President to Defend Diplomacy-Oriented National Security Policies

Obama in State of the Union: 'I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership'

• January 20, 2015 7:30 pm


President Obama will defend his administration’s record of dealing with growing foreign terrorist threats and the limited use of military power in favor of diplomacy during Tuesday night’s state of the union speech.

Noting the first 15 years of the 21st Century brought "two long and costly wars" in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Obama said "it has been, and still is, a hard time for many," according to excerpts of the speech released by the White House.

The president will emphasize the current economic rebound from the recession that began in the mid-2000s. He will then seek to explain his foreign and national security policies that have stressed diplomacy over military force.

"I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership," Obama will say. "We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.  That’s exactly what we’re doing right now—and around the globe, it is making a difference."

Under Obama, the U.S. military has been hit with hundreds of billions of dollars in defense spending cuts as part of the plan to divert defense spending to domestic programs. First, the Pentagon was hit with $478 billion in cuts over 10 years beginning in the first term. An additional cut of more than $500 billion was then imposed by Congress as part of a budget deal known as sequestration. Those cuts also will be spread out over the coming years.

The spending cuts have created a crisis within the military services that are scrambling to match limited dollars to operations and weapons programs.

Overseas, the president’s conciliatory approach to foreign terrorist threats that were directed mainly at the al Qaeda terrorist group saw the emergence last year of a new terrorist threat in the al Qaeda offshoot known as the Islamic State.

Meanwhle, diplomatic outreach aimed at warmer ties with Moscow under neo-fascist leader Vladimir Putin saw Russia annex a key industrial region of Ukraine while covertly arming pro-Moscow rebels in the eastern part of the former Soviet republic located south of Russia.

On Iraq and Syria, Obama will say the limited air strikes being carried out mainly by U.S. forces against the Islamic state are "stopping ISIL’s advance."

"Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group," Obama will say.

The comment reflects the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy of opposing President George W. Bush’s foray into Iraq that began in 2003.

The president also will highlight U.S. support for "moderate" opposition forces in Syria, where Islamist rebels dominate the forces fighting the central government of Syria’s Bashar al Assad.

The backing is aimed at supporting "people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism," he will say.

"This effort will take time," Obama will state. "It will require focus. But we will succeed."

The president also will call on Congress to authorize a new resolution on the use of force against the Islamic State, something the he will state is needed to "show the world that we are united in this mission."

In a section on cyber threats to vulnerable information networks, Obama will call for strengthening cyber security.

"No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids," he will say.

However, the White House has said that it favors passive and defensive measures against cyber threats and opposes using U.S. military or intelligence cyber power for attacks on foreign states like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea that are known to be developing sophisticated cyber attacks.

The last major cyber offensive cyber attack operation reportedly carried out by the United States was the so-called Stuxnet computer worm that was used to sabotage industrial control systems inside Iran’s covert uranium enrichment program.

"We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism," Obama will say.

"And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information."

Many in Congress have balked at passing cyber security legislation over privacy concerns.

"If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable," Obama will say. "If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe."