Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 23:54 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 23:54 | SYDNEY

The inaugural: Still terrorism?


Hugh White

23 January 2009 09:33

Like Michael Fullilove, I thought Obama’s inaugural was a lacklustre speech, superbly delivered. But as an exposition of the foundations of the new Administration’s foreign policy, it was a bit less than lacklustre – it was distinctly disappointing.

I have written elsewhere about the structural problems posed by the mismatch between ends and means in Obama’s foreign policy, but I have a more specific beef with Tuesday’s speech. It was the way it left the problem of terrorism where George W Bush had placed it on 9/11 — right at the heart of American foreign policy as the number one challenge. 

This is surely wrong. Terrorism is a big problem, of course. But it is not the only, or the biggest, strategic challenge America faces in the world today. As we have been discussing here recently, the implications for America’s role in Asia of China’s rise is a far bigger issue – and thanks to Sam for drawing our attention to Pape’s piece on this issue.

One of the biggest challenges for leaders in the post-9/11 era is to find a way to acknowledge and explain the risks of terrorism without exaggerating them. Kevin Rudd’s otherwise rather worthless National Security Statement did this quite well. Obama, in his inaugural speech, seemed content to fall back to language which could, frankly, have been lifted straight from Bush. It is early days, but beginnings are important: one of the iron laws of politics is that one must to begin as one means to go on. And things never get easier.