Obama: US must resist urge to 'overreach" abroad

AP News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2015 3:29 PM
Obama: US must resist urge to 'overreach" abroad

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama, outlining a new national security blueprint for his last two years in office, warned against American "overreach" abroad Friday, even as he cast the U.S. as an indispensable force in combating global challenges including terrorism, climate change and cyber threats.

The 29-page document released by the White House hews closely to Obama's long-held views and forecasts no major shifts in the military campaign against Islamic State militants or in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Obama said threat of terrorism against the homeland "has diminished, but still persists" and vowed to degrade extremist groups like the Islamic State using counterterrorism operations and global coalitions, not large-scale, American-led ground wars.

"The United States will always defend our interests and uphold our commitments to allies and partners," he wrote in an introduction to the White House strategy paper. "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."

The president is required by law to send Congress a national security strategy annually. However, most presidents, including Obama, have done so only sporadically. Obama's only previous memo to lawmakers came in 2010 and formalized his desire to broaden U.S. national security posture beyond anti-terror campaigns.

Obama's critics have accused the president of putting his desire to keep the U.S. out of overseas conflicts ahead of the need for more robust action against the world's bad actors. Some members of Congress have called for Obama to send more American ground troops to the Middle East to combat the Islamic State group, while also pushing for the White House to authorize shipments of defensive weapons to Ukraine to help its beleaguered military in the fight against Russian-backed separatists.

Administration officials have said that Obama is reconsidering his opposition to giving Ukraine lethal aid, though he continues to have concerns about the effectiveness of that step.

The president's blueprint was met with predictable criticism from congressional Republicans. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Obama's foreign policy doctrine had "led the world into chaos" and left the U.S. "less secure and at greater risk."

For much of his presidency, Obama has sought to recalibrate the focus of U.S. foreign policy away from the Middle East and toward fast-growing regions like Asia and Africa. He's made numerous trips to Asia, in particular, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice announced Friday that Obama would be hosting state visits this year for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In one area where Obama has overlap with Republicans, he reaffirmed his support for free trade agreements with Asia, as well as Europe.

Obama's updated security strategy comes amid fresh fears of cyberattacks following the hacking of Sony, which the U.S. blamed on North Korea. The president said the danger of disruptive and even destructive cyberattacks is growing and vowed to "impose costs on malicious cyber actors," though he did not specify what those costs would be.

The U.S. levied new economic sanctions on North Korea in retaliation for the Sony hack.

The president also addressed the risks of climate change and infectious diseases like the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And while U.S. oil and gas production is robust, Obama said the U.S. must support the creation of new energy sources, in part because of the plummeting price of oil.

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