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  • 28 May 2014, 20:11

Obama Hits Back At Foreign Policy Critics

President Barack Obama has defended his foreign policy, advocating restraint before embarking on more military adventures.

The speech at West Point military academy in New York was Mr Obama's riposte to critics who say his reluctance to use American military might has emboldened adversaries in Syria, Russia and China, says Sky News' Hannah Thomas-Peter.

Standing by his decision not to intervene militarily in Syria's civil war, Mr Obama said he aimed to "ramp up" US support for moderate rebels in that country.

He also proposed a $5bn (£3bn) fund to help countries tackle extremists, and to expand Pentagon counter-terrorism efforts.

Mr Obama said America's planned withdrawal from Afghanistan would enable it to focus on emerging threats from the Middle East to North Africa.

He laid out his argument that modern foreign policy should be rooted in diplomacy rather than intervention.

"Here's my bottom line," said Mr Obama, "America must always lead on the world stage.

"If we don't, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership.

"But US military action cannot be the only - or even primary - component of our leadership in every instance.

"Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail."

Some of America's more costly mistakes in recent years had stemmed from its "willingness to rush into military adventures", he said.

Mr Obama defended his approach to the Ukraine crisis, of seeking to build an international consensus against Russia.

"This isn't the Cold War," he said. "Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away. Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions."

And he continued to defend his use of drone strikes in countries like Yemen and Somalia, but called for increased transparency on such operations.

Mr Obama also said he would continue to press for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, and place new restrictions on how America gathers intelligence, amid the fallout from the NSA leaks.

"I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being," said the President.

"But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law."

Mr Obama's speech comes a day after he announced plans for the US to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan once the war there formally ends later this year.