Obama says his foreign policy views are not always 'sexy,' but they avoid 'errors'
By Justin Sink - 04/28/14 07:35 AM EDT
President Obama offered a full-throated defense of his foreign policy on Monday, accusing critics who argue that he has not been aggressive enough on the world stage of failing to learn the lessons of the Iraq war.
During a press conference in Manila, Obama said that while his foreign policy efforts “may not always be sexy,” he had strengthened partnerships and allegiances around the world that would pay dividends for years to come.
“If you look at the results of what we've done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest,” Obama said.
“And that may not always be sexy,” he continued. “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.”
The comments appeared a direct rebuke to Republican lawmakers like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has repeatedly criticized the president over his handling of the crisis in Ukraine.
Last Tuesday, McCain said it was “insane” for the U.S. not to provide the Ukrainian military with lethal assistance amid fears Russia could be mounting an invasion.
“This administration, I never have seen anything like it in my life,” McCain told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s passive.”
McCain and other Republican lawmakers have also called for more aggressive U.S. intervention in hotbeds like Syria, which is engaged in a brutal civil war.
But Obama rejected the argument that additional arms would have an impact on the situation in Ukraine.
“Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?” Obama said. “Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?”
In some of his most expansive comments on his foreign policy views in recent months, Obama argued that his job as commander-in-chief was “to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely.”
“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,” Obama said.
And the president looked to push back against critics who have suggested his measured approach of imposing targeted sanctions in Ukraine has done little to deter Russian president Vladimir Putin. On Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told CBS News that “all we’re doing is tweaking folks” in Moscow.
"I think these targeted sanctions against individuals just are not affecting Putin's behavior enough," Corker said. "I think we need to put sectoral sanctions in place. I think we need to move those troops away from the border, change the behavior. And I'm very concerned that, as we've seen from this administration on so many tough issues, their policy's always late, after the point in time when we could have made a difference in the outcome."
But Obama said that proponents of more military intervention kept “on just playing the same note over and over again.”
“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,” Obama said.
“The question I think I would have is, 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?” the president asked “And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?”