News / USA

Obama: US Isolationism Not an Option

Obama Defends His Foreign Policyi
May 29, 2014 2:20 AM
In a major speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama outlined his foreign policy -- which has lately come under criticism by some who say it is unclear and weak. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Watch related video report from VOA's Luis Ramirez.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama said that American isolationism is not an option, but not every problem has a military solution, during a speech in which he defined his foreign policy approach.

In a commencement speech to U.S. Military Academy graduates, Obama said that America will always be a world leader, but military action cannot be the only force behind its leadership.

"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," he added.
President Barack Obama applauds those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan as he deliverers the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's Class of 2014, in West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014.President Barack Obama applauds those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan as he deliverers the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's Class of 2014, in West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014.
President Barack Obama applauds those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan as he deliverers the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's Class of 2014, in West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014.
President Barack Obama applauds those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan as he deliverers the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's Class of 2014, in West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014.

"It will be your generation's task to respond to this new world. The question we face,  the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead," Obama said.

'Isolationism not an option'

Foreign policy experts have increasingly criticized Obama's handling of issues such as the civil war in Syria, the political crisis in Ukraine and the struggle against terrorism, saying the U.S. no longer holds a leadership position in world affairs.

In his speech, though, the president attempted to promote U.S. foreign policy as finding a balance between isolationism and interventionism.

Obama said some critics say conflicts, such as those in Syria, Ukraine or the Central African Republic, are not for the U.S. to solve.

"Not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges at home, that view is shared by many Americans," he said.

The opposite view says "we ignore these conflicts at our own peril; that America’s ...  failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future," he said.

"I believe neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment," Obama said. "It is absolutely true that in the 21st century, American isolationism is not an option."

Related video report by VOA's Kokab Farshori:
Obama's Plan to Reduce US Troops In Afghanistan Gets Mixed Responsei
Kokab Farshori
May 29, 2014 12:25 AM
President Barack Obama has announced plans to greatly reduce U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and then bring all of them home in 2016. Obama’s announcement Tuesday came as Afghans prepare to vote in a runoff election that will pick the next president to work with Washington on the future of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. VOA’s Kokab Farshori reports on what this announcement will mean for the new government in Kabul.
Diplomacy efforts

But, Obama said, that doesn't mean that every problem has a military solution.

While the U.S. will use military force when the threat demands it, he said, global issues that don’t pose a direct threat to the U.S. should have to meet a higher threshold for military action.
“In such circumstances, we should not go it alone. Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action. We must broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law and – if just, necessary, and effective – multilateral military action,” the president said.
Obama cited international sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine unrest as an example of the effectiveness of multilateral action.
“Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away," he said.

"Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions. Europe and the G-7 joined us to impose sanctions. NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies. The IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy ... ," Obama added.

Fighting terrorism

Rather than launching large-scale military efforts, Obama called for partnering with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

That effort includes a new $5 billion fund to help countries fight terrorism and to expand funding for Defense Department intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, special operations and other activities.

“Indeed, this should be one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development,” Obama said.
“Foreign assistance isn’t an afterthought – something nice to do apart from our national defense. It’s part of what makes us strong,” he added.

Afghanistan troop decision

The speech in West Point, N.Y., came one day after the president put forward a blueprint for ending U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan by the time he leaves office.

Republicans in the Senate, most vocally John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, called Obama's decision on Afghanistan a monumental mistake on Tuesday, saying the response was a victory of politics over strategy.

In defending the decision regarding troop levels in Afghanistan on CBS This Morning, Kerry said, “What it really is is a statement of transition that is appropriate to the timing as expressed by the military and the generals and by the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.”

Kerry said the U.S. understands “its role of leadership in the world.'

“The fact is, the United States is more engaged in more places than it has ever been at any time in history,” Kerry said, citing work in Iran to Syria to South Asia and East Asia.

Syria aid

Obama cast the bloody civil war in Syria as more of counterterrorism challenge than a humanitarian crisis.

The president defended his decision to keep the U.S. military out of the conflict but said he would seek to increase support for the Syrian opposition, as well as neighboring countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq that have faced an influx of refugees and fear the spread of terrorism.

"I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and a brutal dictator," he said.

Some information for this report provided by AP.

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Comment Sorting
by: Bearman from: U.S.A.
May 28, 2014 7:58 PM
Spending money our country does not have, borrowed from a possible adversary, certainly seems to be an option for the Obama administration.

by: meanbill from: USA
May 28, 2014 6:42 PM
THE WISE MAN said it; -- The US military schools teach the greatest tactics of all former great military leaders and battles -- (BUT?) -- the US president and other politicians decided what conflicts and wars the US would fight -- (AND?) -- the US always had good reasons to start the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- (BUT?) -- after (10) or more years fighting in each of those wars, the US Presidents and politicians decided the reasons they started the wars, weren't that important anymore? -- (AND?) -- they retreated or withdrew from those wars without winning a single one of them? --
LIKE SOMEBODY SAID? -- The US will still be the leader of the world -- (BUT?) -- they'll lead more from behind? --- sound familiar?
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
May 28, 2014 10:44 PM
You blame Us for each war in the world. how many civil war in the world. there is no reasons to blame us for Syria civil war which is instigated by Arab country. Sudan civil war. why you always put the blame in Us and never blame the other for started the war

by: ali baba from: new york
May 28, 2014 5:42 PM
Isolation is not an option ,but put American lives in a danger situation should not be an option. Spending a trillion of dollar in Afghanistan is wrong. One thousand of good and young American lose their lives as a result of hatred from radical Islam. We have to look for the fact before American lives in danger. We
should look for all the factors before we get involve. Muslim hate the west and should get in the middle of their dispute.

