Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inauguration Speech

The Monk watched the speech and listened to it: a tremendous amount of it dedicated to America's place in the world and America as freedom's champion. This is both Wilsonian (democracy and world engagement) and Reaganesque (the "Shining City on a Hill" that is a beacon to mankind). Bush noted the position of America today, reiterated the need for freedom and democracy to flourish throughout the world, rejected the notion that those living under tyranny do not want to be free, pledged solidarity with democratic dissidents worldwide (that'll cheer up the gulag victims in Cuba and Burma) and decried the "Holiday from History" that the US took after the Cold War ended.

The delivery was a bit stiff, but the importance of the message is enormous. Here is Victor Davis Hanson's reaction:
This is the first time that an American president has committed the United States to side with democratic reformers worldwide. The end of the cold war has allowed us such parameters, but the American people also should be aware of the hard and necessary decisions entailed in such idealism that go way beyond the easy rhetoric of calling for change in Cuba, Syria, or Iran-distancing ourselves from the Saudi Royal Family, pressuring the Mubarak dynasty to hold real elections, hoping that a Pakistan can liberalize without becoming a theocracy, and navigating with Putin in matters of the former Soviet republics, all the while pressuring nuclear China, swaggering with cash and confidence, to allow its citizens real liberty. I wholeheartedly endorse the president's historic stance, but also accept that we live in an Orwellian world, where, for example, the liberal-talking Europeans are reactionary -- [ ] realists who trade with anyone who pays and appease anyone who has arms -- confident in their culture's ability always to package that abject realpolitik in the highest utopian rhetoric. But nonetheless the president has formally declared that we at least will be on the right side of history and thus we have to let his critics sort of their own moral calculus.

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