Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama believes the United States must resist the temptation to "over-reach" in its foreign policy and have "strategic patience" when it comes to tough international problems.
In a strategy document released Friday, Obama made the case for a more deliberative, cautious and restrained US foreign policy.
"The challenges we face require strategic patience and persistence," he said -- comments likely to be painted as vacillation or obfuscation by his political rivals.
Obama is facing calls for the United States to use its vast military and economic power to decisively intervene in Syria and Ukraine.
But the National Security Strategy document makes clear Obama's White House will not rush to engage if the outcome or impact is unclear.
"The United States will always defend our interests and uphold our commitments to allies and partners," the document states.
"But, we have to make hard choices among many competing priorities, and we must always resist the over-reach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear.
"Moreover, we must recognize that a smart national security strategy does not rely solely on military power."
The strategy echoes Obama's foreign policy mantra -- informally summed up as "don't do stupid stuff" -- adopted in the wake of damaging simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We shifted away from a model of fighting costly, large-scale ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which the United States —- particularly our military bore, an enormous burden," the strategy stated.
"Instead, we are now pursuing a more sustainable approach that prioritizes targeted counterterrorism operations, collective action with responsible partners, and increased efforts to prevent the growth of violent extremism and radicalization that drives increased threats."
Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described the document as "clear-eyed."
"The strategy wisely calls for drawing on all the sources of our national power -- including the unrivaled strength and resilience of America's economy, diplomacy, and military, as well as our values," he said in a statement.
But Republicans were less than enthusiastic.
"I doubt ISIL, the Iranian mullahs, or Vladmir Putin will be intimidated by President Obama's strategy of 'strategic patience.'" said Senator Lindsey Graham.
"From their point of view, the more 'patience' President Obama practices the stronger they become."
The document lays out a series of priorities for US foreign policy, from preventing nuclear proliferation to climate change.
It also reaffirmed a US desire to see China rise in a "stable, peaceful, and prosperous" way, but added "we will manage competition from a position of strength while insisting that China uphold international rules and norms."