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Ashton Carter ‘Incredibly Optimistic’ About U.S. Global Presence Amid Conflicts in Middle East, Asia, Europe

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Ashton Carter said he is “incredibly optimistic” about the United States’s position in the world.

America is in “much better shape than many will admit,” said the Pentagon chief at a June 9 event hosted by the Center for the National Interest where he received the organization’s 2015 Distinguished Service Award, reports DoD News, the Pentagon’s news media arm.

“This may be controversial … [to] a body of realists, and maybe a little surprising coming from a secretary of defense,” he added, “but I am incredibly optimistic about America’s position in the world today.”

He alluded to situations in the Asia-Pacific region where China’s territory claims have prompted criticism from the U.S.; in the Middle East where a U.S.-led air campaign is engaged against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL); and in Europe where Russia’s actions have caused instability.

“North Korea continues to provoke, ISIL’s barbarism outrages the world, [and] Russia’s aggressive actions have upset more than two decades of peace and stability in Europe,” said the defense secretary. “In Asia, disputes over rocks and shoals are complicated by evolving power dynamics, as several regional powers rise… Terrorism, foreign fighters, cyberattacks, and other ills threaten lives and the security of many around the world – including in the United States.”

President Obama recently admitted that his administration does not have a “complete strategy” to train and equip Iraqi troops against ISIS.

The U.S. should remain aware of its military strengths and vulnerabilities, said Carter, adding that complacency should be avoided.

“We must not allow that to happen,” he said. “Strategy, now as in the past, is about perspective. Keeping perspective means keeping all the world in synoptic view. It also means knowing which mix of foreign policy tools is best for a given situation. It means understanding where our challenges today fall in the context of history – and how we can use history’s lessons to pursue today’s opportunities.”

Carter reportedly noted, “U.S. forces have improved readiness, maintained an unmatched operational edge and preserved unrivaled capabilities.”

He made those comments following a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional watchdog, saying that sequestration has “decreased the availability of forces and equipment, reduced global U.S. military presence, and increased risk by limiting some service capabilities and capacity for responding to contingencies or other emergencies.”

Sequestration refers to the across-the-board spending reductions for all federal agencies and departments ordered by President Obama in March 2013.


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