To Lay Out Defense Of Foreign Policy In West Point Speech
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[May 27, 2014]
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Stung by criticism,
President Barack Obama will use a speech on Wednesday to launch a
sweeping defense of his approach to foreign policy, one that he will say
is reliant on multilateral diplomacy instead of military interventions.
Obama is to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point, New York, the first in a series of speeches
that he and top advisers will use to explain U.S. foreign policy in
the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and lay out a
broad vision for the rest of his presidency.
The president has come under withering fire in recent months for
what his critics say is a passive approach to foreign policy, one
that has allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to flex his muscle
in Ukraine, and left the Syrian civil war to fester and China to
threaten its neighbors in the South China Sea.
Shortly after a trip to Asia late in April during which he strongly
defended his incremental approach, he directed aides to frame a
speech to explain his foreign policy and how he plans to handle
world hot spots during his remaining two-and-a-half years in office.
"You will hear the president discuss how the United States will use
all the tools in our arsenal without over-reaching," a White House
official said on Saturday. "He will lay out why the right policy is
one that is both interventionist and internationalist, but not
isolationist or unilateral."
Obama, determined not to repeat what he views as the mistakes of his
Republican predecessor, George W. Bush - U.S. involvement in wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan - has leaned heavily on diplomatic activity
instead of military force.
In the case of Ukraine, he has ordered sanctions against some of
Putin's inner circle and businesses associated with the Kremlin
power structure but has made clear he will not threaten military
force for Moscow's seizure of Crimea.
The fear among some in Washington is that Obama's handling of Russia
will prompt China to flex its muscles in the South China Sea, where
tensions have already been rising over such actions as the placement
of a Chinese oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam.
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On Syria, Obama backed away from a threat to use military force over
the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians by the Syrian
government. While a deal struck with Russia is leading to the
disarming of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, the three-year-old
Syrian civil war rages on and President Bashar al-Assad remains in
Obama will emphasize that Syria remains a counter-terrorism threat
as a haven for militant groups. U.S. officials have debated whether
to supply heavier weapons and increase covert aid to Syrian rebels.
"We do see Syria as a counter-terrorism challenge. However, the
right policy approach continues to be strengthening the moderate
opposition, which offers an alternative to both the brutal Assad
regime, and the more extremist elements within the opposition," the
White House official said.
The official said Obama will say the United States is the only
nation capable of galvanizing global action and why "we need to put
that to use in an international system that is sustainable and
enduring, and that can address challenges from traditional ones,
like maritime and trade issues, to emerging ones, like climate
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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