WEST POINT, N.Y. - The United States must shape a world order as reliant on the force of diplomacy as on the might of its military to lead, President Obama said Saturday as he outlined a foreign-policy vision that repudiated the go-it-alone approach forged by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Addressing nearly 1,000 graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, many of whom will likely head to war in Iraq and Afghanistan under his command, Obama said that all hands were required to solve the world's newest threats: terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, climate change, and feeding and caring for a growing population.
The U.S. military is the "cornerstone of our national defense," but, Obama said, the men and women who wear America's uniform cannot bear that responsibility by themselves. "The rest of us must do our part," he said.
"The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone," the commander in chief told graduates at Michie Stadium.
Diplomacy and muscle must work together, he said in calling for "renewed engagement" from diplomats, along with development experts, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and first responders.
Obama acknowledged that the United States was "clear-eyed" about the shortcomings of the international system, but he said America had not ever been successful 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," the president said, "and face the consequences when they don't."
Noting that he came to West Point in December to announce his military policy in Afghanistan, Obama told the cadets that "a long and hard road awaits you. . . . Your service is fundamental to our security back home."