February 03, 2005

A Key Passage

The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else. That is one of the main differences between us and our enemies. They seek to impose and expand an empire of oppression, in which a tiny group of brutal, self-appointed rulers control every aspect of every life. Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace.

That advance has great momentum in our time - shown by women voting in Afghanistan, and Palestinians choosing a new direction, and the people of Ukraine asserting their democratic rights and electing a president. We are witnessing landmark events in the history of liberty. And in the coming years, we will add to that story.

A powerful rebuke to relativists and others lacking in sober perspective. Saddam's Iraq and Mullah Omar's Afghanistan were brutish, authoritarian states. The former had the blood of hundreds of thousands on its hands. The latter's brand of fundamentalism so severe it was only diplomatically recognized by three countries on the entire planet. No one interested in human progress and justice should be nostalgic for these regimes.

As for Bush's contention that the "advance of freedom" leads to peace. We can have little academic quibbles about whether democracies wage wars with each other (there are a few exceptions, probably, all told). Still, they fight each other hugely rarely as compared to autocratic societies. Bush is, therefore, and despite all the depictions of him as some neo-Wilsonian dreamer, merely pointing out some realities. Free societies are typically peaceful. So why not have democratization be a key linch-pin of U.S. strategy in a region of such immense import like the Middle East? Put somewhat differently, the march of democracy was the story of the 20th Century. Bush wants to continue it forward in the 21st. And as fascism and communism were defeated in the 20th; radical Islam and fanatical terrorism can be in the 21st. This all seems logical enough.

Posted by Gregory at February 3, 2005 04:22 AM | TrackBack (7)

To balance against any cases where democracies fought each other, you will want to think of all the cases where a recently deceased democracy fought a war. A couple of cases come to mind.

Posted by: sammler at February 3, 2005 10:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is just another form of the "Mc Donald's Peace Plan." This is basically the idea that two nations that both have Mc Donald's franchises have never gone to all-out war with each other. Originally offered as a joke, there is a certain amount of truth that if people are busy making their own living they don't have time to worry about taking something away from the other guy.

Posted by: submandave at February 3, 2005 07:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You should read this article on a Harvard study done last year which pretty much showed that there is NO link between poverty and terrorism, but there is a STRONG link between the level of political freedom and terrorism.


Bush's critics constantly harp on the fact that he ignores facts....but it seems like his critics pull the wool over their eyes quite often, too.

Posted by: Paul at February 3, 2005 08:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gregory, when you move back here to the US, could you please visit me down here in Washington DC for a few days. I would like to take you out to various sites in a hundred mile radius around the Nation's Capital where I can show you a time where two democracies did fight each other in the bloodiest war in the history of the United States! These places, you may remember from your history books, with names like Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Petersburg and Appromattox are part of a war in which better then 600,000 people died, as many as in all the other wars of the United States combined!

As for the idea that a democracy does not wage aggresive war against its neighbors, you should try telling that to the Canadians, (War of 1812), the Mexicans, (Mexican-American War, 1846-48) and the Phillipines (1899-1902, the Fillipino INSURGENCY!) ! As my Dad likes to say, the USA is a peace loving country and we are always ready to go to war to prove it!
Calming down, End of Rant.

Posted by: David All at February 4, 2005 01:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PS: Despite the above rant I do believe you are right about defeating finantical Islamic Terrorism being the US's primary goal here in the 21st Century.

Posted by: David All at February 4, 2005 01:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush was, logically, calling for -- A World Without Dictators.

I want one in MY lifetime!

MORE than going to the moon!

It's a matter of human choice, and will among free folk.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at February 4, 2005 02:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"..you should try telling that to the Canadians, (War of 1812), the Mexicans, (Mexican-American War, 1846-48) and the Phillipines (1899-1902, the Fillipino INSURGENCY!) ! " Well, plus the Civil War, that's a whole....4. Does the fact that the South had almost half of it's people as slaves discard it as a democracy?

Posted by: Les Nessman at February 4, 2005 04:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/11.04/05-terror.html

The study says that nations whose levels of freedom fall near the middle of the scale experience the most terrorism. This matches our experience in Iraq, where there was no terrorism problem until we invaded and provided people with a bit of freedom. This study tells us the same thing as the nationalities of the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11: The problem was places like Saudi Arabia, not Iraq.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist at February 4, 2005 04:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David All:

In general, the claim is not that democracies do not launch aggressive wars (the British Empire was hardly created by a dictatorship, but to the Indians, the Chinese, etc., it certainly was aggressive).

Rather, the claim has been that democracies do not fight each other. Canada might count as a democracy at that time (although as a Dominion, it's less clear), but certainly not the Philippines nor Mexico. And putting down an attempt at rebellion is hardly the same as fighting with a separate, sovereign country.

Posted by: Lurking Observer at February 4, 2005 09:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moving slightly off topic, I feel that it's a pity that Gordon Brown didn't link his 3rd World 100% debt relief proposals to democratization of the countries involved.

Not only would this have meant that there would be a greater chance that the funds generated would end up in the hands (and mouths) of the people for whom they're intended but also Mr. Brown may have had a far better chance of selling the package to the USA.

Posted by: Steve M at February 5, 2005 07:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Does the fact that the South had almost half of it's people as slaves discard it as a democracy?"

If we throw out the South as a democracy because of slavery, shouldn't we throw out the USA pre-1865 as a democracy too for the same reason? Note that the Emancipation Proclamation didn't end slavery in the USA or in occupied parts of the south, but only in the parts of the south that weren't under occupation yet. We didn't actually end slavery in the USA until later.

The argument that democracies don't fight each other depends on a rather narrow (usually ad hoc) idea of democracy. What you have to do is look at the list of examples of democracies attacking democracies and come up with reasons why at least one of them wasn't a democracy. Note the example above where they want to say canada wasn't a democracy. Similarly the iriquois nation. Etc. Sometimes the approach is to decide that minor wars weren't wars at all.

Historically, once you put a restrictive definition on democracies there were so few democracies that it wouldn't be expected they'd fight each other very often. See, if there are 10 democracies and 90 non-democracies, then with no special assumptions about who fought who we'd expect 81% wars between non-democracies, 18% wars between democracies and non-democracies, and 1% wars between democracies. It wouldn't take any special assumptions why there were few wars between democracies. What would require explanation would be if there *were* common wars between democracies.

But this doesn't have much to do with the speech. We can't expect any sort of precision or accuracy in a Bush speech. The important thing is whether he said things people will want to agree with.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 5, 2005 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry this is so late in getting back to this thread. I have unable to post much this past week for various reasons. Want to thank J. Thomas for answering the questions about whether the Confederacy was a democracy despite slavery and why there have been few wars between democracies. He did so far better then believe I could have. Thank You J. Thomas

Want to note that during the Cold War the USA and India, the world's largest democracy were frequently at odds due to the US alliance with India's enemy Pakistan. When, in 1971, the US backed Pakistan's military rulers in their massacres killing hundreds of thousands in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangledesh) in a massive brutal suppression of the Bangledesh Independence Movement, India signed an alliance with Russia to balance this and recieved Russia's support in the subsequent war with Pakistan that resulted in Bangledesh's independence. Currently the US and France are so much at odds that some people have seriously proclaimed France to be our enemy. So let democracies become more numerous, I am sure that there will be some wars between them.

Posted by: David All at February 12, 2005 02:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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