The president cast the American-led bombing campaign against Islamic State and its infrastructure as an effort to buy time for Middle Eastern countries, especially Iraq, to cool sectarian tensions and build more inclusive governments that are strong enough to take on militant groups themselves.
“Rather than play whack-a-mole and send U.S. troops wherever this occurs, we have to build strong partnerships," Obama said in an interview airing Sunday evening on “60 Minutes.” "We've got to get Arab and Muslim leaders to say very clearly, ‘These folks do not represent us. They do not represent Islam.’”
The president touted the international coalition that came together to attack Islamic State, but during the interview, he did not shy away from asserting that the U.S. leads the effort, in what seemed a tacit response to the public's growing discontent with his handling of foreign affairs.
"America leads. We are the indispensable nation," he said. "We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing. They don't call Moscow. They call us."
The president also touched on tensions with Russia that have flared over Moscow's backing of separatists in Ukraine, saying that sanctions have damaged the Russian economy and pushed the Russian-supported militants to rein in their aggression. He said he did not think a military confrontation between NATO allies and Russia would happen.
Banerjee reported from Washington and Raab from Los Angeles.