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June 27, 2005

Democracy: The Glorious Dream

In Sunday's New York Times, Michael Ignatieff has a stunner of a piece. It begins as Thomas Jefferson, near death at Monticello, writes to say he cannot attend the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence:

Wanting his letter to inspire the gathering, he told them that one day the experiment he and the founders started would spread to the whole world. ''To some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,'' he wrote, the American form of republican self-government would become every nation's birthright. Democracy's worldwide triumph was assured, he went on to say, because ''the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion'' would soon convince all men that they were born not to be ruled but to rule themselves in freedom.

It was the last letter he ever wrote. The slave-owning apostle of liberty, that incomparable genius and moral scandal, died 10 days later on July 4, 1826, on the same day as his old friend and fellow founder, John Adams.

It's impossible to untangle the contradictions of American freedom without thinking about Jefferson and the spiritual abyss that separates his pronouncement that ''all men are created equal'' from the reality of the human beings he owned, slept with and never imagined as fellow citizens. American freedom aspires to be universal, but it has always been exceptional because America is the only modern democratic experiment that began in slavery. From the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it took a century for the promise of American freedom to even begin to be kept.

'Dear Lord, here we go again...', I thought to myself, glancing down at the bottom of the page in exasperation. Another six-page NYT self-flagellation acknowledging and bewailing white America's manifold sins and wickedness. Surely even two hundred-plus years of unearned race and gender privileges don't merit punishment on this scale? 'Courage, mon ami', whispered a little voice out of nowhere, which was strange because I hadn't gotten the dog out of bed yet. Putting on my best fascist oppressor game face, I dutifully waded in.

What a surprise! For every now and then, the Times can still surprise and delight me. What followed was absolutely amazing:

Despite the exceptional character of American liberty, every American president has proclaimed America's duty to defend it abroad as the universal birthright of mankind. John F. Kennedy echoed Jefferson when, in a speech in 1961, he said that the spread of freedom abroad was powered by ''the force of right and reason''; but, he went on, in a sober and pragmatic vein, ''reason does not always appeal to unreasonable men.'' The contrast between Kennedy and the current incumbent of the White House is striking. Until George W. Bush, no American president -- not even Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson -- actually risked his presidency on the premise that Jefferson might be right. But this gambler from Texas has bet his place in history on the proposition, as he stated in a speech in March, that decades of American presidents' ''excusing and accommodating tyranny, in the pursuit of stability'' in the Middle East inflamed the hatred of the fanatics who piloted the planes into the twin towers on Sept. 11.

If democracy plants itself in Iraq and spreads throughout the Middle East, Bush will be remembered as a plain-speaking visionary. If Iraq fails, it will be his Vietnam, and nothing else will matter much about his time in office. For any president, it must be daunting to know already that his reputation depends on what Jefferson once called ''so inscrutable [an] arrangement of causes and consequences in this world.''

This observation brought to mind two themes I have tried to stress over and over: first, that George Bush is doing something both visionary and unprecedented in American history. And second, that several recent studies indicate the establishment of stable, mature democracies is the single best antidote to terrorism.

I explored the first theme here. Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis takes on the notion that Bush is engaged in dangerous radicalism:

All right, my students and even some colleagues have argued, but isn’t idea of ending tyranny a departure from the more sensible policies the United States has followed in the past?

No way: there were echoes in Bush’s speech of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, Wilson’s Fourteen Points, FDR’s Four Freedoms, the Truman Doctrine, Kennedy’s inaugural, Reagan’s 1982 speech to the British Parliament, and any number of speeches by Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

What is new is this: previous presidents tended to distinguish between ideals and interests. The expansion of freedom was an aspiration – but the interests of the United States lay elsewhere: in securing independence, suppressing secession, winning world wars, containment, deterrence, the maintenance of a balance of power, the promotion of capitalism, the encouragement of predictably pro-American regimes elsewhere, even if they didn’t meet our own standards for representative government and the defense of human rights.

