Obama: U.S. must not rush into foreign wars

Obama vows to increase support to the neighboring states of Syria, including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq

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U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday his government would not rush into foreign wars but would take unilateral action when “core national security interests demand it.”

In the foreign policy speech at West Point, Obama also reaffirmed his decision not intervene military in Syria where forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are battling rebels seeking to end his reign.

“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,” Obama said.

But he said Washington would not hesitate to take unilateral action when the United States or “core interests” were directly threatened.
“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,” he said.

“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.”

During his speech at the U.S. Military Academy, Obama stressed that the most direct threat facing the U.S. and world remained terrorism, particularly from “decentralized Al-Qaeda affiliates” and extremists.

Barack Obama AFP West Point
Barack Obama AFP West Point

Touching on the unrest in the Middle East, the U.S. leader said there were no easy answers to the Syrian conflict which has raged since early 2011.

“As frustrating as it is [the Syrian conflict], there are no easy answers – no military solution that can eliminate the terrible suffering anytime soon,” he said.

“As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian civil war, and I believe that is the right decision,” he said.

However, Obama vowed to ramp up support for the Syrian opposition as an alternative to Assad and extremist groups operating in Syria.

“But that [not intervening militarily] does not mean we shouldn’t help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his people.”

“And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe-haven in the chaos.”

He also said he would work with the U.S. Congress to support a $5 billion counterterrorism fund, part of which would offer assistance to Syria’s neighbors Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq “as they host refugees, and confront terrorists working across Syrian borders.”

Turning to Iran’s suspect nuclear program, Obama said the odds of success for nuclear agreement with Tehran are still long but that there was a very real chance of a “breakthrough.”

“We have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully. The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement,” Obama said.

During the speech Obama declared that the U.S. remains the world's most indispensable nation, even after a "long season of war," but argued for restraint before embarking on more military adventures.

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