” As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”
In an eighty-eight word passage of his Inaugural Address, President Barak Obama issued an elegant but forceful repudiation of the past eight years of George Bush’s aggressive and misguided foreign policy doctrine. Without mentioning the word “torture” Obama rubuked the Bush administration’s premise that keeping America safe required torturing captured enemy combatants from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib. Rejecting the application of raw American military power to achieve foreign policy objectives, Obama called for prudence and restraint in the use of force. Spurning the arrogance of taking unilateral actions to advance America’s interests at the expense of our friends, Obama invoked the vision of a new international community engaged in alliances and bound by principles and diplomacy.
Hoping to turn the page on Bush’s disastrous effort to convert the 911 terrorist attack on America into a crusade to clense the Middle East of extremists from Iran to Lebanon, Obama offered the world Muslim community “a new way forward based on mutual interests and respect.” In making the appeal Obama was sowing seeds he clearly hopes to harvest in his proposed upcoming major address in a Muslim country. With an escalating war to prosecute in Afghanistan; a complicated and dangerous military drawdown to execute in Iraq, and the Arab street seething at Israel’s Gaza invasion that left 1,400 Palestinians dead, the new Commander-in Chief has to pivot quickly in the Middle East. Indeed, Obama will likely dispatch a special envoy to the Middle East this week to help ensure the uneasy cease fire brokered by the Egyptians between HAMAS and Israel’s holds until new talks begin.
While repudiating Bush’s militarist drive to make the U.S. the world’s unchallenged superpower for decades to come, Obama left no doubt that “terrorists” should not mistake his change of direction for weakness. Quite the opposite, Obama was sending a direct message to al Queda that he is coming after them, saying “you will not out wait us, we will defeat you.” Obama’s warning’s were not reserved soley for America’s avowed enemies. Breaking with the Bush administration’s silence on Arab authoritarian regimes it supported, Obama offered the following advise; “To those who cling to power through corruption and deciept and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” Obama’s not so subtle warning aimed at the Sunni monarchies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf Emirates, that America will not come to your aid to suppress rebellions provoked by your repressive regimes will be heard in capitals across the Middle East.
Perhaps the most significant point in Obama’s Inaugural Address was what he did not mention; Iran. There were no warnings or condemnations of Iran as the “world’s leading nuclear proliferator and state sponsor of terrorism that were the hallmark of Bush’s incendiary rhetoric. It was Obama’s first opportunity to set the tone with Iran before a world audience. Through his silence, Barak Obama left the door open to Tehran.
At the end of the day President Barak Obama’s central message was that we live in a far different world than America’s political leaders have been willing to acknowledge. The United States is no longer omnipotent, and we cannot simply push countries around. Military power has real limitations and the world’s wealth has been dispersed among rising nations that no longer march to Washington, D.C.’s drumbeat. We are entering a new multipolar era where global cooperation, diplomacy and shared decision making regarding the global economy, access to energy resouces and forging durable international security arrangements are the industry of many nations. Obama’s has asked America’s reluctant political machine to grow up and change with the times. For many in America’s power elite, it is a change they do not believe in.