President Barack Obama told graduating cadets at West Point
Saturday the U.S. would fight on in its campaign to "disrupt, dismantle and to defeat" the terrorist network, but he said the country would go forward as "part of an international effort that is necessary and just."
The president's emphasis on shaping an "international order" with old and new allies -- and his rejection of preemptive war -- sounded like a preview of a new national security strategy, which he is expected to announce next week.
He warned the newly-minted second lieutenants, many of them headed to the battlefront and harm's way, that victory in Afghanistan would not come conclusively with the signing of a peace treaty. "So cadets," he said, "a long hard road awaits you."
"This is a different kind of war. There will be no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey's end -- no armistice, no banner headline," Obama said. "Though we have had more success in eliminating al Qaeda leaders in recent months than in recent years, they will continue to recruit, and plot, and exploit our open society...
"So the threat will not go away soon, but let's be clear: al Qaeda and its affiliates are small men on the wrong side of history. They lead no nation, they lead no religion. We need not give in to fear every time a terrorist tries to scare us."
The president, speaking outdoors at Michie Stadium, promised that the military would remain the "cornerstone of our national defense." But he said "we also have to build new partnerships, and shape stronger international standards and institutions... The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times -- countering violent extremism and insurgency, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials ..."
"Yes, we are clear eyed about the shortfalls of the international system, but America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation -- we have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice, so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face consequences when they don't."
Obama's intention to shift the focus of the war effort from Iraq to Afghanistan was made clear six months ago at the United States Military Academy when he announced a surge of additional troops into Afghanistan
to face the growing Taliban insurgency. He noted that Saturday was the ninth consecutive commencement at the academy with the nation at war.
Obama, a commander-in-chief who ran as an anti-war candidate and who acknowledged that he had "never experienced the field of battle," said "America does not fight for the sake of fighting. We abhor war...
'As General MacArthur said, 'the soldier above all others prays for peace' -- We fight because we must, We fight to keep our families and our communities safe. We fight for the security of our allies and partners, because America believes that we will be safer when our friends are safer, that we will be stronger when the world is more just."
Filed Under: Barack Obama
, Foreign Policy
, Obama Administration
, National Security
, Arms Control
, Nuclear Proliferation
, Middle East
, European Union