WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that “a strategy that involves invading every country that harbours terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable”.
In a policy speech at the West Point military academy, New York, President Obama also emphasised the need to take direct strikes (such as drones) only when faced with a continuing, imminent threat and only where there’s near certainty of no civilian casualties.
“For, our actions should meet a simple test: we must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield,” said the US leader while outlining his strategy for dealing with future global issues.
In an indirect reference to the CIA, which runs the drone programme for Pakistan, President Obama noted that the US intelligence community had done outstanding work. “But, when we cannot explain our efforts clearly and publicly, we face terrorist propaganda and international suspicion; we erode legitimacy with our partners and our people; and we reduce accountability in our own government.”
Mr Obama said he believed the US should be more transparent about both the basis for its actions and the manner in which they were carried out — “whether it’s drone strikes, or training partners. I will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts.”
On Tuesday, Mr Obama outlined his Afghan policy, which aims to wrap up US military involvement in Afghanistan by 2016.
The strategy unveiled on Wednesday seeks to build partnerships for combating terrorism and underlines the need to use force only when necessary. “To say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution,” the president said.
Mr Obama, who is also the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, assured America’s future military leaders that like most Americans he too believed “America must always lead on the world stage”.
He assured them that the military “always will be the backbone of that leadership” but US military action “cannot be the only — or primary — component of our leadership in every instance.”
President Obama also noted that since he took office, the United States had ended the Iraq war and was preparing to end the Afghanistan conflict, decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and eliminated Osama bin Laden.
The speech touched all major issues that interest or affect the US as a superpower and Mr Obama assured the international community that the US would not dodge its responsibilities but would perform them smartly.
“By most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics,” he declared,
The president reminded those who support continued US military engagement around the world that: “Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures. Just because we have the best hammer, does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
He assured his nation that the United States would “use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it” but “we still need to ask tough questions about whether our action is proportional, effective and just.”
International opinion matters, “but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life”, he added.