APRIL 18, 2016, ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) – The U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations spoke at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, April 14 as part of the academy’s Forrestal lecture series.
Ambassador Samantha Power presented remarks on the judicious use of military power in the Middle East to academy faculty, staff and midshipmen, as well as visiting students attending the 2016 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference.
The annual conference brings together more than 150 U.S. and international undergraduate students to discuss a subject of significance in current global affairs. The theme of this year’s conference was “Women and Security: The Implications of Promoting Global Gender Equality.”
Power’s message focused on the relationships between the U.S. and Iraq, Iran and Egypt. Her speech was structured around the question, “How do we deploy the foreign policy tools at our disposal,” and “deploy those tools to advance America’s vital national interests in a period of seismic upheaval?”
She spoke about the decisive role the U.S. military plays in the Middle East region, pointing to the success the U.S. military had in bringing down Osama Bin Laden. She also noted the successful work that has been done with the Iraqi government in pushing back the ISIL extremist group.
She then went on to say that force cannot be the primary means of advancing U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Quoting President Barack Obama, she said, “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
That led to her point that “there is nothing weak about weighing carefully when and where we deploy our troops.”
Power cited some of the successes the U.S. has had in the Middle East without military force, such as the Iran nuclear deal. In the face of much criticism, the U.S. allowed Iran to have a nuclear program, with restrictions and international oversight. The success of this deal came from the collaborative efforts of sanctions by world powers. According to Power, for the deal to work it had to be principled.
“We did not and do not believe in engagement for engagement’s sake,” she said. “We believe in engagement when it provides a way to advance our interests, chief among them keeping the American people safe.”
The requirements for the deal included full transparency of Iran’s nuclear program. It has led to the decrease of Iran’s nuclear supplies; the country no longer possesses enough supplies for even one nuclear missile. Though Iran still engages in destabilizing practices, the deal does not prevent the U.S. from being outspoken against these practices.
Power’s overall message was that judicious use of the military is not timidity, but rather strength. We must be willing to sit down with countries that we believe have destabilizing practices and build relations with them, she said. Engagement should not be done for engagement’s sake; it must have a clear purpose and advantage. The U.S. must see this purpose through every deal, and keep what matters at the forefront: the safety of the American people.