Standing before a crowd of 1,000 new Army officers at the
"America must always lead on the world stage. If we don't, no one else will," Obama told the cadets. "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," Obama said. "Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail."
In the sweeping commencement speech, Obama rejected critics’ suggestions that he is an isolationist because of his unwillingness to commit military force to end the
Instead, Obama embraced the label "interventionism" even as he cited presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Roosevelt and Truman in making a case that the U.S. should think long and hard before committing its military.
In discussing the U.S. response in Syria, Obama announced that he will work with
But he also seized on the case of Syria to underscore his principle of using the military only when American core interests are at stake, defining that as when "our people are threatened, when our livelihood is at stake or when the security of our allies is in danger."
On the other hand, when such issues don't pose a direct threat to the U.S., he said, the threshold for military action is higher and requires American leaders to mobilize allies and partners to take collective action.
Just a day after announcing that he will complete the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2016, Obama described for the graduating cadets the new threat he says the country is now facing from the Middle East to the Sahel region of Africa.
The principal threat to the U.S. no longer comes from a centralized al-Qaeda leadership, Obama said, but rather from a diffuse array of affiliates and extremists, many of them with agendas focused on the countries where they operate. “This lessens the possibility of large-scale