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Originally published Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 4:04 PM

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Editorial: Obama invests more in diplomacy in place of military intervention

A military response has been America’s default foreign policy option for decades. President Obama wants to empower the role of diplomacy.


Seattle Times Editorial

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This editorial must be a joke, because even the NYT and Washington Post had different feelings. I listened to Obama's... MORE
A moronic editorial in defense of a moronic, bored, disengaged, president, who primarily viewed attaining the... MORE
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PRESIDENT Obama had a grown-up talk with the nation about foreign policy, and the gritty, practical reality of the message has not been well-received.

Obama used graduation ceremonies Wednesday at the United States Military Academy to announce he would employ a combination of resources to address global troubles.

The all-too-easy, all-too-familiar default to military action will no longer be assumed, the president told his audience. Reinforcing his point, the president said members of the class of 2014 would be the first since 2001 not to be pointed toward Afghanistan or Iraq.

Obama certainly did not rule out swift, punishing military action when it was called for, but he would look to diplomacy, economic strength, international law and international unity in place of military intervention.

The speech came a day after Obama announced a troop-withdrawal schedule from Afghanistan that would have almost all U.S. military members out of the country by the end of his term, 2016.

Leave it to history to decide what was accomplished over that 15 years. Those the U.S. ostensibly went to help may be the happiest to see us gone.

No one is rolling over in the face of U.S. military threats. Much of the turmoil around the globe is grounded in very local issues, and outsiders are largely clueless about the political, ethnic and sectarian nature of the tensions or desired outcomes.

Obama is embracing what works. In recent years, U.S. leverage in international economic circles has had more impact on Syria, North Korea and Russia. Attacks on national pocketbooks have been more compelling than military bluster.

Besides, our allies are all too happy to cheer the U.S. on from the sidelines. Let the international community put more of its own young men and women in harm’s way to settle disputes.

If Obama is pulling the plug on war as the default option, more power to him. The Cold War, in its own perverse way, created tidy, divisible lines of responsibility. The Soviet Union imploded because of its own decrepit ways.

As other countries have thrived and matured economically, they are less inclined to fall over because America seems to be upset. That is where the craft and art of diplomatic and economic leverage have new meaning for the U.S.

Selling war on bogus claims of “weapons of mass destruction,” and the capacity of errant drone strikes to poison gains on the battlefield inspired a reassessment.

Obama chose the difficult path: dispatching diplomats and training others to reclaim their own countries, rather than relying on freshly minted second lieutenants to be surrogates for American leadership.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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