Bush has now conflated ideals and interests. As he put it in the inaugural: “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.” Freedom itself is to be the strategy, not just the aspiration. It may, in this sense, be radical. It is hardly un-American.

Henry Kissinger also noticed this phenomenon:

Realists judge policy by the ability to persevere in the pursuit of an objective in stages, each of which is imperfect by absolute standards but would not be attempted in the absence of absolute values. Realists seek equilibrium; idealists strive for conversion. This is why crusaders have usually caused more upheavals and suffering than statesmen.

American exceptionalism, viewing itself as a shining city on the hill, has always insisted on representing universal values beyond the traditional dictates of national interest.

In a world of jihad, terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, President Bush in his second inaugural address put forward a challenge at once going beyond the interests of any one country and that different societies could embrace without prejudice to their own interests.

He elaborated that the United States seeks progress toward freedom, not its ultimate achievement in a defined time, and that it recognizes the historical evolution that must be the foundation of any successful process. On this basis, realists and idealists should go forward together.

This is such a tremendously important idea: that there should be no divide between our policy and our ideals, that I almost can't overstate it. I cannot believe that there could be any disconnect between liberals and conservatives on this point; especially from the Left. And Ignatieff makes a very interesting point in today's touchy-feely, morally squeamish climate:

While Americans characteristically oversell and exaggerate the world's desire to live as they do, it is actually reasonable to suppose, as Americans believe, that most human beings, if given the chance, would like to rule themselves. It is not imperialistic to believe this. It might even be condescending to believe anything else.

The argument then becomes one of means. Modern liberals, forgetting our own history, seem content to let other nations fend for themselves. Coasting on the benefits of liberty secured by previous generations, they feel no need to repay the aid we received from nations like France. The bravery of men like the Marquis de Lafayette is long forgotten: nothing, they argue, is worth fighting for. Ignatieff rightly dismisses this notion:

Very few countries can achieve and maintain freedom without outside help. Big imperial allies are often necessary to the establishment of liberty. As the Harvard ethicist Arthur Applbaum likes to put it, ''All foundings are forced.'' Just remember how much America itself needed the assistance of France to free itself of the British. Who else is available to sponsor liberty in the Middle East but America? Certainly the Europeans themselves have not done a very distinguished job defending freedom close to home.

During the cold war, while most Western Europeans tacitly accepted the division of their continent, American presidents stood up and called for the walls to come tumbling down. When an anonymous graffiti artist in Berlin sprayed the wall with a message -- ''This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality'' -- it was President Reagan, not a European politician, who seized on those words and declared that the wall ''cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.''

This is why much of the European support for Bush in Iraq came from the people who had grown up behind that wall. It wasn't just the promise of bases and money and strategic partnerships that tipped Poles, Romanians, Czechs and Hungarians into sending troops; it was the memory that when the chips were down, in the dying years of Soviet tyranny, American presidents were there, and Western European politicians looked the other way.

It never ceases to amaze me that liberals, the advocates of internationalism and global cooperation, can't see the benefits to America (as well as the world) of spreading democracy. Do they really believe the MiddleEast is 'better off' when people are fed feet-first into plastic shredders? Do they want to live that way?

The moose in the figurative room for those who hope to see the United Nations develop into a viable institution, is that the emergence of a democratic Middle East and the worldwide spread of democratic values is the ONLY solution that works. Both friends and critics of the UN admit the inclusion of despotic nations is the fly in the ointment that prevents real progress. How can the UN ever hope to respond decisively to a human rights crisis when it places nations like Libya on the human rights commission, or allows Arab nations to prevent it from doing something as simple as defining and condemning terrorism?

Moreover, several recent studies have shown that stable democracies produce fewer terrorists:

... "Apart from population — larger countries tend to have more terrorists — the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists. Poverty and literacy were unrelated to the number of terrorists from a country.

Whenever the the war comes up, liberals generally try to defeat the pro-war case in detail. 'If the case was humanitarian', they argue, why not Sudan? 'If the case was WMDs, why not N. Korea'?, if spreading democracy and removing a dictator was the rationale, why not go after Robert Mugabe'?

