...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

March 08, 2005

The President's Remarks At Fort Lesley J. McNair

When Tony Pierce interviewed me last month, i criticized the president for "his maddening inarticulateness" and his administration for its "horrible job of articulating the argument for war."

So today, i was pleased to hear the President's remarks to the National Defense University at Fort McNair. The speech covered subjects that the President has emphasized often, and unfortunately it's not getting the attention it deserves. It was a historic speech, and deserves to be considered among this president’s finest. i think the president explained our foreign policy today with more clarity and less defensiveness than he has ever done until now.

The theory here is straightforward: terrorists are less likely to endanger our security if they are worried about their own security. When terrorists spend their days struggling to avoid death or capture, they are less capable of arming and training to commit new attacks. We will keep the terrorists on the run, until they have nowhere left to hide.
That’s the short term strategy, and its efficacy should be obvious by now.

During the presidential campaign season, i often tried to point out that Bush had the only long term strategy for keeping America safe. Kerry wanted to hunt down Osama, but it was clear to me that eliminating one man was not going to prevent future attacks. Only changing the Middle East could do that. Bush made that point beautifully today.

Our strategy to keep the peace in the longer term is to help change the conditions that give rise to extremism and terror, especially in the broader Middle East. Parts of that region have been caught for generations in a cycle of tyranny and despair and radicalism. When a dictatorship controls the political life of a country, responsible opposition cannot develop, and dissent is driven underground and toward the extreme. And to draw attention away from their social and economic failures, dictators place blame on other countries and other races, and stir the hatred that leads to violence. This status quo of despotism and anger cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or bought off, because we have witnessed how the violence in that region can reach easily across borders and oceans. The entire world has an urgent interest in the progress, and hope, and freedom in the broader Middle East.

. . . By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future; it is the last gasp of a discredited past. It should be clear that free nations escape stagnation, and grow stronger with time, because they encourage the creativity and enterprise of their people. It should be clear that economic progress requires political modernization, including honest representative government and the rule of law.

. . .

Across the Middle East, a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction. Historic changes have many causes, yet these changes have one factor in common. A businessman in Beirut recently said, ‘We have removed the mask of fear. We're not afraid anymore.’ Pervasive fear is the foundation of every dictatorial regime -- the prop that holds up all power not based on consent. And when the regime of fear is broken, and the people find their courage and find their voice, democracy is their goal, and tyrants, themselves, have reason to fear.

During my interview, i also tried to explain an often overlooked aspect of Bush’s foreign policy. i said: “For years, the US was criticized for propping up dictators to further our own national interest, especially in Central and South America. And these dictators were bad men, but they were our bad men. . . . Now the US is not propping up friendly dictators [anymore]; instead we try to bring friendly democracies to the places we need them. i think that's a step in the right direction. As long as we're messing in other people's business, it's better that we're no longer putting in dictators”

Here’s how President Bush acknowledged that very important, and welcome, shift in our foreign policy:

The advance of hope in the Middle East also requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies -- including Washington, D.C. By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny, in the pursuit of stability, have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy. It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors. It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies. And our duty is now clear: For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East.
The Bush administration’s abandonment of Cold War style foreign affairs -- where any sonofabitch was okay as long as he was our sonofabitch -- is something that should have endeared the left to President Bush, if not for their own blind hatred of anything Republican. But no matter. Our president is committed to the spread of friendly democracies rather than simply installing friendly dictatorships (which were historically easier to create) because it is the right thing to do, not because it will win him any popularity contests. Here, the president reminded his audience that staying on this difficult and urgent task will not always be easy.
Encouraging democracy in that region is a generational commitment. It's also a difficult commitment, demanding patience and resolve -- when the headlines are good and when the headlines aren't so good. Freedom has determined enemies, who show no mercy for the innocent, and no respect for the rules of warfare. Many societies in the region struggle with poverty and illiteracy, many rulers in the region have longstanding habits of control; many people in the region have deeply ingrained habits of fear.
He might have added that the enemies of freedom are not limited to certain “rulers in the region.” i can think of quite a few naysayers in Europe and right here at home who suffer from “deeply ingrained habits of fear,” which prevent them from seeing the truly revolutionary nature of President Bush’s foreign policy.
We know that freedom, by definition, must be chosen, and that the democratic institutions of other nations will not look like our own. Yet we also know that our security increasingly depends on the hope and progress of other nations now simmering in despair and resentment. And that hope and progress is found only in the advance of freedom.

This advance is a consistent theme of American strategy -- from the Fourteen Points, to the Four Freedoms, to the Marshall Plan, to the Reagan Doctrine. Yet the success of this approach does not depend on grand strategy alone. We are confident that the desire for freedom, even when repressed for generations, is present in every human heart. And that desire can emerge with sudden power to change the course of history.

. . . Those who place their hope in freedom may be attacked and challenged, but they will not ultimately be disappointed, because freedom is the design of humanity and freedom is the direction of history.

Lofty words, but i think the perspective of history will see them backed up by concrete results.

Posted by annika, Mar. 8, 2005 |
Rubric: annikapunditry


Damn. Good stuff.

Posted by: JD on Mar. 9, 2005


I was going to post on thie, but I couldn't possibly say it better than you did. Great job. I'll link to you instead. Trying to get trackback to work, but I can't. I'll just do a general link to the site.

Posted by: Pursuit on Mar. 9, 2005

"i said: “For years, the US was criticized for propping up dictators to further our own national interest, especially in Central and South America. And these dictators were bad men, but they were our bad men. . . . Now the US is not propping up friendly dictators [anymore]; instead we try to bring friendly democracies to the places we need them."

In my view, we just took care of the bigger fish frist. We took care of the USSR, and now we are cleaning up the mess we made when we too care of the USSR. Saddam was created by us, and he was taken care of by us.

Posted by: cube on Mar. 9, 2005

At best Saddam was allowed to be by the US rivalry with the USSR, and we may have encouraged his fight with Iran, but in the end, were the Republican Guard supporting AKs or M16s, T72s or Abrams's? I was in the USSR when the first Gulf War took place. The Russkies kept saying that they didn't sell their best AA gear to the Iraqis - however, after we crushed their air defenses, the entire Central Asian command of the Air Defense Corps (a seprate branch of the Soviet Military) was fired, along with the overall commanding general. Saddam owed his existance in large part to Brezhnev, and everyone over there knew it.

Posted by: John on Mar. 9, 2005