President Barack Obama defended himself against critics of his foreign policy, arguing he’s well aware of the challenges facing the nation internationally and has made strides in confronting them.
“I get a thick book full of death, destruction, strife, and chaos. That’s what I take with my morning tea,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with Vox on his foreign and domestic policy priorities published Monday.
He said that the “basic goals” on national defense that he set when he came into office — preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, protecting against terrorism and trying to improve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — “still hold true.” But he acknowledged that people “rightly have been concerned” about the “forces of disorder — sectarianism” in Middle Eastern countries that have contributed to the challenges in that part of the world.
“It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris,” Obama allowed.
Obama said, however, the extremist violence arising from sectarian divisions won’t be an easy problem to solve. The U.S., he said, is “going to have to have some humility in recognizing that we don’t have the option of simply invading every country where disorder breaks out.”
“We have the opportunity, I think, to lessen those tensions and to lift up voices that are less prone to exploit those sectarian divides, but, you know, we’re not going to eliminate that stuff overnight,” he said.
He also defended two of the more controversial international agreements he’s made priorities for his administration in his final years in office — an Iran nuclear deal and a new international trade agreement — arguing that though neither may be perfect, something is better than nothing.
Obama dismissed opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal who’ve expressed concerns that it would cause an exodus of American jobs overseas, because “that horse is out of the barn.”
“And what we have the opportunity to do is to set long-term trends that keep us in the game in a place that we’ve got to be,” he added.
And on Iran, Obama confronted critics — largely Republicans in Congress — that have called for another round of tougher sanctions against the nation, which Obama has said would poison talks that he believes are moving in the right direction.
Obama said he wants “an additional two to three months to exhaust all possibilities of a deal.”
“My message is that we have to test the propos