Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Inaugural Address

In his inaugural address today, George W. Bush laid out the essence of what has become known as the Bush Doctrine, and took that doctrine to its logical conclusion:

We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: 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.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

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.

This is an objective that is positively breathtaking in scope. I can only imagine the reaction of "realists" such as Brent Scowcroft. At National Review Online, Peter Robinson offered a "traditional" conservative critique:

This overturns the nation’s fundamental stance toward foreign policy since its inception. Washington warned of "foreign entanglements." The second President Adams asserted that "we go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." During the Cold War, even Republican presidents made it clear that we played our large role upon the world stage only to defend ourselves and our allies, seeking to changed the world by our example rather than by force.

The problem with this argument, as I've written previously, is that "realism" simply isn't a realistic option anymore. This is not the world that George Washington and John Quincy Adams inhabited. We live in an interconnected, globalized world, one in which the monsters are willing and able to come to our shores with little warning and horrific consequences. We can no longer ignore overseas tyrannies that foster hatred and fanaticism in the comforting belief that it's none of our business. Groups like al-Qaeda will make it our business regardless of our wishes. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that 9/11 was a one-off event will not solve the problem, nor will seeking to manage or contain the threat from behind a 21st century Maginot Line. Only by breaking the cycle of tyranny in the Middle East will we defeat this danger.

The hard part will be in the application. With this speech, President Bush has set a high standard for himself and his administration. He will have to hold American friends as well as foes accountable, or be justifiably accused of hypocrisy. Pressure will have to be brought on allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan to begin the process of genuine democratic reform. Obviously, this will be a generational commitment, requiring patience, persistence, and resources. It will be long and difficult, but also necessary if we are to defeat the forces of Islamist barbarism.

President Bush has offered America and the world a vision, one that stands in stark contrast to that of the jihadists. It is a vision comparable in scope and ambition to those offered by Lincoln and FDR. It is both necessary and right that we commit ourselves to fulfill it.


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