Reaction to the President’s West Point Speech (w/ Update 1)

Reaction to the President’s West Point Speech

At West Point, President Obama Binds America’s Hands on Foreign Affairs - Washington Post Editorial

President Obama has retrenched U.S. global engagement in a way that has shaken the confidence of many U.S. allies and encouraged some adversaries. That conclusion can be heard not just from Republican hawks but also from senior officials from Singapore to France and, more quietly, from some leading congressional Democrats. As he has so often in his political career, Mr. Obama has elected to respond to the critical consensus not by adjusting policy but rather by delivering a big speech.

President Obama Misses a Chance on Foreign Affairs - New York Times Editorial

President Obama and his aides heralded his commencement speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday as a big moment, when he would lay out his foreign policy vision for the remainder of his term and refute his critics. The address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep and is unlikely to quiet his detractors, on the right or the left.

Obama's Vision of U.S. as 'Empowering Partners' - Christian Science Monitor Editorial

Obama quoted President Kennedy about peace needing to be based upon “a gradual evolution in human institutions.” As more people and nations evolve toward shared ideals, the task of maintaining international order also becomes more of a shared one. The U.S., which was so instrumental as a military leader in the 20th century, can take on a new role in bringing nations and people closer.

America Can't Ignore Military Muscle of Russia and China - Washington Examiner Editorial

President Obama told West Point's graduating cadets Wednesday that “some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.” Apparently the nation's commander-in-chief is unaware of -- or perhaps unconcerned by -- the more pressing reality that bad things happen when America's real and potential adversaries don't fear U.S. strength.

Obama’s Unclear Foreign Policy Path - Richard N. Haass, Council on Foreign Relations

President Barack Obama has laid out a vision for U.S. foreign policy calling for the need to avoid both unnecessary military entanglements and isolationism. CFR President Richard N. Haass said the speech at West Point on May 28 appeared too focused on what the president opposed and less on what he favored. "It was an attempt to essentially carve out a form of involvement in the world that avoided any and every excess," Haass said. "But with one or two exceptions, it didn't provide any specifics." Obama's call for ramping up support for non-jihadist rebels in Syria is welcomed, Haass said.

Four Disappointments in Obama’s West Point Speech - Thomas Wright, Brookings

President Obama’s commencement speech at West Point was intended to reboot his foreign policy for the rest of his administration but it is likely to raise additional concerns in the United States and allied nations. He presented it as a speech that seeks to strengthen the international order but unfortunately I believe it fell short in at least four respects.

Doubling Down on a Muddled Foreign Policy - John Bolton, Wall Street Journal

At West Point on Wednesday, President Obama told the graduating seniors that he had discovered a middle way in foreign policy between isolationism and military interventionism. To the White House, this was like "the dawn come up like thunder outer China," in Kipling's phrase. Others were less impressed, especially since it took five-plus years of on-the-job training to grasp this platitude. Of course the United States has options between war and complete inaction. Not since Nixon has a president so relished uncovering middling alternatives between competing straw men.

The Obama Defense - Michael O’Hanlon, Foreign Affairs

U.S. President Obama -- increasingly accused of having a listless foreign policy that, in the eyes of some, made Russian President Vladimir Putin believe he could get away with stealing Crimea -- is doing much better on the world stage than his critics allow. But he does still have to address one significant problem. If he does not, he will likely find himself increasingly harangued over a supposed decline in American influence and power on his watch. His West Point speech on May 28 will probably fix some of the problem, but not all of it.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Repeats Some Avoidable Mistakes - David Ignatius, Washington Post

President Obama’s measured defense of his foreign policy at West Point on Wednesday made many cogent points to rebut critics. Unfortunately, the speech also showed that he hasn’t digested some of the crucial lessons of his presidency.

Obama Just Accidentally Explained Why His Foreign Policy Hasn’t Worked - Elliott Abrams, Washington Post

At West Point today, President Obama marched out his army of straw men and continued his ungracious habit of taking credit for successful actions attributable to his predecessor. But at bottom, the policy he outlined will be of little comfort to our allies and to the cause of freedom in the world.

Obama at West Point: A Foreign Policy of False Choices - David Frum, The Atlantic

On the evidence of President Obama’s commencement address at West Point on Wednesday, he’d have made an outstanding State Department memo-writer. The president outlined a Washington policy debate occurring in three corners. Over in Corner 1 are those who believe in “a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks.” Huddled in Corner 2 are those who insist that “conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve.” Between these obviously stupid extremes is a sensible third way, which happens to coincide perfectly with the policy of the Obama administration.