The answer is really quite simple. All these arguments came together in the case of Saddam Hussein in one country: Iraq. And there is possibly an even more powerful case few have considered: that George Bush suspected Al Qaeda was planning an even more devastating attack and wanted to secure the aid of Arab intelligence while simultaneously removing Hussein as a potential ally and refuge for bin Laden:

U.S. officials believed at the time that al Qaeda was planning another strike, larger than the 9/11 strikes. The United States could not stop al Qaeda on the strength of its own intelligence; it needed the cooperation of intelligence services in the Muslim world. These services were reluctant to cooperate because their view of the United States -- after having watched 20 years of weak responses in warfare --was that it was unable to absorb the risks and casualties of war. Leaders in crucial parts of the Muslim world feared al Qaeda more than the United States. Since a covert strike against al Qaeda was not possible, the United States had no good options. Bush chose the best of a bad lot. He hoped for a change in Arab perception of the United States, from hatred and contempt to hatred and fear. He also wanted to occupy the most strategic territory in the Middle East, bringing pressure to bear on the Saudis.

Implicit in TigerHawk's excellent post (which you should read in its entirety) is a point I have often made: having gone after Osama in Afghanistan, only a fool would leave our greatest enemy free to become a potential refuge and ally. That this suggestion is hardly implausible is proven by that undeniable fact that this is exactly where the remnants of al Qaeda have flown to after their defeat in Afghanistan. It also happens to be where the mastermind of the first WTC attack fled to in 1993 on an Iraqi passport: a 'coincidence' that ought to concern modern-day war critics who claim no relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

In an age of terrorism, the anti-war case seems to come down to this: they haven't attacked us lately, and until they do we don't want to do anything about it. The sight of American bodies in free fall from the World Trade Center was apparently not enough of a wake-up call for an affluent nation used to spectacular car chases with exploding gasoline tanks and flaming bodies careening from the wreckage. As far as a watching public was concerned, it might as well have been staged in Hollywood. So where does that leave us?

About one week from now, we will celebrate the Fourth of July. All over America, these words will be read:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

What are those words worth, today? Not much, apparently. Do we still believe them? Are they still engraved on our hearts? Do we still believe that ALL men are created equal? I keep hearing that the Arabs are "not ready for democracy". I consider that an appallingly condescending statement.

I submit that in 1776, those words were not worth the parchment they were scribbled on. Utter and absolute rubbish.

They did not become real until nine long years of bloody, miserable warfare breathed life into them. They were purchased, truly, at the cost of incalculable human suffering.

Bloodshed. Starvation. Sickness. Injustice. Abuse. Ugliness. Imperfection of every sort imaginable. And as Ignatieff mentions at the beginning of his piece, they did not apply equally to every American for a long, long time. Not to the Irish, nor to women, nor to Jews, nor Catholics, nor blacks, nor non-landowners. But this experiment we call America truly did 'light a fire in the minds of men'. And that fire was seen from a great distance.

It became a beacon to others, even with all its imperfections, because it was better than what had come before. This glorious dream: this democracy. It remains an imperfectly-realized ideal, because humans are still flawed and we bring all our sins and weaknesses with us on this journey. But we are vastly improved for having reached beyond our baser selves, for having dared to dream. We are still improving. And so will the rest of the world, if we can find the courage and the resolve to help them. We are on a road to the stars, but we progress one faltering step at a time.

Who are we to think that Freedom is ours to spread, Ignatieff asks?

We were the First. We are the guardians of the flame. Not perfect beings, but in all the world the only ones, it seems, still naive enough, still brave enough, still daring enough to put our money where our mouths are. We are the only ones who are still willing to defend the dream with our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor.

Not all the time. Not in every single instance, because that is impossible. And honest liberals will admit that: in a universe with limited resources, choices must be made. But where we can, where it aligns with our interests and with the interests of the rest of the world: yes.

