Speechifying

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Who said it?

Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military—so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite. Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selecting applying—selectively applying the law to punish political opponents. Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions—for political parties and labor unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media. Successful societies guarantee religious liberty—the right to serve and honor God without fear of persecution. Successful societies privatize their economies, and secure the rights of property. They prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people. They recognize the rights of women. And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people.

That's Prez Bush, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy on Thursday. It's a major statement of principles and well worth reading in in full. The real question, of course, is how well it maps onto reality, both in terms of the Middle East and U.S. policy.

Reaction to it is here.

NEXT: $2 Billion for What?

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  1. I was under the impression that the Soviet Empire collapsed because Communism doesn’t work. I never thought “Hey, Communism is a really strong and robust system that can only fail if it’s opposed from the outside.” Hence I’ve never thought of crediting Reagan with the collapse of Communism. I always thought it was the result of (1) the fact that their economic system was unsustainable, (2) their empire was too costly for their flailing economy, and (3) internal opposition.

  2. Could any of you who consider trashing him incessantly a sign of mental acuity tell me what YOU would do in the current geopolitical climate?

    Butt out.

    (I find it fascinating that such a high percentage of tirades like the one above use the capitalized “Libertarian”.)

  3. Great. Commentary from neo-Gaullists, friends to all tyrants.

    Bush’s speech was great as a statement of faith, and Americans’ faith in democracy is very powerful. There are a lot of reasons to praise the speech’s language and even it’s nuance. So why don’t I?

    Mostly because this President has a history of issuing bold, provocative statements and not following through on them. The revolution in military affairs before 9/11. Afghan reconstruction. Greatly increased funding for AIDS prevention in Africa. The Middle East road map. For that matter, the “pre-emption doctrine,” an offical administration statement as to how it would approach emerging security threats after 9/11 that looks in retrospect like a response to a short-term public relations emergency, in this case that the administration needed to point to a strategy for dealing with security threats.

    There is also the matter that Bush’s politically correct dismissal of “cultural condescension” toward Arabs overlooks the evidence that condescension is amply justified. Democracy is a very demanding political system that a fundamentally tribal society, saddled with a religion prone to inciting violence in its followers and traumatized by over a generation under a vicious Soviet-style dictatorship, may not be able to sustain once American troops leave. It is no good talking about how everyone wants freedom and liberty; the challenge is the one Franklin made after the 1787 Convention. Iraqis can be given a republic, but can they keep it? Arab history suggests the odds are against that even if the coalition authorities do everything right.

    That having been said, we are committed to the objective of a democratic Iraq, and a democratic Iraq will pose worthy challenges to the many forces that make the Arab world in general such a backward and dangerous area. So if Bush follows up his speech with measures needed to reach its objectives it will be possible to say that the speech was a good place to start. For now we can only wait and see.

  4. Thoreau,

    Like in American football, we applaud (or deride) the quarterback and the coach, not the trainers or the people who stripe the field. All become part of what happens in the game.

    Reagan was in charge of the hammer that drove the wedge into the crack that broke the Bloc. Of course there must have been internal flaws without which the fall would have not ocurred, but does that diminish the role of those who exposed and exploited those flaws?

    Why was there so many references to Reagan in this speech? Were there flaws in Iraq, or did Bush’s hammer crush a gleaming jewel? Either could have waited for internal strife to precipitate a leaderless collapse, but both Reagan and Bush chose actions to speed the process.

    Recognizing change by force is different from advocating it.

  5. Actually, American Presidents since WWII have oft said they will not blindly support dictators, etc. Doesn’t keep them from doing it. The perfect example is Ronald Reagan – how could he consider himself a friend of liberty, yet support thugs like Nicolae Ceaucescu? Not that this is exclusively a Republican trait; Carter was rather hypocritical as well, even though he had his “human rights” as “foreign policy” doctrine.

    I think the essence of Bush’s speech can be found in his remarks concering China – all bark and no bite.

    Thoreau is spot on in his comments. As far as I can tell, the best thing Reagan ever did was to abandon his aggressive policy in favor of dialogue with Grobachev. It was always fun to watch Reagan play with the lives of people who weren’t in his country in his early Presidency. This is the exact same reason why France developed its own independent nuclear weapons and withdrew from portions of NATO – we did not want to be held to the whims of an American President who did not neccessarily have France’s, or Europe’s, best interests at heart.

  6. The Merovingian: Are you sure about Reagan and Ceaucescu? That’s a very surprising claim to make given which side of the Curtain he was on. Source?

  7. Matt Bruce,

    Nicolae Ceausescu was somewhat of a “maverick” leader amongst the Warsaw Pact states; mostly he was a “maverick” regarding foreign policy issues. Reagan continued the policy of Ford and Carter by keeping up the warm relations with Romania, continuing the past policy of granting Romania MFN status, technology transfers, etc. It was only in 1989, when Ceausescu’s government really began to publicly crack down even on members of the Communist Party, that the US, UN, etc. made demands for honoring human rights in Romania. Before then, people were willing to ignore the horrors occurring in Romania – the massive work camps, political executions, the torture, etc.

