By: Harry C. Blaney, III
“First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency: 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. In these circumstances, 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.
On the other hand, when issues of global concern that do not pose a direct threat to the United States are at stake – when crises arise that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction – then the threshold for military action must be higher. 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. We must do so because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, and less likely to lead to costly mistakes.”
-President Obama in his commencement speech to West Point graduates, May 28.
America faces many major challenges in today’s chaotic world. Making sense of them and trying to find solutions is not an easy job, even for most experts and leaders around the world.
Soon, President Obama will be visiting Europe both for a key G-7 meeting and also for D-Day anniversary ceremonies. Europe has just undergone elections for a EU Parliament with results that raise many concerns. Along with the United States, Europe must craft an effective response to the Ukraine crisis, build energy security, and respond to a new and aggressive Putin. Not least, it must develop a new global response to climate change and nuclear proliferation.
President Barack Obama’s speech today at West Point is the start of an effort to reach out to the American people and explain his policies and objectives. It also signifies an attempt to outline the kind of world that this and future generations will face, and the many challenges that remain of deep concern. During his speech, the President set the parameters for military engagement which in various past statements have been said, but clearly have not been well understood by the public.
His speech was also an effort to reach out beyond his critics on both the right and left, as well as those in the mainstream media. Over the past six years, these politicians and observers have attacked the President’s policies so heavily that it has become difficult for American voters to look beyond the criticisms. Indeed, one poll has left him with just a forty percent approval rating in foreign affairs, in no small part due to the carefully crafted criticisms of his opponents.
Today, what was notable in his argument was that our foreign affairs and national security efforts have been effective, judicious, and well considered; that the tools used have often yielded better results than U.S. unilateral military intervention that his conservative critics have urged. He said what is clearly true: we remain still the indispensable power in the world and, as such, we bear a large responsibility. Though he continues to support the policy of military action when necessary, the President’s clear preference is to work through what has been called “soft” or “smart” power. That is, he continues to prefer cooperating with allies, friends, and international institutions like the UN on a multilateral level.
We are asking our readers to provide comments on the speech and President Obama’s priorities and goals, as well as their view of the challenges of our international landscape and direction American should take to deal with the key issues that Obama has outlined.
For a link to the full transcript of today’s speech, please click here.
Again as always we welcome your comments and perspectives. Please join our dialogue!