Obama lays out security strategy, warns against 'overreach'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama released an updated national security strategy on Friday that committed the United States to lead on pressing world issues but reflected his cautious policy toward foreign intervention.

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The 29-page memo to Congress, required under law, broadly outlined Obama’s foreign policy priorities for the final two years of his presidency.

Obama described the most pressing challenges of violent extremism, Russian aggression, cyberattacks and climate change and said they were best addressed by mobilizing international coalitions.

But he said the United States needed “strategic patience and persistence” as it does not have infinite resources and said many problems could not be resolved through military might.

“We must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear,” Obama said.

In the long run, he said U.S. efforts to counter the ideology behind violent extremism were “more important than our capacity to remove terrorists from the battlefield.”

The document updated a lengthier one issued in 2010, when Obama was only 15 months into the job. Since then, he has been frequently criticized at home and abroad for excess caution.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a frequent Obama critic, said Obama’s approach had led to global chaos and allowed bad actors to flourish, including Islamic State militants, also known as ISIL.

“I doubt ISIL, the Iranian mullahs, or Vladimir Putin will be intimidated by President Obama’s strategy of ‘strategic patience,’” Graham said in a statement.


Obama renewed the U.S. commitment to lead an international coalition to defeat Islamic State and work with European allies to isolate Russia over its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine - crises that did not exist in 2010.

Top White House national security adviser Susan Rice said the White House and European allies were assessing how to ramp up pressure on Moscow through sanctions or military aid.

“We have not taken a decision yet to up that, the nature of that assistance, to include lethal defensive equipment,” Rice said in a speech at the Brookings Institution think-tank. Any decision would be taken only after consultation with European allies, she said.

Rice said those who criticized Obama for his reflective approach to emerging crises lacked a broad perspective and were too reactive. “We cannot afford to be buffeted by alarmism in a nearly instantaneous news cycle,” Rice said.

She said the White House would redouble its efforts on Obama’s economic, military and diplomatic “rebalance” to Asia, where he seeks to counter China’s growing power.

As part of those efforts, Rice said Obama had invited Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to come to the country on state visits.

Additional reporting by Krista Hughes, Patricia Zengerle, David Brunnstrom and Susan Heavey; Editing by David Storey and Tom Brown