“We live in a complex world and at a challenging time,” said President Barack Obama at the end of a unscheduled national address from the White House press room Wednesday. And none of these challenges lend themselves to quick or easy solutions, but all of them require American leadership.”
His words surprised no one, and the president even prefaced his final point by saying in closing, “I’ll point out the obvious.” Still — in a week wracked by escalating violence in Ukraine, which saw pro-Russia rebels shoot down a civilian aircraft carrying nearly 300 passengers, and the failure of an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between the State of Israel and Hamas — his words had resonance. Yet, as Bob Schieffer, the host of CBS News program “Face the Nation” and chief Washington correspondent, reported Wednesday that Obama’s description of the world as “complex” may be “the understatement of the year.” And even his comments only hint at the growing criticism of Obama’s foreign policy — which, to his detractors — has returned very few victories.
As Obama describes it, his foreign policy is not about achieving major victories. Defending his strategies during a visit to Asia earlier this year, the president said his administration has focused on not rushing to judgement, in order to avoid “errors.” That thinking will keep U.S. troops “in reserve for when we absolutely need them,” he said, and critics who argue the United States is not using enough force “haven’t learned the lesson of the last decade,” during which the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan took a toll on U.S. forces and the nation’s budget.
“That may not always be sexy,” Obama said of his administration’s focus on engagement and unity among allies. “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.”