January 21, 2005

The Inaugural Speech

Number of times the words free, freedom or liberty was used in Bush's inaugural? 49! Throw in "democratic" and "reforming" and we cross 50 (to 53)! Hey, the fifty states; plus Afghanistan, Iraq, and...[insert your favorite "outlaw regime" here!]? Speaking of, they were surely listening in such "outposts of tyranny"! (oh wait, correct link here). (But are they listening in 'friendly' Tashkent, Riyadh and Islamabad?)

More seriously, some passages from the speech worth mentioning:

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.

Yes. In this age of potential miniaturization of nuclear weaponry, of growing biological and chemical weapons development prowess in far-flung spots--all these worrisome trends married to nihilistic, fanatical ideologies--this is the crux of the critical challenge that will need to be fought, marshalling all resources of our national power (including, perhaps mostly, non-military ones), for decades to come. Is Freedom some mega-panacea? No. But societies not simmering in atrophying autocracies, it is safe to say, breed fewer radicals. There is no doubt about that. We might, therefore, do worse than a forward strategy of democracy exportation (pursued more intelligently than in Iraq, however, hopefully with the employ of quite a few 'lessons learned').

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary.

Translation: This document is still live policy in Bush II. Though I don't think that means GIs will be milling about Teheran or Damascus in the printemps.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause.

Translation: I may sound life Paul Wolfowitz on steroids--but I realize American power has real limits and that the spread of freedom, as worthy a goal as it is, will not be miraculously accomplished, in toto, by 2008. Yes, a realist side, too (that Condi/Zeollick will bolster).

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies. Yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

"Grudging concessions of dictators..." A good line. Translation: Not just horse-trades by Kissingerian realpolitikers with the Fahds of the world. Real, no B.S. efforts to see bona fide democratization initiatives--ones that actually impact populations--are on the agenda.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

The democratization, post WWII, of large swaths of the Eurasian landmass is indeed an awesome historical accomplishment. That a land war among major European powers, say, is wholly inconceivable today (though who knows what might happen should unemployment, in a major economic crisis, head north of 20%...) is impressive indeed. Bully for Bush to bolster the optimists among us who think the same could happen in the Middle East (where admitedly, pre-Enlightenment societies have far fewer democratic traditions to speak of than Mitteleuropa did).

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people, you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice and America will walk at your side. And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat.

Translation: Germany (hell, even France) get back on board! Don't let dictators divide us. And, yes, we'll listen a bit more even. By the way, the "walk at your side" line part at the beginning of this passage was good too. The message there? Quasi-autocrats with vested interests, a bit reticent to move more towards democratization, take the plunge! We'll help.

I give the speech a B plus. What kept if from an A? B.D., like Francois Lyotard, say, might fairly be accused of occasional bouts of incredulity vis-a-vis too simple, hyper-idealistic meta-narratives. We need a little more gray this second term--a bit of a Thermidor (think Fukuyama more than Krauthammer). Still, his heart and instincts are in the right place--especially if they are increasingly tethered to pragmatic advice. Good luck to him in what is sure to be an eventful four years.

UPDATE: Safire was counting too--and our numbers match!

Posted by Gregory at January 21, 2005 02:18 AM

Inaugural Roundup: "Just to remind everyone, this was also the message during the campaign. Back in October I did an analysis on the first debate for a comment at PressThink. Remember that one? 'Hard work' became the fodder of comedians and Kerry's campaign was saved from ignominy by "beating" Bush in the debate? I put what I came up in an excerpt if you're interested."

Posted by: Sisyphus at January 21, 2005 05:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I love it -- even though Peggy Noonan didn't.

I really really want to live in A World Without Dictators. And to claim that as both a goal, and realistic (though not in the next 4 years, unfortunately.)
Unless China votes for it (!!)

This is also the "end" to the "war" on terror -- although with only democratic states in the world, the terrorists will be mostly drug gangs.

The big question is how fast to export -- slow, with peace. Or quite fast after a successful WMD attack on a Western City (like Tel Aviv?).

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 21, 2005 05:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The 2001 Address was aimed, primarily, at Americans, as it touched upon curative measures for the economy, and cooperation on domestic common goals. However, this past Address, in my opinion, was less aimed at Americans. More apt, the intended recipients of the "message" will not hear it for some time. They are the oppressed throughout the world, who happen to reside in the soup du jour threat to the US security (NK, Iran, Cuba, Columbia).

Hence the simple terms that translate well in any language. In my opinion, the 2005 Address was an invitation to make some noise in an effort to compromise those countries that depend so much on control of the destitute...

Posted by: IR at January 22, 2005 11:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Doesn't Bush's involvement in setting pro-torture policy severely undermine all these pretty words?

Posted by: Jordan Adema at January 25, 2005 07:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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