POLITICS

Obama Cautions Against 'Overreach' In National Security

02/06/2015 01:26 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama released an updated national security strategy on Friday committing the United States to a leading world role while also highlighting a cautious foreign policy doctrine that has been shorthanded as "don't do stupid stuff."

In a 29-page memo to Congress required under law that will be closely parsed by foreign policy experts and Obama's Republican critics, the White House broadly outlined Obama's foreign policy priorities for the rest of his time in office.

"The question is never whether America should lead, but how we lead," Obama wrote in his introduction, describing challenges including violent extremism, Russian aggression, cyberattacks and climate change that he believes are best addressed by mobilizing international coalitions.

The United States cannot try to "dictate the trajectory of all unfolding events around the world" as it does not have infinite resources nor influence to tackle complex problems that cannot be fixed only with its military might, he said.

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

Obama's top national security adviser, Susan Rice, was due to speak about the strategy at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT).

The new document updates 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.

The president's overarching national security principle, as elaborated by some White House aides, has been "don't do stupid stuff" to avoid actions that could have dangerous unforeseen consequences.

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

He also placed a much stronger emphasis on the vaunted economic, military and diplomatic "rebalance" to Asia, where he seeks to counter China's growing power.

The document emphasized the importance of trade, mentioning trade deals twice as frequently as in 2010, an average of once every page.

"Through our trade and investment policies, we will shape globalization so that it is working for American workers," the document said. This is the case he has made to lawmakers to win support for an agenda that includes an ambitious Pacific trade pact.

The White House also emphasized the strategic importance of booming U.S. oil and natural gas production, noting that America has a stake in the energy security of allies in Europe and elsewhere.

"Increasing global access to reliable and affordable energy is one of the most powerful ways to support social and economic development and to help build new markets for U.S. technology and investment," the strategy said. (Additional reporting by Krista Hughes, David Brunnstrom and Susan Heavey; Editing by David Story and Tom Brown)

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