Meet the New Boss;
Same as the Old Boss

"And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more."
– Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 2009

Well, it didn’t long to break that promise. On Tuesday, Jan. 20, President Barack Obama said that America, by which we can assume he meant the U.S. government, is a friend of every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity. But just three days later, the U.S. government used drones to attack and kill at least 20 people in Pakistan, a country with which the U.S. government isn’t even at war. Of course, President Obama could argue that the attacks were on "foreign militants." But some locals in Pakistan claim that four of the dead were children. If that’s true, there goes the "child" part of Obama’s pledge.

Obama could argue that we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, during the presidential campaign, he did say that he would be willing to attack Pakistan. But then he shouldn’t have made such a pledge in his inaugural address.

The simple fact is that, although Obama wants to wind down the war in Iraq, he wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan and, as he has already shown, is even willing to continue the undeclared war on Pakistan.

In his inaugural address, Obama also stated, "And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders." Yet, according to the AP wire, "Obama has not commented on the missile strike policy." This seems to me like indifference to suffering. Most Americans, I suspect, are indifferent to this suffering. But Obama is worse than indifferent: He could have prevented the attacks and chose not to.

Is it just possible that President Obama is a smarter, smoother, more eloquent version of pro-war George Bush? As The Who said in one of their famous songs, "Meet the new boss; same as the old boss."

And remember the name of the song from which that line comes: "Won’t Get Fooled Again." During the 2000 presidential campaign, I was fooled by George W. Bush’s line that he wanted America to have a humble foreign policy. I wasn’t fooled enough to vote for him, but I was fooled, nevertheless. In my view, to paraphrase Yogi Bear, George W. Bush had a lot to be humble about. We’re stuck with President Obama until Jan. 20, 2013. Let’s at least not be fooled by him. Let’s give him credit for his steps to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to end torture. Also, his choice of Dawn Johnsen for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel was first-rate. But let’s not kid ourselves into believing that he wants to have peaceful relations with peaceful people in other parts of the world.

Copyright © 2009 by David R. Henderson. Requests for permission to reprint should be directed to the author or

Author: David R. Henderson

David R. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an emeritus professor of economics in the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School. He is author of The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey and co-author, with Charles L. Hooper, of Making Great Decisions in Business and Life(Chicago Park Press). His latest book is The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (Liberty Fund, 2008). He has appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, the Jim Lehrer Newshour, CNN, MSNBC, RT, Fox Business Channel, and C-SPAN. He has had over 100 articles published in Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Red Herring, Barron’s, National Review, Reason, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Hill, and the Christian Science Monitor. He has also testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He blogs at