Large parts of President Bush’s inaugural address could have been written by the pro-liberation democratic Left:
…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.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.
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.
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.
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.
Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.
The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”
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.
Is it for real? Will Bush be prepared to speak as plainly to our repressive allies as to our repressive adversaries, and to support the dissident democrats confronting the former as well as the latter? Stay tuned.
I was listening to a bit of the inauguration coverage by the “progressive” Pacifica radio network, and their reporters were gloating over what they perceived as a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Bush’s speech from the conservative partisan crowd. If the response was as tepid as they suggest, perhaps it was because (as Andrew Sullivan notes) Bush’s speech was in many respects a statement of liberal-internationalist principles.
Bush’s words on his domestic agenda were more troubling, especially his reference (again) to the “ownership society”– a polite term for cutting and privatizing government services. On the other hand he proclaimed: “[O]ur country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.” And he did pay tribute to such classically liberal programs as Social Security and the GI Bill of Rights.
I see the task of the liberal Left for the next four years as opposing the regressive aspects of Bush’s economic and social policies, while holding him to the noble standard he himself set for his foreign policy.