10 Years Later: How President Obama's U.N. Speech Echoed George W. Bush's 2004 Address

Speeches to the UN by Presidents Obama and Bush share some striking similarities.

Fighting terrorist extremists, countering a deadly virus, and hoping for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--though a decade has passed since George W. Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly on those topics, President Barack Obama's remarks Wednesday checked off all three of those bullet points.

While the context for each president's remarks at the U.N. has shifted, the underlying problems remain strikingly similar.

Fighting Terrorism

Obama's remarks detailed his administration's rationale for bombing IS targets inside of Syria:

We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL. We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground. We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region. Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition.

Though not known by its current name following the United States invasion of Iraq, the terrorist threat was certainly a concern for then-President Bush in his 2004 speech:
So a terrorist group associated with Al Qaeda is now one of the main groups killing the innocent in Iraq today, conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians and the beheadings of bound men. Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters so peaceful nations around the world will never have to face them within our own borders.

Combating Deadly Viruses

As both presidents detailed in their respective speeches, deadly viruses taking root in Africa justified a robust American response.

For Obama, that threat comes in the form of Ebola:

As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists – supported by our military – to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments. But we need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders. It’s easy to see this as a distant problem – until it isn’t. That is why we will continue mobilizing other countries to join us in making concrete commitments to fight this outbreak, and enhance global health security for the long-term.

For Bush, it came in the spread of AIDS:

America has undertaken a $15 billion effort to provide prevention and treatment and humane care in nations afflicted by AIDS, placing a special focus on 15 countries where the need is most urgent. AIDS is the greatest health crisis of our time and our unprecedented commitment will bring new hope to those who have walked too long in the shadow of death.
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Like Bush before him, Obama has actively sought negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution, and both presidents have used the United Nations dais to nudge both parties toward a diplomatic solution.
Obama's remarks came in the aftermath of Israel's latest incursion into Gaza, and at a time when a two-state solution seems increasingly unlikely.
But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza. So long as I am President, we will stand up for the principle that Israelis, Palestinians, the region, and the world will be more just with two states living side by side, in peace and security.
In 2004, Bush still operated under the assumption that Israel would halt the construction of new settlements in the occupied territories, and that international pressure could moderate the Hamas government.
Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel. Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations. And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.
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