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Obama vigorously defends foreign policy record

  • U.S. President Barack Obama looks at his watch before answering a reporter's question during a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. President Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    U.S. President Barack Obama looks at his watch before answering a reporter's question during a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. President Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama reviews the honor guard at Malacanang Palace ahead of his bilateral meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is on the last stop of his four-country Asia trip. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    U.S. President Barack Obama reviews the honor guard at Malacanang Palace ahead of his bilateral meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is on the last stop of his four-country Asia trip. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, toast as they attend a state dinner at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. This is the last leg of president Obama's four-nation tour. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, toast as they attend a state dinner at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. This is the last leg of president Obama's four-nation tour. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • An effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama is burned by Filipino activists during a rally outside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

    An effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama is burned by Filipino activists during a rally outside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama, center left, smiles as he walks through the line of a troop upon his arrival Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Trade and security are expected to be discussed in Obama's state visit to the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

    U.S. President Barack Obama, center left, smiles as he walks through the line of a troop upon his arrival Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Trade and security are expected to be discussed in Obama's state visit to the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama reviews the honor guard ahead of his meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is on the last stop of his four-country Asia trip. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    U.S. President Barack Obama reviews the honor guard ahead of his meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is on the last stop of his four-country Asia trip. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama signs a guestbook as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III stands by in the Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    U.S. President Barack Obama signs a guestbook as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III stands by in the Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama looks towards Press Secretary Jay Carney during a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. President Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    U.S. President Barack Obama looks towards Press Secretary Jay Carney during a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. President Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III participate in a bilateral meeting at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III participate in a bilateral meeting at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • An effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama is burned by activists during a rally outside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Monday April 28, 2014 to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed Monday in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

    An effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama is burned by activists during a rally outside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Monday April 28, 2014 to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed Monday in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • Filipino activists pull barb wired fence as they try to go near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

    Filipino activists pull barb wired fence as they try to go near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • A Filipino activist holds a slogan near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

    A Filipino activist holds a slogan near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the media upon arrival Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Trade and security are expected to be discussed in Obama's state visit to the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

    U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the media upon arrival Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Trade and security are expected to be discussed in Obama's state visit to the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama looks at his watch before answering a reporter's question during a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. President Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama reviews the honor guard at Malacanang Palace ahead of his bilateral meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is on the last stop of his four-country Asia trip. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, toast as they attend a state dinner at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. This is the last leg of president Obama's four-nation tour. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • An effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama is burned by Filipino activists during a rally outside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama, center left, smiles as he walks through the line of a troop upon his arrival Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Trade and security are expected to be discussed in Obama's state visit to the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama reviews the honor guard ahead of his meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is on the last stop of his four-country Asia trip. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama signs a guestbook as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III stands by in the Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama looks towards Press Secretary Jay Carney during a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. President Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III participate in a bilateral meeting at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • An effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama is burned by activists during a rally outside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Monday April 28, 2014 to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed Monday in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
  • Filipino activists pull barb wired fence as they try to go near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
  • A Filipino activist holds a slogan near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday April 28, 2014 during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed today in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the media upon arrival Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Trade and security are expected to be discussed in Obama's state visit to the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

President Obama vigorously defended his foreign policy record yesterday, arguing that his cautious approach to global problems has avoided the type of missteps that contributed to a “disastrous” decade of war for the United States.

Obama’s expansive comments came at the end of a weeklong Asia trip that exposed growing White House frustration with critics who cast the president as weak and ineffectual on the world stage. The president and his advisers get particularly irked by those who seize on Obama’s decision to pull back from a military strike in Syria and link it with virtually every other foreign policy challenge, from Russia’s threatening moves in Ukraine to China’s increasing assertiveness in Asia’s territorial disputes.

“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?” Obama said during a news conference in the Philippines.

Summing up his foreign policy philosophy, Obama said it was one that “avoids errors.”

White House advisers argue in part that Obama’s approach puts him on the side of a conflict-weary American public, some of whom voted for him in the 2008 election because of his early opposition to the Iraq war. Yet the president’s foreign policy record of late has provided plenty of fodder for his critics.

It was Obama’s own declaration that Syria’s chemical weapons use would cross his “red line” that raised the stakes for a U.S. response when Syrian leader Bashar Assad launched an attack last summer. The Obama administration’s own drumbeat toward a U.S. strike only fueled the narrative that the president was indecisive or didn’t have the stomach for an attack when he abruptly pulled back, first in favor of a vote in Congress, then to strike a deal with Syria and Russia that aimed to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

The Syria scenario has trickled into Obama’s relationship with Asia, where anxious allies spent much of the last week seeking assurances from the president that he would have their back if China used military force to take the advantage in the region’s numerous territorial disputes. And Russian President Vladimir Putin’s flouting of Western sanctions in response to his alleged provocations in Ukraine has stirred fresh criticism that the president’s strategy lacks teeth.

That line of thinking was evident yesterday after the Obama administration announced new sanctions on seven Russian officials, as well 17 companies with ties to Putin. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire who has been a frequent Obama foreign policy critic, called the measures “tepid,” “incremental” and “insufficient.” Other GOP lawmakers have called on Obama to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military, a prospect he roundly rejected once again yesterday.

“Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?” Obama said. “Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?”

While Obama did not call out any of his critics by name, the White House has often been frustrated with two sets of foreign policy critics: Republican lawmakers like Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who takes a more hawkish position than Obama on nearly every issue, and foreign policy commentators who use their platforms on television or editorial pages to push the president to take a more aggressive approach.

“Frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests,” Obama said. He added that he’s not inclined to make policy decisions because “somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong.”

Obama spoke on the final full day of his four-country Asia swing. The centerpiece of his president’s trip was a 10-year security agreement signed with the Philippines yesterday that will give the U.S. military greater access to bases on the Southeast Asian nation, which is struggling to bolster its territorial defense amid China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the oil- and gas-rich South China Sea

The president arrived in the Philippines yesterday afternoon after visits to Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

Despite Obama’s warm welcome from President Benigno Aquino, the U.S. increased military role drew consternation from some Filipino activists, who say the agreement reverses democratic gains achieved when huge U.S. military bases were shut down in the early 1990s, ending a nearly century-long military presence in the former U.S. colony.

Some 800 of those activists burned mock U.S. flags and chanted “Nobama, no bases, no war” on the road leading to the gates of the palace where Obama met with Aquino. Others burned an effigy of Obama riding a chariot pulled by Aquino, depicted as dog.

The president was to depart for Washington, D.C., this morning after speaking to U.S. and Filipino troops. He was also scheduled to lay a wreath at the Manila American Cemetery, which has the largest number of graves of fallen U.S. military personnel from World War II.

CHALLENGE: in 5 seconds - name 1 success in 4+ years of Hillary Clinton's globe trotting "reset" diplomacy. NObama is the emperor with no clothes.

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