MANILA, Philippines (AP) — President Barack Obama launched a vigorous defense of his foreign policy on Monday, responding to critics who cast him as weak and ineffectual on the world stage.
He spoke at a news conference at the end of a trip to Asia. He said his approach to global problems is to speak out clearly about what the U.S. believes, use "all the tools we've got in the tool kit" and take "clear actions" when that would make a difference.
Some of his comments:
—"Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we've just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?"
—"My job as commander in chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests."
—"I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, 'No, no, no, we don't mean sending in troops.' Well, what do you mean? 'Well, you should be assisting the opposition.' Well, we're assisting the opposition. What else do you mean? 'Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria.' Well, it turns out we're getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what else are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off."
—"Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we're applying?"
—"The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven't really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again."
—"But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe. Where we can make a difference using all the tools we've got in the toolkit, well, we should do so. And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them. We don't do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. ... And that may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn't make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world."