President Obama, defending his administration's efforts to prevent genocide, said the Atrocities Prevention Board would begin meeting on Monday. “This is not an afterthought. This is not a sideline in our foreign policy,” he said at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Facing critics who say the administration is not doing enough to halt the widespread killing in Syria, Obama ordered the board created in August 2011 in part to avoid the international criticism faced by former Presidents Bill Clinton on Rwanda, and George W. Bush on Darfur.
“Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America,” Obama said. “It does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there's an injustice in the world. We cannot and should not. It does mean we possess many tools diplomatic and political and economic and financial and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion.”
“Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board. And we’ll make new ones,” he said.
The president also said that during his tenure, “I know we have saved countless lives.” Obama pointed to the diplomatic efforts to aid the secession of South Sudan, the NATO intervention in Libya, and the American advisers sent to Uganda and other regional forces to help pursue the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony.
After a National Security Council review of the Africa mission's progress, Obama said he would continue to deploy the about 100 U.S. military personnel there. "This is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA,” he said.
--Sara Sorcher contributed contributed to this article.