President Barack Obama laid out his vision of America’s role in the world with a direct message to foreign policy critics. (Via The White House)
OBAMA: “America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise ... are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.” (Via CNN)
The president was speaking at West Point’s commencement ceremony. Much of his speech addressed the perception that he's been weak on foreign policy issues in his second term.
A recent poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News found only 38 percent of Americans approve of his foreign policy performance.
CNN sums up the criticism this way: "Although Obama enjoyed high-profile foreign-policy successes at the beginning of his time in office, including the military mission to find and kill bin Laden, he's come under harsh criticism recently for what opponents say is a passive approach abroad."
In particular, his handling of the Syrian conflict and Russia's ambitions in Ukraine have come under fire from those who say they'd prefer to see a more aggressive approach from Obama. (Via Foreign Policy,Forbes, The New York Times)
That includes Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who tweeted recently, "President Obama is not ending wars, he’s losing them."
But Obama was on the defense Wednesday — outlining a broad foreign policy vision that includes plans to create a $5 billion “terrorism partnership fund,” which would help other countries respond to threats from extremist groups.
According to a White House fact sheet, the fund “will provide the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve."
That includes countries such as Yemen, Libya and Somalia where Al-Qaeda and its affiliates pose a major threat. (Via Euronews)
The president also vowed to increase support for the Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad but wasn’t clear on what that meant. (Via ITN)
The Wall Street Journal suggests he might have been referring to the creation of a U.S.-led military training program in addition to the CIA-led program Obama signed off on a year ago.
Reactions to Obama’s address, as you might imagine, were mixed.
DAVID WOOD: "It was certainly a forcefully put argument for more multilateralism, for the cost of unilateral military action." (Via MSNBC)
KARL ROVE: “President Obama’s speech today is going to further disappoint our allies. They’re shaking their heads in capitals all around the world. And it's going to embolden our adversaries.” (Via Fox News)
Obama's West Point speech comes a day after he announced plans to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the war's formal end.