  8. JB,

    “Willing to ignore” seems quite different from “blindly supporting”. Perhaps the strategy was to tolerate a small tyrant while working against a larger one, with an expectation that when the whole bloc collapsed both large and small dictators would be swept away.

    I expect Americans would be quite upset if the POTUS put the interests of France or Europe ahead of their own.

    Isn’t rhetoric part of statecraft? Barking at China must be preferable to unilaterally biting the Chinese. The speech at least demonstrates that Bush’s mouth can form words to support liberty. Those words might inspire action, but as Zathras observed, we will have to wait and see.

  9. Fine words – that guy would be a much better POTUS than the Patriot-signin’, overspendin’ jerkoff we have right now!

  10. Nice to see that most people realize that the best way to deal with the “Nyah-nyah, Libertarians” trolls is to ignore them.

    I suppose even saying this is granting too much acknowledgement.

  11. Nick, why are you reading speeches by Bush at 5.42 in the morning on a Saturday?

  12. Mark Fox,

    Well, they did blindly support him, and they did willfully ignore his tyranny. Read “Balkan Ghosts.”

  13. Mark Fox,

    Yet Americans get so upset when other nations follow their own interests.

  14. It’s very characteristic of George W. Bush that he defines religious liberty as “the right to serve and honor God.” That means, of course, that the freedom not to serve a god — and probably the freedom to serve more than one — aren’t covered by religious liberty.

    The selective view of religious liberty has been put many ways. George’s father put it the most nakedly, when he said he didn’t think atheists should be considered citizens. We also hear it as “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.” In all its guises, it means “freedom to agree with ME.”

  15. KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 8 ? A 23-year-old woman who is the first Afghan in three decades to take part in a beauty pageant could face prosecution if she returns to her native country, a senior justice official said Saturday.

    So much for Afghanistan’s constitution! 🙂

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/990993.asp?0cv=CB20

  16. “By the end of that year, every communist dictatorship in Central America* had collapsed. Within another year, the South African government released Nelson Mandela. Four years later, he was elected president of his country — ascending, like Walesa and Havel, from prisoner of state to head of state.”

    First, he meant Central Europe. Second, we can argue about Reagan’s influence on Central Europe & the USSR (and to be frank, his willingness to deal with the devil that was Ceaucescu undercuts that argument), he had no impact whatsoever on what occurred in South Africa as Bush’s statements apply. South African’s sorted this shit out themselves; much like Central Europeans and Russians did.

  17. Well, Bush also makes the mistake that elections and “democracy” are some cure-all; at least that’s the implication of his speech. These things are tools; they are not ends in themselves.

    I also found it funny that castigates people for expecting Arabs to live up to “Western” values – “as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress.” Yet when talks about concrete examples of “progress” they look fairly Western in origin to me.

  18. Well, at least Bush understands the current situation. Could any of you who consider trashing him incessantly a sign of mental acuity tell me what YOU would do in the current geopolitical climate?

    Libertarians have all the answers and critique all from ?on high?, but there is no exceptionalism in this because no alternatives are offered. Because Libertarian principles and ultimately policies have never been taken seriously by a majority in this country the Libertarian position has not been actually refuted. But I am sure this is not because such policies would prove un-attackable; it is because they are merely ideological ?Golden Calves?: worshiped and honored, but lacking any substantive structure. In other words, much of Libertarianism is a conglomeration of half-truths and extensive disillusionment with the status quo. Therein lies a true strength of Libertarianism, it can morph and transform its anger and resentment to any given political and social situation, and it does it quit well. And it will proscribe techniques and such that will surely ameliorate the current problems, but these proscriptions are mere straw men. They are untested, untenable, and at times unbelievable.

    There is a reason Libertarian candidates do not show well at the polls every four years, and please take off your tin foil hats for one second and forget that everything is a conspiracy (I know, I know, Jews run the world). Your consistent bitching and moaning over every administration who does not share your politics is akin to elementary-aged children forming cliques and ostracizing those they wish for purely contrived reasons: I told you I?m stronger, thus better than you; it is true because I say it is. But if you actually asked me to prove it, the results, thus my unsubstantiated claim, may very well prove false.

    Libertarianism is merely a thin ideological membrane covering a mix of anger, resentment, misunderstanding, and pure ignorance.

    There IS a reason you have not, nor will not, exercise power in this country (remember, keep the tin foil hat off).

  19. Mike E.,

    Well, first, I am not a libertarian. Second, keep your psycho-babble and amatuer psychological musings to yourself. Third, what sort of plan did Bush lay out? From what I could see it was mostly a speech full of platitudes, faulty historical analysis, and patting America on the back.

  20. Mike E,

    BTW, my party exercises power in France; we neo-Gaullists control the entire French government. 🙂

  21. I’m now predicting that even if the US is enjoying its strongest economy in its history around election time, Shrub will still lose to Dean or another anti-war candidate.
    The ideals of this speechifying should have first have been demonstrated by deeds.
    Words before deeds mean just more bull in the world’s china shop–the bull being our cowboy Prez and his new toy, the US military.

  22. Mike E,

    Libertarian principles have not been taken seriously, as a package. Indivdual policies and ideas have made their way into mainstream discussion, riding on the coattails of major party politicians.

