President Barack Obama declared domestic and foreign terrorism as the nation’s greatest threats on Wednesday, clarifying and sharpening what had been a rather opaque message on foreign policy.
Obama took the stage to deliver the commencement address to US Military Academy at West Point graduates roughly 24 hours after his announcement that all US troops will be out of Afghanistan by 2016, and only a few days after his surprise Memorial Day trip to Afghanistan.
But the leader of the free world wasn’t using his speech as a springboard to war.
The president’s positioning in the speech came as a "legitimate surprise" after attempts in the past to present clear foreign policy plans led to more confusion, according to Vox.
"With the possible exception of Jimmy Carter’s 1977 Notre Dame speech, it may well have been one of the most dovish foreign policy speeches by a sitting president since Eisenhower," the Vox article stated.
Obama led his foreign policy vision by telling cadets, "You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan." (The full text of his speech is available on The Washington Post.)
POTUS called the US "the one indispensable nation," before presenting his "bottom line," that while the US military "is, and always will be, the backbone" of the nation’s worldwide leadership, US military action "cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance."
"Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is the nail," he said.
It’s undoubtedly a dramatic statement coming more than a decade after the US entered its longest war and – to echo Vox writer Max Fisher – not one many Americans may have seen coming. Generations of Americans have been so conditioned to boots on the ground that the president’s goal of achieving peace without aggression may seem implausible.
According to the AP, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the drawdown of US troops Wednesday on NBC’s Today, saying, "This is not an abandonment of Afghanistan. This is an emboldenment. This is an empowerment of Afghanistan."
For what might be the day’s simplest-to-follow roundup of the president’s announcement, check out the Post blog "The Fix," with 13 tweets from the paper’s chief White House correspondent Scott Wilson.
Wilson is also the reporter who noticed the White House press office’s mistaken leak of a CIA official’s name in a pool report over the weekend.