Our own Revolution was not without blemish. Innocent men were tarred and feathered. Families torn asunder. People bled, and suffered and starved. There was even [shudder] terrorism. But it lit a flame that has burned brightly for over 200 years. There are signs that this is happening in the MiddleEast: Arabs are looking at election day in Iraq and Afghanistan and demanding democratic reforms in Egypt and Lebanon and Kuwait. The fire in men's (and women's) hearts is spreading.

We would like certainty. We would like painless progress. We would like closure. We will not get any of those things.

On July 4th we must ask ourselves, what do we believe? Our military - brand new immigrants who enlist before the ink is dry on their visas - believe in those words so strongly that they will lay down their lives to spread the fire of democracy. They also believe (as I do) that their purpose is to serve American foreign policy aims, no matter how abstract and long-term they may seem. No matter how difficult to explain to the American people. No matter how frustrating in the short term.

What kind of world will we bequeath to our grandchildren? It may be that long before we know. But our actions today will have an incalculable effect on that far-off tomorrow. And if our policy is not firmly grounded in the spread of those long-ago words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

...then I wonder if we shall not be the first Americans who fail to pass the blessings of liberty on to the next generation?

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph. is for good men to do nothing.” - Edmund Burke.

Posted by Cassandra at June 27, 2005 05:49 AM

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» Great stuff. from What Attitude Problem?
Villainous Company with an utterly remarkable post on the cost of freedom:About one week from now, we will celebrate the Fourth of July. All over America, these words will be read:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [Read More]

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» Where is there a will? from Focus, Bravo
"What can be successfully willed must first be clearly seen and understood."... [Read More]

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» Stop what you're doing now.... from Media Lies
....and read this. It's long. It's inspiring. And it's so completely right that I can't begin to tell you. You'll just have to read it for y... [Read More]

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» Beautiful Article from Searchlight Crusade
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Hat tip: POV

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» Cotillion Ball from Reasoned Audacity: Politics in Real Life
It's time for the weekly Cotillion Ball,and this week I get to play hostess, together with some of my favorite bloggers, The Anchoress, Little Miss Attila (whose birthday fast approacheth), and Jody at Steal the Bandwagon. I'm of an age... [Read More]

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Outstanding. I have nothing to add, which is rare for me :). I trust you wrote this after moving around a bunch of big rocks?

Posted by: TigerHawk at June 27, 2005 09:46 AM

I think she wrote it on the big rocks, which had been made into beautiful table and chairs, after exercising her Randian immutable human will upon them.

Posted by: KJ at June 27, 2005 10:04 AM

"This is such a tremendously important idea: that there should be no divide between our policy and our ideals, that I almost can't overstate it."

Maybe, but it's obviously not for a lack of effort on your part.

When we equate ideals with policy, the sticky point comes when there's a mismatch between policy objects/ideals and geopolitical resources. Walter Lippmann of the NYT, probably the most notable pundit of his day, put it this way:

Without the controlling principle that the nation must maintain its objectives and its power in equilibrium, its purposes within its means and its means equal to its purposes, its commitments related to its resources and its resources adequate to its commitments, it is impossible to think at all about foreign affairs.

Posted by: George [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2005 10:49 AM

I hardly think we have bitten off more than we can chew here, George. The argument has been all along that we have NOT spent resources extravagantly enough (as I take it, the crime is that DoD has lived within its means; consequently a war was won within three weeks. After that, an insurgency formed and people came across the border, but does anyone really seriously contend that we could have prevented this even with twice the number of troops?)

At any rate, elections have been held successfully in both Iraq and Afghanistan, all indications are that the Constitution may well be completed on or close to the the scheduled time. This alone is progress.

That a nation whose infrastructure everyone now admits had been totally dismantled over 30 years has not been completely rebuilt in under 2 years fails to astound me.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 27, 2005 11:06 AM

Maybe, but it's obviously not for a lack of effort on your part...

Perhaps. Last week I was severely chided for not volunteering to go over there and fight.

Well, I *can't* fight. All I can do, I guess, is talk, and argue, and try to persuade. I try to make the case for what we're doing, and to support the adminstration, because *I genuinely believe* this is the right course.

