President Obama’s Speech at West Point

May 26, 2010 By Hannah Kaye

In his Saturday commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point, President Obama outlined a new national security strategy based on international engagement and global leadership. Included in the speech were four principles to guide American security strategy. The first was a recognition that “influence abroad begins with steps we take at home,” and innovation, including education, research, and clean energy is needed in addition to military power. Second, Obama said, is the need to build nonmilitary capabilities, including the “renewed engagement of our diplomats” and support for development experts. Third, he emphasized the importance of creating strong allegiances and an international order “that can resolve the challenges of our times — countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing wounds.” Finally, the President committed to advancing universal human rights at home and abroad.

President Obama made it clear throughout the speech that “The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone.” He has a critical opportunity to act on this principle through the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD-7), chaired by National Security Advisor General James Jones and National Economic Council chairman Larry Summers. The review is intended to provide strategic guidance to U.S. global development efforts, making them more effective, focused, and accountable. This kind of strategy is essential to achieving a national security that utilizes all tools of national power. Given the strategy’s focus on balancing responsibility for national security between military and nonmilitary power, building the structure and resources necessary for coordinated, elevated, and strategic development is more important than ever.