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Obama on the Use of Force

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There were heartening echoes of the words and thoughts of several of our most distinguished presidents in President Obama's Inaugural address today. One I found most interesting was Obama's reference to "earlier generations" of Americans who faced down fascism and communism "not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions." Obama added: "They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please."

This last remark is similar to the statement which President Harry Truman made on the occasion of his speech concluding the 1945 San Francisco Conference which had just drafted the UN Charter. There Truman said: "We all have to recognize -- no matter how great our strength -- that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."

Truman was speaking about the lessons of world war 2; Obama was making reference to America's unilateral invasion of Iraq. Imagine Obama's immediate predecessor even uttering such words. What a dramatic change: Obama is renewing the great internationalist traditions of Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK and Clinton for our own time.

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