It's a free country: 95% of the airwaves are full of people saying the opposite: we're beaten, America sucks, our troops can't handle the job. And it's getting back to them. And it's getting back to the people they're fighting: that message - that we lack resolve, that we can't wait to cut and run - is not lost on them.

So I guess I'll keep talking as long as my money and my energy hold out.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 27, 2005 11:54 AM

Forgive me, Cass, but what war did we "win" in three weeks? War on Terrorism, War to Win the Hearts and Minds, War on WMD, War to Establish Democracy?

Yes, it's true that even with twice the number of troops, we may not have succeeded in thwarting the insurgents--what did Rumsfeld call them early on "handful of hoods?"--but it is naive to think that we could not have known about the



. The 13-volume State Department Report "Future of Iraq Project" prepared prior to the War, and largely ignored by the Administration, provides an eerie foreshadower, if not a roadmap, to the war as it has unfolded, including threats of insurgency, danger of disbanding the Iraqi Army, dilapidated condition of infrastructure, etc. I'll grant that war is full of vagaries but to claim we could not have known (after all the months and months of planning) of the mounting insurgency--growing even as we planned for war--is a very large pill to swallow even for supporters of the war. Heck, even Bush's father along with Cheney, Scrowcroft, Powell supposed such a possibility in 1991.

Posted by: portia at June 27, 2005 12:40 PM

The war itself - the formal war against Saddam's troops, in which the goal was to depose Saddam Hussein?

Remember that one? How, at the end of it, Saddam WAS removed from power?

Oh... yeah. And along with the "danger" of disbanding the Iraqi army was the danger of leaving it intact and full of Baathist sympathizers. The very same danger, I might add, that we found no easier to deal with in recontructing post-war Germany. Or post-war Japan.

I don't believe I claimed we could not have known of the mounting insurgency.

What those who wish to rewrite history ignore is that it took years of instability and chaos for order to be restored to Germany and Japan. And if we'd "known"... what chance was there that our brave and noble Congress would have stayed the course?

As has oft been observed, no plan long survives contact with the enemy. I've listened to critics bitch and moan about how we did this on the cheap (well who would have supported spending *more*? Do they remember the rhetoric back then? Exactly what troops would we have rotated back in later, if we'd had 300K troops on the ground then? And what of the argument - made constantly THEN - that we were leaving ourselves unable to respond anywhere else? As though Kim Jong-Il, who everyone had totally ignored up until that point, was suddenly going to haul off and attack us for no reason. Ridiculous. And the very asshats who didn't want us to go after Hussein were agitating for our military to attack a madman with no international consensus and no "coalition of the willing".

With the perfection of hindsight, every problem becomes an argument NOT ever to do anything, anywhere, anytime to those who will never allow any argument unless perfection can be attained.

War is full of very large pills. The difference is that previous generations generally swallowed them with a hell of lot less complaining. They didn't like them one bit better than we do.

They just weren't such big wusses.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 27, 2005 12:52 PM

And I am trying to calm down Portia. I'm not angry at you, but I am angry.

People seem to think that just because we support the war that we somehow like it.

There are a million things I hate about this war.

I hate the way people - good people - people I think in many ways are better than the ones who are complaining (no, that's not aimed at you, Portia) - are getting killed and wounded and sometimes maimed.

I don't like the constant second-guessing from our crappy, backbiting Congress. One minute they're bitching about how much this war costs, the next minute they're demagoguing about handing out extra pay allowances. No one's starving for the lack of that extra $75 a month, for crap's sake - it's just an excuse to score political brownie points. They can't even pull together long enough to get the job done.

I don't like that the petulant children we elected to represent us can't understand that their remarks get televised and broadcast around the world and our servicemen and women hear them and get profoundly demoralized.

Our enemies hear them and cheer. What the hell are these people thinking?

I hate the way decisions get made on the basis of *how it will look* rather than *whether it will work* and it's killing our guys and nobody seems to see the obscenity because all they care about is how we look to people who already hate our guts or believe we're beaten.

