As he prepares to turn over his duties as commander-in-chief to Donald Trump, President Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. must never wage war based on political motivations.
“Sending you into harm’s way should be a last and not first resort,” Mr. Obama told military leaders and troops at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. “It should be compelled by the needs of our security and not our politics.”
In remarks that seemed to be directed at least partly at Mr. Trump, the president warned that when the U.S. does go to war, “we cannot sacrifice our values or our way of life.”
“The rule of law and openness and tolerance that defines us as Americans, that is our greatest strength and makes us a beacon to the world,” Mr. Obama said. “We cannot sacrifice the very freedoms that we’re fighting for.”
He also said the U.S. “must not give in to the false illusion of isolationism.”
“In this dangerous time, oceans alone will not protect us, and the world still seeks and needs our leadership as the one indispensable nation,” Mr. Obama said.
President-elect Trump criticized Mr. Obama during the campaign for weakening the U.S. military and its readiness. Mr. Obama said the U.S. military remains the world’s strongest fighting force, but he added that Washington must address the impact of “reckless budget cuts of sequester.”
“We need to keep improving the readiness, and the training, and modernizing our forces,” the president said. “We cannot go back to sequestration. There is a responsible way forward — investing in America’s strengths, our national security and our economic security. Investing in the reform and the equipment and support that our troops need, including the pay and the benefits, and the quality of life, and the education and the jobs that our troops and our veterans and all of your families deserve.”