In foreign policy document, Obama embraces doctrine of 'strategic patience'

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting at the White House on Feb. 4, 2015. (Olivier Douliery, Abaca Press/TNS)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting at the White House on Feb. 4, 2015. (Olivier Douliery, Abaca Press/TNS)

In foreign policy document, Obama embraces doctrine of 'strategic patience'

by: Gregory Korte | .
USA Today | .
published: February 07, 2015

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama delivered a long-overdue national security strategy document to Congress Friday, emphasizing diplomacy over military power and warning against American over-reach in world affairs.

"America leads from a position of strength. But, this does not mean we can or should attempt to dictate the trajectory of all unfolding events around the world. As powerful as we are and will remain, our resources and influence are not infinite," Obama writes in the introduction to the  35-page policy document. "The challenges we face require strategic patience and persistence."

Military leaders rallied around the strategy Friday. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the strategy was "clear-eyed about our nation's challenges as well as our strategic opportunities." Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the strategy would maintain the nation's military edge by insisting on "reforms and necessary investment in our military forces and their families."

National Security Adviser Susan Rice will expand on the strategy in a speech Friday afternoon at the Brookings Institution.

The delivery of a new comprehensive strategy document comes as Obama seeks congressional authorization for military force against the Islamic State, and as Vice President Joe Biden meets with European leaders to plot a strategy for dealing with Russia.

Some global hot spots highlighted in the report:

◾ Russia: The strategy calls for continued diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia for its incursion into Ukraine, working "in lockstep with our European allies." At the same time, the Obama administration will "keep the door open to greater collaboration with Russia in areas of common interests, should it choose a different path."
◾ Islamic State: The United States will "prioritize collective action" to address the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and from related groups. The strategy document reiterates the position that Iraq and its Middle Eastern neighbors have to take a lead role in combating ISIL on the ground, although the United States will continue to deploy its "unique military capabilities."
◾ North Korea: The United States is "modernizing our alliances" with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines to counter North Korean provocation.
◾ Western Africa: The Ebola epidemic shows the need to focus on health issues as part of a national security strategy, the report said.
◾ China: "The United States welcomes the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous China," the policy document says. "While there will be competition, we reject the inevitability of confrontation."

This is the first update of the National Security Strategy that Obama has sent to Congress since 2010, even though he's required to do it every year under the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Department Reorganization Act of 1986.

The 2010 report did not mention Ukraine, the Islamic State or Ebola, and stressed "building cooperation" with Russia.

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