Obama vows to wield power with 'humility, restraint'
New President Barack Obama sought to distance himself from the turbulent Bush era as he prepared to hit the ground running yesterday and act on a promise to wield American power with "humility and restraint."
Fresh from his buoyant inauguration, Obama will begin to flesh out his vision of better ties with Muslim countries and of new alliance-building to promote peace and security, including by eliminating perceived nuclear threats.
Though his inaugural speech Tuesday largely sounded conciliatory, he also struck tougher notes when he warned that the United States will not waver in defense of its "way of life" and would defeat those who use "terror."
The person he intends to carry out his foreign policy is Hillary Clinton who is due to see a US Senate vote Wednesday on her nomination for secretary of state, according to a Democratic leadership source. She is widely expected to be confirmed.
The Obama administration faces daunting challenges to extract US troops from Iraq, forge peace in both the Middle East and Afghanistan, stabilize nuclear-armed US ally Pakistan, and roll back Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Security in post 9/11 America, he pledged, will not come at the expense of abandoning the US ideals of liberty and the rule of law, which critics worldwide say George W. Bush's administration trampled on in conducting its war on terror.
In a jab at the unilateral military force that Bush used to invade Iraq in 2003, Obama said previous American generations had defeated fascism and communism with "sturdy alliances and enduring convictions" besides resorting to armed intervention.
These generations knew that US "security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint," Obama said, alluding to the accusations of arrogance cast at the Bush administration.
His administration will be guided by such principles as it meet "those new threats that demand .... even greater cooperation and understanding between nations," Obama declared.
"We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan," he said.
Obama has vowed to mend alliances with Europe, whose additional support he seeks to help bring peace to Afghanistan where the Taliban has re-emerged as a threat following its ouster by US forces in 2001.
"With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat," he added.
He was referring to a "new approach" both he and Clinton have promised toward reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions by engaging diplomatically with the Shiite Muslim country.
In her Senate confirmation hearing last week, Clinton talked of "engaging directly with Syria" in a bid to change its hardline behavior.
On North Korea, there was little sign of a new approach as Clinton said last week that the Obama team would favor the nuclear disarmament negotiations pursued by the Bush administration in its later years with the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.
In 2002, Bush lumped North Korea in an "axis of evil" with Iraq and Iran, but he took a more multilateral diplomatic approach to Tehran and Pyongyang after US forces became bogged down in two wars.