September 22, 2004

Bush's UNGA Speech

And today I assure every friend of Afghanistan and Iraq and every enemy of liberty, we will stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq until their hopes of freedom and security are fulfilled. These two nations will be a model for the broader Middle East, a region where millions have been denied basic human rights and simple justice.

Er, guess Bush hasn't seen the Novak story--or, in this post-Clintonian era, perhaps we need to inquire about what the meaning of "stand with" or "fulfilled" is. That said, I'm not so sure such an uber-skeptical inquiry is warranted just yet--Novak story or no Novak story. Bush might not be as smart as Clinton--but I trust him a helluva lot more (let the Atrios crowd denigrate us types as bovine, imbecilic apologists for the Chimp-in-Chief--they well know, if beneath so many layers of tiresome and showboaty sarcasm, that it's prima facie evident that Bush is more of a straight-shooter than his predecessor).

Oh, don't miss this portion of the speech on the "little graves." Quite powerful.

In the last year alone, terrorists have attacked police stations and banks and commuter trains and synagogues and a school filled with children. This month in Beslan, we saw once again how the terrorists measure their success: in the death of the innocent and in the pain of grieving families. Svetlana Deibesov (ph) was held hostage, along with her son and her nephew. Her nephew did not survive. She recently visited the cemetery and saw what she called the little graves. She said, I understand that there is evil in the world, but what have these little creatures done?

Members of the United Nations, the Russian children did nothing to deserve such awful suffering and fright and death. The people of Madrid and Jerusalem and Istanbul and Baghdad have done nothing to deserve sudden and random murder. These acts violate the standards of justice in all cultures and the principles of all religions. All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers. We're determined to destroy terror networks wherever they operate, and the United States is grateful to every nation that is helping to seize terrorist assets, track down their operatives and disrupt their plans.

More commentary (in more critical vein) on the U.N. address soon.


I've noted Bush's obvious penchant for simple, broad narratives in the past. If you like that kind of thing--his UNGA speech didn't disappoint:

For decades the circle of liberty and security and development has been expanding in our world. This progress has brought unity to Europe, self-government to Latin America and Asia and new hope to Africa. Now we have the historic chance to widen the circle even further, to fight radicalism and terror with justice and dignity, to achieve a true peace, founded on human freedom.

Translation of "widen the circle even further" means Iraq and the broader Middle East. All this is wonderful, of course, particularly if such a vision weren't so often blemished by all the assorted imperfections of human nature, inconsistencies in the selection of where we choose to pursue our democracy exportation exercises, and (what often seems like) myriad errors in the execution of such efforts.

Still, it is clear that Bush was digging deeper in this speech. Check this part out:

Because we believe in human dignity, peaceful nations must stand for the advance of democracy. No other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women or to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace. We've witnessed the rise of democratic governments in predominantly Hindu and Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian cultures.

Democratic institutions have taken root in modern societies and in traditional societies. When it comes to the desire for liberty and justice, there is no clash of civilizations. People everywhere are capable of freedom and worthy of freedom. Finding the full promise of representative government takes time, as America has found in two centuries of debate and struggle. Nor is there only one form of representative government because democracies, by definition, take on the unique character of the peoples that create them.

Democracy can not only work and take root in the Islamic world; but also in "traditional" societies. Message: Democracy can take root in the Shi'a hinterlands around Basra or the tribalistic swaths of the Sunni Triangle. Is Bush right? Well, it's possible, isn't it? And we can at least admire him the courage to essay such a historic task. One a John Kerry, rest assured, wouldn't.

All this is linked, of course, to what his critics view as his messianic preoccupation with "freedom."

Yet this much we know with certainty: The desire for freedom resides in every human heart. And that desire cannot be contained forever by prison walls or martial laws or secret police; over time and across the Earth, freedom will find a way. Freedom is finding a way in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we must continue show our commitment to democracies in those nations. The liberty that many have won at a cost must be secured.

Norm Podhoretz would be pleased. And note the bolded part--more anti-Novak talk.

But, as so often in life, the devils are in the details (the grays I often worry Bush doesn't see). Right now, democracy in Iraq is deeply imperiled. We are at the very beginning of this effort--not nearing the end. Bush needs to tell us this loudly and directly--so we are reassured the Novaks are wrong. And he then needs to tell us, in some detail, what specifically he is going to do to a) improve the dreadful security situation for ordinary Iraqis b) beat back the insurgency and c) get the reconstruction effort back on tap.

Put differently, the too often utopic meta-narrative needs to be embroidered with more of the gritty, pesky details. Call it, perhaps, a Fukuyama-induced Thermidor after too much excessive Jacobin zeal. We need a bit of that, I fear...on which, more soon.

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at September 22, 2004 12:36 AM
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