Obama Outlines Vision for Foreign Policy

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from The Wall Street Journal,

At West Point Commencement, President Lays Out New Criteria for Military Deployment.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday committed to a deeper involvement in the civil war in Syria and said U.S. resources should be used for diplomatic efforts and targeted counterterrorism missions rather than broad military engagements—the configuration of American power he wants to place on the world stage before leaving office.

The policy announcements, while incremental, mark the beginning of an explanation campaign from Mr. Obama to counter a growing narrative that his foreign policy doctrine is timid and has diluted American influence overseas.

Mr. Obama, in a major foreign policy speech to graduates from the United States Military Academy at West Point, said America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world and that those who see otherwise are misreading history or engaging in partisan politics.

“The United States is the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed, and will likely be true for the century to come,” Mr. Obama told the military audience.

“The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership, but U.S. military action cannot be the only—or even primary— component of our leadership in every instance,” Mr. Obama said. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

But he also pointed to Afghanistan as an example of the kind of deployment of American power that is unsustainable as the U.S. combats terrorism.

“A strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable,” Mr. Obama said. “I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy—drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan—to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.”

As part of that, Mr. Obama announced a new $5 billion fund to help countries combat terrorism, which he said continues to be the most direct threat to the U.S. at home and overseas. The money would require congressional approval.

The program is seen within the administration as a possible mechanism for providing increasing aid—including training—to the Syrian opposition.

The speech comes after a period in which Mr. Obama has voiced frustration with the widespread criticism from political opponents and U.S. allies that his approach to foreign policy and national security issues is overly cautious.

Concerned the narrative of a timid leader was solidifying as part of his legacy, Mr. Obama decided to use his commencement address at West Point to begin a monthslong effort to try to change public opinion by explaining his vision for employing American power.

During a trip to Europe next week, Mr. Obama will expand upon his West Point address with speeches in Poland and Normandy in which he will focus specifically on U.S. engagement with that continent.

The White House has also enlisted top administration officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, to hold events in coming months explaining key aspects of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy agenda.

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