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Obama offers new foreign policy era

By Jonathan Marcus
BBC diplomatic correspondent

Barack Obama and George W Bush, 20 Jan
Mr Obama has promised a different style of leadership to that of Mr Bush
President Barack Obama's inaugural speech contained some important indications of how he intends to pursue foreign policy differently from the Bush years.

Amidst the soaring rhetoric and the down-to-earth exhortations to Americans to face up to the difficult challenges ahead, there was a significant amount of foreign policy in Mr Obama's inaugural address.

There was a stress on American leadership, but a very different kind of leadership from that of the Bush administration.

Military power alone cannot protect the US, said Mr Obama, nor can military might entitle America to do as it pleases.

He spoke of power growing through its "prudent use" and the importance of the force of American example.

Here were all the elements of the concept of "smart power" - an amalgam of military, diplomatic, political and cultural tools that we are going to see much more of in the days to come.

Distorting prism

Military might was not being abandoned altogether. Mr Obama tellingly referred to the fact that his nation was at war "against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred".

With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet
Barack Obama
President of the United States

But we are probably going to hear a lot less of that Bush-era formulation "the global war on terror", which many experts believe proved a distorting prism for America's whole approach to the world.

Mr Obama spoke of seeking a new way forward with the Muslim world.

He stressed a new desire for engagement with opposing regimes. To them, he said: "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

And there were some telling hints that this will be an administration that seeks to join up all of the dots across the policy spectrum.

His reference to the ways in which Americans use energy - as strengthening the country's adversaries as well as threatening the planet - underscored the linkage between traditional security and new threats to the planet as a whole.

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