President Barack Obama delivered the final — and the shortest — State of the Union address of his presidency on Tuesday.
In a speech peppered with question marks, Obama not only talked about the his administration’s biggest accomplishments during his two terms in the office, but also cautioned American politicians about a looming threat that could be self-inflicted.
“How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?” Obama asked early on, spending a significant part of the address attempting to answer his own question.
Referring to the Islamic State militants (also known as ISIS or ISIL), the president said that the United States has led a coalition of more than 60 countries for more than a year to cut off the terrorist group’s financing and to disrupt their plots. However, he also drew attention to a very important point.
“But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands,” he said in his prepared remarks. “Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped — but they do not threaten our national existence.”
Predicting that more extremist groups could emerge from volatile nations around the world, Obama said the United States was threatened “less by evil empires, and more by failing states.”
"We also can't try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That's not leadership; that's a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us," the president added. "It's the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now."
To drive his point home, he further said that leadership means a wise application of military power and rallying behind the right causes, but it should not necessarily lead to an intervention.