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Bush takes oath of office
George W. Bush was sworn in on Thursday for a second four-year term as president of the United States. At an elaborate inaugural ceremony in Washington, Bush devoted nearly all of his address to foreign policy. Framing America's challenges in Cold War terms, Bush said the battle with global tyrants is far from over. But he vowed America would continue its mission to spread democracy across the world.
Prague, 20 January 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Bush took the oath of office as America's 43rd president as administered by William Rehnquist, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Standing on an outdoor platform, on the steps of the Capitol which houses the U.S. Congress, Bush then delivered a short but impassioned speech focused on the need for the United States to spread freedom throughout the world.
"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," Bush said.
Bush's speech, which offered no concrete policy initiatives, was a break from tradition as it was almost entirely devoted to foreign affairs.
He said America would take an active role in spreading democracy abroad, but he stressed this would not be primarily by military means. "So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," Bush said. "This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary."
To Robert Spitzer, professor of political science at the State University of New York, the tone and language used by Bush recall the Cold War era. Back then, U.S. presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan often cast America's role as the defender of good in a global battle against tyranny.
"In terms of how President Bush described it in his speech, it is certainly the new Cold War, in his view -- that is, America represents the side of light and positive values and we, America -- in his view -- will continue to oppose, as he defined them, the forces of tyranny or slavery or oppression. It was a speech that was couched in highly moral language and moral terms and he clearly views America`s struggle as one between good and evil, very much in the way the Cold War was depicted here in the United States during the half-century when that continued. So, it is very much a neo-Cold War ideology, I would say, attached to the contemporary war against terrorism," Spitzer said.
As important as what Bush included in his address is what he chose to omit. The U.S. president had no apologies for any mistakes in his first term. Nor did he offer any words of reconciliation to disgruntled allies in Europe.
Spitzer says this is a clear message to the world that U.S. foreign policy will not change under Bush's second term. "I think it is significant to the extent that the main focus of Bush`s speech was to say both to people in the United States and to other nations of the world that he believes that the course he set upon in the first term was the correct one and that he plans to continue it in the second term," he said. "So, for the nations of Europe, I think the one message that comes out of Bush`s speech is that he plans to continue the same kinds of policies in the second term that he pursued in the first term. And that probably is not terribly good news to many European leaders because obviously many in Europe have not been terribly happy with the Bush administration."
Martin Anderson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California, was a policy adviser during Reagan's campaign in 1980 and has written extensively about the former president. He told RFE/RL that Bush, like Reagan, believes America has been a force for good in recent history and should continue on this path.
"If you look back a little bit in history, this is what the United States has done. After World War II, the United States was the most powerful country in the world. And we could have used that power and taken over many countries; but we did not. Instead, we helped to rebuild them and left. And that's what he's doing now. That's what's happening in Afghanistan. And I'm sure that's what will happen in Iraq when it's all over," Anderson said.
In his speech, Bush said he was convinced that people in all nations had a natural yearning for freedom. But he also tried to reassure his foreign audience that America would not impose its system on those who follow different traditions.
"When the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way," Bush said.
Bush acknowledged the hardship endured by Americans following the 11 September 2001 attacks and the military commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he urged Americans to continue to sacrifice and work for a better world.