Obama: Invading every country that harbors terrorists is naive

The West Point class of 2014, which entered the academy in the midst of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, heard President Barack Obama swear off fighting any more wars like those
The West Point class of 2014, which entered t... 02:35

One day after President Obama laid out the end game for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, he talked about America's role in the world after the war. Delivering the commencement at West Point on Wednesday, he said isolation is not an option but not every problem has a military solution.

"Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail," he said. "And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader -- and especially your commander-in-chief -- to be clear about how that awesome power should be used."

At West Point, President Obama said military action was not the answer to every problem CBS News

What will what some are calling the Obama Doctrine mean for the U.S. military?

The West Point Class of 2014, which had entered the academy in the midst of Iraq and Afghanistan, heard their commander-in chief swear off fighting any more wars like that.

"A strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naive and unsustainable," Obama told them.

But he went on to outline a strategy that promises to send them to countries every bit as foreign and remote as Iraq and Afghanistan.

American drones have been hunting for al Qaeda affiliates

Countries like Burundi, Uganda and Senegal, where American troops have already been training government forces, or Chad and Niger, where American drones have been flying surveillance missions, hunting for al Qaeda affiliates and other radical Islamist groups.

"I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold," Obama said.

USS Bataan

Sending American soldiers to train local troops has one major hitch. Countries in which terrorist groups take root are frequently run by corrupt, unpopular, weak or incompetent governments. One example: American efforts to train Libyan government forces in the wake of the fall of Muamar Qaddafi have been put on hold as the country descends into anarchy. Instead of training Libyan troops, U.S. forces are standing by aboard the amphibious ship Bataan, awaiting an order to evacuate all Americans from the country. Another example: U.S. drones are helping the Nigerian military search for those kidnapped school girls, even though the Nigerian military has a history of human rights violations.

Still it puts fewer American lives at risk, is much less expensive and is frequently done in secret, all of which makes it easier to sell politically.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.