Obama opts for soft line

Barack Obama's first policy decision since taking power to suspend the war crimes tribunals of the 21 men from the controversial Guantanamo Bay military base has already made him friends and foes.

Barack Obama's first policy decision since taking power to suspend the war crimes tribunals of the 21 men from the controversial Guantanamo Bay military base has already made him friends and foes.

On the one hand it is encouraging that he is willing to take on the blight of his country's foreign policy of detention without fair trial for those its military commanders point out as "enemy combatants".

Those opposed to this move will say that Obama is opening himself up to charges that he is a weak leader unable to deal decisively with the danger imposed by fanatics.

It is early days but we are encouraged by this move.

Soft power is the new strong power of the international diplomacy scene.

As Obama himself said at his inauguration: "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

He went on to say "our power alone cannot protect us nor does it entitle us to do as we please".

The new American president might not have called countries by name but we hope that going forward will be the message that Obama will send to countries such as Israel and Zimbabwe that seem to believe that their vast power is a licence to do as they please.

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