What Obama Didn't Explain in His Foreign Policy Speech at West Point - Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

President Obama’s foreign policy speech at West Point on Wednesday didn’t break any new ground, not even rhetorically. But it wasn’t intended to. It was meant as a rebuttal, an answer to critics who have harried Obama for months complaining that America’s adversaries (Russia, China and Syria, for example) are pursuing their goals with more success than the United States has found in stopping them. The criticisms have gotten under Obama’s skin. He gripes about them frequently, in public and in private. So, with a speech already promised for West Point’s graduation ceremony, he seized the opportunity for a longer, more considered version of his side of the argument.

Obama Says Goodbye to American Hubris - Peter Bergen, CNN News

What Obama did in his West Point speech was to chart a course that balances two natural, and contradictory, American national security impulses -- isolationism and interventionism -- and points to a hybrid approach that avoids some of the pitfalls of either of these strategic approaches.

A Sad, Half-hearted Address to the Wrong Audience - Bing West, National Review

Before a silent graduating class at West Point, Mr. Obama monotonically delivered a defensive foreign-policy address empty of substance. He failed to connect with an audience that responded with polite but tepid applause to a vapid speech more suitable for the United Nations than for the United States. He put forward four points that he asserted comprised the bedrock of American leadership in the world.

Obama vs. His Imagined Critics - Max Boot, Commentary

In his much ballyhooed West Point address, President Obama employed what in the 1990s was known as “triangulation”–but not an effective or convincing form of triangulation, rather one that appears to be mainly rhetorical instead of policy oriented.

The New World Disorder - Richard Parker, McClatchy-Tribune

The president’s speech Wednesday at West Point was, as all of his speeches are, a fine speech. But it did not advance the ball. He did not move the locus of American attention and energy out of the Middle East and northern Africa, where he continued to focus on the fragments of the remnants of al-Qaida. For a president who correctly noted that “not every problem is a nail,” he focused chiefly on the nails of terrorism and the hammer of the judicious use of force.

Obama's Small Ball Foreign Agenda - Steve Huntley, Chicago Sun-Times

A strategy of singles and doubles is how President Barack Obama recently characterized his foreign policy. Anyone looking for more than small ball in what the White House billed as a major speech at West Point on Wednesday was bound to be disappointed. No big agenda or ambitious goals were pronounced. It was more a steady as we go on the more modest role Obama has chartered for America in world affairs.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Speech Sounds Familiar - Michael Crowley, Time

Obama's foreign policy address at West Point won't satisfy his critics, but it might reassure anxious supporters. For all the hype, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy speech at West Point on Wednesday didn’t break much new ground.

The Goldilocks Speech - Eric Cantor, ABC News

Today's address at West Point was a goldilocks speech. Trying to find the lukewarm bowl of porridge will not likely reassure those who worry about our lack of leadership, and will not concern those who fear its return.

Commentators Break Down Obama Foreign Policy Speech at West Point - U.S. News & World Report Roundup

Views You Can Use: Staying the Course on Foreign Policy - Obama's West Point speech didn't break much ground.

Did Obama Make His Case? - New York Times Debate

In his address to graduating West Point cadets on Wednesday, President Obama laid out his administration’s foreign policy goals. His speech was directed at his critics who have suggested “that America is in decline” and “has seen its global leadership slip away.” Did it work?

US Lawmakers React to Obama Speech at West Point - Michael Bowman, Voice of America

One of Barack Obama’s top congressional critics in foreign policy matters has responded forcefully to a speech in which the president mapped out his vision for U.S. engagement around the globe.

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Comments

It appears that President Obama's foreign policy possibilities (and those of the presidents that follow Obama) have been dramatically limited -- or actually even been curtailed -- by President Bush's disastrous foreign policy ideas, decisions and actions.

President Bush imprudently pulled the trigger on significant interventions.

These such interventions proved that:

a. They were much too costly to be able to sustain (to a proper conclusion),

b. Were based on a false premise (universal values) and, as such,

c. Were likely to result in negative rather than positive outcomes. (Instead of states and societies being transformed along modern western lines, such states and societies, via our interventions, became as likely or more likely to descend into chaos, to divide or disintegrate, to ally themselves with our opponents and/or to adopt ways of life and way of governance that are even more detrimental to US interests).

If everyone in the world (to include the population of the United States) now understands the above, then how in the heck can ANY President (Obama or his future replacements), today or in the near-term future, threaten ANYONE with significant intervention?

Before President Bush imprudently pulled the trigger, the threat of significant intervention -- and the (false) idea of "universal values" -- were valuable tools in our presidents' tool box.

Now? People can laugh and thumb their nose at the United States if it (the United States) (1) threatens such action or (2) suggests such a premise. (Bad guys: "Go ahead and intervene -- make my day -- you go broke, divide your nation at home, and I take advantage of the situation that you have created here to re-order the state and society as I desire! Thank you very much! We absolutely, positively, could not -- and cannot -- do it without you!")