Addressing the United Nations for the last time as president, Barack Obama warned on Tuesday of a world at a crossroads between an integrated, liberalized future and one dangerously divided along “age-old lines” of race and tribe. The speech– described by White House officials as a capstone of his foreign policy– left few major powers unscathed. He criticized France for its targeting of traditional Muslim dress, Russia for its quest to “recover lost glory through force,” China for denying democracy to its people and Israel for its continued “occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands.”

But Obama spent little time on any one single conflict, instead speaking in general terms of the dangers facing an international system he has long advocated as the guarantor of world peace. There are “deep fault lines in the existing international order,” exposed by the turbulent forces of globalization, he warned. The outgoing president described an international contest between authoritarianism and liberalism aggravated by historic inequality, laid bare to the masses through technological advancements in communication. That competition has seen a rise in strongmen, he argued, without naming names. “True democracy remains the better path,” he said. READ MORE