5 Obama Foreign Policy Statements That He Might Refute Tonight

Will the president have to walk back his past statements about Mideast?

ByABC News
September 10, 2014, 3:10 PM
President Barack Obama speaks at Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, in this Sept. 3, 2014 file photo.
President Barack Obama speaks at Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, in this Sept. 3, 2014 file photo.
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

— -- President Obama will outline his strategy for dealing with ISIS, the militant group that has executed two American journalists and terrorized civilians in Iraq and nearby Syria, in a major address to the American people tonight.

This will not be the first time President Obama has spoken about the vexing issues in the Middle East. ABC News took a look back at some of Obama’s previous statements about ISIS, Iraq and Syria. Here are a few that might clash with the plan he presents tonight:

1. September 2013: “America is not the world’s policeman.”

In a September 10, 2013 address to the nation, the president condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons but added a note of caution: “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.” President Obama may still believe those words -- “America is not the world’s policeman” -- but the actions he announces tonight could suggest otherwise.

2. September 2013: “A targeted military strike.”

In the same speech last year, the president declared: “When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it. Because what happened to those people -- to those children -- is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security. … This is not a world we should accept. This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.” Of course, as ABC’s chief White House correspondent has pointed out, one year ago, Obama’s target was Assad. Today, one year later, the target is Assad’s mortal enemies.

3. January 2013: ISIS: “Jayvee?”

In an interview with The New Yorker in January, Obama didn't seem to see ISIS as a threat equivalent to Bid Laden and al Qaeda. “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a Bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian,” he said.

4. June 2011: “The tide of war is receding.”

“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” he said after announcing he would withdraw troops from Afghanistan in June 2011. But in a London Times Op-Ed published last Friday, Obama and his co-author, British Prime Minister David Cameron, panned the isolationist approach, vowing not to be “cowed” by ISIS.

5. December 2011: “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.”

This was a statement made by Obama in 2011 speaking at the end of the Iraq War. Obama assured America that troops were leaving Iraq with a representative government. “And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home,” he said. Now, instability in Iraq is a major threat again.