- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2014

President Obama on Saturday made the case that America is at the forefront in confronting all major global challenges, offering incomparable leadership on everything from the fight against Islamist terrorists to climate change.

Days after returning from a United Nations summit in New York City, Mr. Obama said the U.S. not only is leading the fight against the terrorist group the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — but has marshaled international allies to push back against Russian aggression in Ukraine while at the same time spearheading the effort to contain the deadly Ebola epidemic in Africa, which has claimed about 3,000 lives.

The president’s fierce defense of American leadership comes after Republicans and other critics for years have contended this administration has willingly allowed U.S. standing in the world to slip. Directly addressing that criticism, Mr. Obama said that “American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world” and vowed that leadership will be evident as long as he is president.

“America is leading the world in the fight to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL. On Monday, our brave men and women in uniform began air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. And they weren’t alone. I made it clear that America would act as part of a broad coalition, and we were joined in this action by friends and partners, including Arab nations,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. “America is leading the effort to rally the world against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Along with our allies, we will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy. And this week, I called upon even more nations to join us on the right side of history.”

But Republicans pushed back against the administration’s narrative, arguing the U.S. —despite having assembled a coalition to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria — no longer is the respected world leader it once was.

“As we look at the crises boiling over across the globe, we see a president who has been leading from behind with a failed foreign policy that has weakened America,” said Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican hoping to unseat Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in November’s election. “Russia continues to infringe upon the sovereignty of Ukraine. Our ally Israel is being attacked by terrorist groups. And the president still doesn’t have a strategy to destroy the terrorist group known as the Islamic State. Simply put, America lacks leadership and is no longer considered to be an exceptional nation by our allies and our adversaries alike.”

At the UN earlier this week, the president said that as the U.S. and its allies will continue a broad air campaign against the Islamic State but once again promised no American ground troops will join in the fight. As part of his larger strategy, Mr. Obama said predominantly Muslim nations must help eradicate extremism by ensuring schools are not teaching young people to embrace violence.

Meanwhile, the president is making the case that American leadership is evident in the response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa and on the global threat from climate change. The U.S. has dispatched military personnel to Africa to coordinate response efforts to the Ebola crisis, and Mr. Obama this week challenged all nations — including developing economies such as China — to forego the use of fossil fuels such as coal and greatly reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.

“America is leading the fight to contain and combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. We’re deploying our doctors and scientists — supported by our military — to help corral the outbreak and pursue new treatments … America is engaging more partners and allies than ever to confront the growing threat of climate change before it’s too late,” the president said. “The people of the world look to us to lead. And we welcome that responsibility. We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom. And as we showed the world this week, we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come.”

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