Some fricking cheerleader I make. I need to shut up now.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 27, 2005 01:30 PM

No more coffee for you today, Cass, stick with varietals, things distilled or malted:) No harm lodged; simply sparring match of words. I'm not versed (thankfully) in the nuances of war. In my artlessness, I reasoned that the toppling of Saddam was a victory in the ongoing war, and not a Mission Accomplished moment that the words "war was won" brings to mind. Perhaps, when we see the end of major combat operations, I can embrace your terminology more heartily. We'll celebrate that day...very soon I hope. In the meantime, I pray that I will have the spunk and the breath necessary to continue questioning the policies of our elected officials--on both sides of the aisle--until the day I die. It is the backbone of this great Nation, and tis one of the reasons we are at war. Peace unto you, and all those who take up arms on our behalf.

Posted by: portia at June 27, 2005 02:07 PM

FWIW, I think Bush's "end of major combat operations" speech was a just tribute to the unprecedented job that the military did to take effective control of most of Iraq. To say that we should have expected roses and tea from that point on is misleading. Sometimes, even before the WAR is over, you need to savor a victory or two.

In Sports, you will see teams that have a championship as their goal not celebrate significant victories before then. I think that is a mistake. As a Braves fan, whose teams in the past refused to celebrate a divisional championship, only to be beat in the playoffs or world series, I can tell you: celebrate significant victories. Then get your game face back tomorrow.

There is criticism justly placed for parts of this war. "Mission accomplished" was not one of them.

Posted by: KJ at June 27, 2005 02:39 PM

And on a related note: Ms. Michelle Malkin makes a rather perceptive observation regarding Ms.Cassandra and the NYT.

Good going Lady!!

Posted by: Greg at June 27, 2005 03:01 PM

One other thing, Cass. I'm sorry if I hi-jacked this thread. I realize that I responded to a sentence you made in the comment section, and not to your excellent, and very thoughtful Democracy post. Your essay is truly first rate (save a couple of Bushisms:)), and it is my deepest hope too that he/we will be able to "pass the blessings of liberty on to the next generation."

Let's raise a glass to that...drinks are on me.

Posted by: portia at June 27, 2005 03:37 PM

Hey, Greg! Thanks for highlighting Michelle Malkin's pat on the back to Cassandra. Since I had some trouble locating it, I thought I'd let everyone know that it's under Michelle Malkin's, "COVERING THE MILITARY THE RIGHT WAY," thread! Good work, Cass!

Posted by: JannyMae at June 27, 2005 04:32 PM

Portia, you didn't highjack the thread. You posed a legitimate question. Unfortunately I was too busy and already too upset before you asked it to address it calmly, the way I should have, and I am sorry for that.

I have been very upset lately over things that have nothing to do with this, and it sometimes spills over. I'm not saying this because I want anyone to say anything (please don't) or feel sorry for me, but only because I hope that if I seem to overreact from time to time, you will understand that I'll calm down in a minute and that it has nothing to do with you.

Sooner or later I am going to get up to NYC and we will have to paint the town Red... or Blue if you prefer :) I'm flexible - let's settle for purple.

Thank you Greg :) and Janny. Sorry, work got insane.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 27, 2005 05:46 PM

Thanks Cass. New York stays open late enough to handle red, blue and purple paint. Let's see if it can handle us:)

Posted by: portia at June 27, 2005 07:55 PM

Sounds like a plan :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 27, 2005 08:47 PM

"Forgive me, Cass, but what war did we "win" in three weeks?"

Oh, the invasion of Iraq? You know the one that people on your side were loudly proclaiming was "bogged down", our supply lines were cut, was predicting that Baghdad would be a massive bloodbath that would make Stalingrad look weak, etc.

The anti-war side seemed so... shocked when it fell so quickly. They recovered, of course, and the tale went from "DOOOOOOM for the TROOPS" to "well, of course it would be a pushover, BUT" and similar.