by: CharlieSeattle from: USA
May 28, 2014 1:34 PM
Obama "...the United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it - when our people are threatened; when our livelihood is at stake; or when the security of our allies is in danger. That has to mean he will secure the southern border and deport 11 million illegal alien invaders in the USA. .... "our people are threatened; when our livelihood is at stake" That has to mean he will end the H1-b visa program and deport over 65,000 green card holders in the USA. ..."our people are threatened; when our livelihood is at stake" Do think so?.................................NOT! ☭Traitors have an agenda that transcends patriotism, the rule of law and national security.

by: Mark from: Virginia
May 28, 2014 1:25 PM
What does the world want of the US? Its a catch-22; if we don't do something, the world criticizes us for not taking ENOUGH action, if we do something, the world criticizes us for strong-arming a weaker country and bullying them into submission.

How long has the world been around? Many, many centuries, over two thousand years at the least. How long has America been around? 238 years, to be exact. I think the world has survived and functioned for all that time without the US intervening anywhere. Why do we have to be world leaders? Who placed that mantle of responsibility on our shoulders? Why does the world NEED a leader? There are 196 countries around the world today, so there are 196 leaders already appointed to lead those countries. We (the US) have enough problems domestically, we really don't need to take on any other countries problems too.

A little isolationism is necessary, we need to distance ourselves more from other countries' problems. And no, military force is not the only answer, should never be an option unless there is absolutely no other recourse. Our military should only have one task, and only one task; the defense of our own borders and the safety of its citizens inside those borders. There is an organization that was established after World War 2 that should have international matters to look out for, and that is the United Nations, that is what it was organized to do, that is what it should be doing. More reliance on the UN and less reliance on the US, is what I say we should have.

We should not be a World Leader. This is the 21st century, what we should be is a World Partner, an equal, nothing more, nothing less.

by: Mrs. Bulge from: USA
May 28, 2014 1:22 PM
Notice NO mention by VOA or Obama that the CIA fund$ Al Qaeda from offshore banks, thus making the whole so-called "war on terror".................................PHONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


by: Mrs. Maddow from: D.C.
May 28, 2014 1:07 PM
Grace and well being to our Most High, Dear Leader, Obama. People need to bow in respect to the Dear Leader, and embrace our new Fascist loving government. Obey Government!! They are here to protect you. Pay homage and taxes to your loving government. They NEVER lie, they are here to protect you. Hail the Dear Leader!!!!

by: Not Again from: Canada
May 28, 2014 12:07 PM
The President has laid out a strategic vision, that he sees, for the 21rst century; it is interesting, innovative and it will require a very extended period of time to establish if it will result in positives, negatives a mix bag... etc. The unfortunate part is, that the vision does not take into account that in fact many of the World's destabilizers are behaving as if it was the 19 century.

The President's vision fails to address one of the fundamental issues required to avoid wars, DETERRENCE. Deterrence can't be achieved by visionary speeches, it needs to be based on hardware, software, and the required competent manpower to make the hardware and software effective and efficient; and lastly any potential adversary must clearly perceive, that the leadership has the will to use the power behind the deterrence in a very determined way= not in a never ending micro escalating way, that bleeds the moral will to WIN wars through thousands of un-necessary casualties.

The other issue that was not clearly addressed, is that the power sustaining deterrence must be a burden shared by all the allies in an equitable and proportional, to risk, way; there should be no free rides expected by some of the "more ineffective but economically well off allies, that make lots of noise and want the lion's share of decision making, but not the burden".

Lastly, stability needs to be addressed firstly by the nation directly under stress; if need be escalated to the regional alliance, and lastly escalated to the international power. The expectation should not be that the super power is the first and only level of response, as it is often the perception currently. Global stability must be achieved through credible deterrence, by competent and effective alliances, not through a regime of continuous wars, because adversaries perceive WEAKNESS OF WILL to use available power; thus the adversaries are emboldened and persist to inflict thousands of casualties over extended wars of attrition! The moral casualty equivalent has no basis in warfare= to be morally right we need to lose as many people as the enemy!

by: Mrs. Yellen from: USA
May 28, 2014 11:56 AM
America is being ruined and enslaved by AGENDA 21. Spread the FACT that AGENDA 21 has taken over the USA. Don't know what it is?? THEN EDUCATE YOURSELF!!!

by: Seato
May 28, 2014 9:19 AM
America' s lack of commitments and actions in foreign policies,has made America the world' s laughing stock.America's pivot to Asia is just a publicity stunt. China went on the rampage in East and South China Seas,terrorising and threatening the whole region,and so far America has not taken any practical counter measures to maintain peace,stability and maritime secutity there at all.The lack of naval presence is encouraging China to establish itself as the only and new hegemonic regional superpower
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
May 28, 2014 12:33 PM
How many conflicts or wars has the US or China started or took part in? -- Is the US the most aggressor country in the world? -- and has the US won any of the conflicts or wars they fought in? -- did they bring peace to any country? -- and do you really believe the US can win a conflict or war, and bring peace? -----
In Response

by: Mystery47 from: New York
May 28, 2014 10:59 AM
So, isolationism ISN'T an option EVEN WHEN IT IS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE? That speaks volumes about how responsive the government is to the people. We are not the masters anymore.
We are the subjects.

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