewart M. Patrick Monday, September 10, 2012
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (R) and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad laugh as they watch TV during a visit at Miraflores Palace in Caracas on June 22, 2012 (Miraflores Palace Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

On August 16, Doug Farah, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, published Transnational Organized Crime, Terrorism, and Criminalized States in Latin America: An Emerging Tier-One National Security Priority. The monograph contributes in a major way to our understanding of the increasingly complex relationships that exist among criminal networks, terrorists, and sovereign states. Read more »

The South China Sea and the Law of the Sea

by Stewart M. Patrick Wednesday, September 5, 2012
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) speaks with ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan (R) during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta September 4, 2012 (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).

Conflict is simmering in the South China Sea, where China is butting heads with four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Vietnam, the Phillippines, Malaysia, and Brunei (as well as Taiwan)—over territorial claims. As China seems to gradually step up aggression in the region, the Obama administration continues the seventeen-year-old policy of  backing ASEAN as a hedge against nationalist aggression by the burgeoning naval power, China. Read more »