Posted by: Patrick Chester [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2005 08:55 PM


You have managed to out-Bill-Whittle Bill Whittle; higher praise I cannot give.

Posted by: SDN [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2005 10:09 PM

Cassandra, as a veteran I hope you understand this - this article took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes at the same time.

I wouldn't worry about the jerks who ask you to enlist. They ask me too. :-)

Besides, with writing like this, you are serving your country.

Posted by: antimedia [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2005 11:12 PM

OK, I'm going to admit two things:

(1) The Ignatieff article was good, and makes even me have a stray second thought about Bush's motives internationally, and

(2) A very few of President Bush's statements actually resonate with me so much that I want to jump up and say, "right on!",

If he could actually follow through on any of these and make them happen, I'd be a cheerleader.

Here are a few:

"No child left behind" - I really believe in this, and if Bush's cronies and the Republican Party in general weren't working so hard to destroy the economic chances of poor children, I'd believe he meant it.

" A state called Palestine, living in peace with Israel" - Well, if it happens, not much credit to Bush, and major credit to Arafat for his timely death.

"The people who did this are going to hear from us" - Well they did, and at the time of our victory in Afghanistan, I was generally a Bush supporter.

"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe--because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." OK, I'm with you. Sounds really good. So what are we purchasing with our military aid to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and other odious regimes? Oil? Certainly not stability.

I was hoping that we would try to finish the first job, that is create a functioning progressive nation, if not a true democracy, in Afghanistan, before we tried another one. As it is, we risk two failures in lieu of one success. Bush may be risking his Presidency, but he is also risking the lives of our servicemen and women, the health of our economy, the viability of our alliances, and the very idea of American leadership. If we fail, things could be much worse than if we had never tried.

Sure, George W. Bush is a kind of visionary. If the Iraqis and the Middle East at large do eventually become free, then maybe he will be remembered more kindly, like Jefferson: Not as an owner and abuser of slaves, but as the author of the words, "All men are created equal".

Words have power, and Bush has spoken some powerful words.

Posted by: Old Testament Liberal at June 27, 2005 11:29 PM

OTL, that is all I wanted to accomplish with this piece.

I truly believe with all my heart that steering a nation this size is like driving an enormous bus with four blown-out tires.

You can try to steer in the right direction, but when you turn the wheel you really can't be sure exactly what will happen because there are a million things going on betwixt you and that blown out tire making contact with the pavement. And to make things even more complex, there's about an 18-month time lag for things economic before you can even see the effects of anything you do. Try making corrections under those conditions!

And then you have gremlins (Congress) under the hood trying to sabotage you! And some are in your own party. I do think, with Bush, that you can believe he means what he says. And for all the people who think he lies just because things don't always work, or they turn out other than he would like them to, I just wish they'd remember how enormously complex this world is.

He has some flaws. One of them I happen to share with him - he is too loyal to his old friends - something he got from his parents. But that's not as sinister as people make it out to be either. It is a bad leadership flaw in a way, because sometimes it makes him reluctant to can people when he should, but it also inspires tremendous loyalty in return. And that argues well for his basic integrity, or maybe I just think that because I'm the same way.

I don't give my friendship or love lightly, but once given, it can be relied upon forever. I don't know whether I'm proud or sad that at least one of my sons seems to have gotten that from me. A person who operates that way usually takes promises and commitments very seriously, and if you look at Bush, he hasn't wavered in his commitment to NCLB or the war despite enormous pressure.

If this fails, I don't think it will be for a lack of trying on his part and I think there are an awful lot of people (if you look at it objectively) who have devoted a lot of effort to seeing that it does fail.

The economy is in great shape right now by any measure you care to define, so I'm not sure what you're talking about there. As for our alliances, which ones are 'at risk' specifically?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 28, 2005 05:34 AM

Wonderful, Cassandra, just wonderful. Wish I had more time to help you defend it, but by the time I caught up, you were doing great without me. Keep on.

Posted by: Pat'sRick© [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 28, 2005 06:35 AM

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