    A difficulty with adherence to a set of principles, whether libertarian, theocratic, or neo-Gaullist, is that outcomes are not always satisfactory. If one decides principle is more important than result, one must live with some measure of failures.

    Giving outcome primacy over principle will also lead to some measure of failure, but the responsibility is more difficult to assign. Or in other words, it is easier to avoid guilt by blaming unexpected factors or crazy, irrational operators in the policy calculus.

    Gary McGrath,
    Bush, you, or I could define religious liberty any way we choose. A limited government, as predicate to Bush’s succesful society, would lack the standing, the interest, and the resources to impact anybody’s religious choices. The smaller government is, the fewer problems it creates for all.

    JB/Merovingian,
    Reagan’s impact, I think, was to break the Bloc. Then, yes, the Russians and Europeans had to sort out their new alignments themselves. That’s the process of which elections and “democracy” are a part, the reassembly. Credit those who tumble the despots with at least their role in enabling/forcing societies to recast themselves.

  23. JB,

    The speech signals a major shift in policy. No longer will the U.S. blindly support dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, etc. for the sake of stability. That’s pretty goddamned important, because supporting oppressive regimes is what makes a lot of the world not trust us.

  24. On the whole, good speech.
    Too bad he has to be politically correct: “They recognize the rights of women.”
    How about: “They recognize everybody’s rights.

  25. You know things have changed when America is accused of opposing self-determination for people in other countries because it chooses not to overthrow their governments.

    I guess I should say that things have changed when the accusation comes from people other than the French, whose government really has preferred tyrants — not only setting them up in power, but bankrolling them and arranging for their retirements. In France. I know it’s different because a country with no ideals can never be accused of hypocrisy, but still.

  26. “KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 8 ? A 23-year-old woman who is the first Afghan in three decades to take part in a beauty pageant could face prosecution if she returns to her native country, a senior justice official said Saturday.”

    Gee aren’t we all glad that nasty old Taliban is out of power?

    Sigggghhhh… Could someone please tell me–AGAIN–why we bothered “liberating” that country again?

  27. Mark S.-

    The fact that Afghan men would actually want to prosecute that hottie for wearing a bikini proves one thing: Afghanistan is a humanitarian health crisis. Clearly the Afghan men have all been afflicted with some sort of highly contagious psychiatric condition that overrides normal responses. Normally I’m against much government intervention, but in this case I think we should dispatch an army of psychiatrists to Afghanistan ASAP. Those guys need our help. I’ll consider the mission accomplished when the normal response to a hot chick is to pop open a beer and whistle.

    THAT is a mission that ALL men should be able to support!

    Oh, some might say that the Afghan men might be gay. If they were gay they’d be gushing about how fabulous she is. Clearly there’s something else going on here.

    Disclaimer: The above was sarcasm. I’m not actually suggesting that we dispatch an army of government funded psychiatrists to Afghanistan.

  28. gee, who pays Nick’s salery?

    I bet its a neocon.

  29. Congratulations, Mike E! Most classic textbook example of a Pavlovian response to criticism of Bush I’ve seen to date. You managed to combine “tinfoil hat,” “Jews,” and “conspiracy” in one paragraph.

    And if you really believe that “criticize, but don’t propose any alternatives” cliche, you are abysmally ignorant of the proposed alternatives actually out there. How about this for an alternative: withdraw the imperial garrisons from the world, defend the United States, and let American businesses trade with anyone they want so long as they bear all the costs involved in it. Let ITT and United Fruit Company bear the burden of propping up compliant governments. Most of the evil we experience is blowback from the geniuses who have tried to police the world for the last sixty years.

    And if you really believe (as opposed to knowingly and disingenuously setting up a straw-man) that the only alternatives are to take politicians’ justifications for their policies at face value, or to attribute everything to a cabal of Bavarian Illuminati, you are pig-ass stupid.

  30. Thoreau, you’re suggestion is like whistling in the wind. Psychiatrists simply wouldn’t go, no matter how many government funds you’d slop their way. (They’d be too scared at being beheaded, a-la Richard Pearl.)

  31. “Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military — so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite.”

    Agreed — why doesn’t this president put his words into practice?

    As for Mike E.:

    Mr. E, the reason that libertarians are not winning national elections (though in reality there are more Libertarians in elective office around the country than any other “third party”) is that a century of megastate solutions from both major parties have completely reduced the voters of this country to ask “What can you [Uncle Sam] do for me???”

    Libertarians advocate that Uncle Sam shouldn’t be doing anything beyond protecting the rights of all individuals–there should be no welfarist social engineering (regardless of whether or not it takes the form of traditional welfare, “workfare,” or “faith-based initiatives”). There should be no federal subsidies of any industry, including agriculture (yet Bush signed a massive farm subisidy bill into law even after singing praises of Milton Friedman). There should be no “War on Drugs” (which is actually a war on people), which has led to some of the State’s most blatant and naked infringements on individual and property rights in U.S. history.

    Libertarian philosophy is simple: get this bloated, gigantic, overspending government OUT OF THE FRIGGING WAY so that individuals can be free to make their own choices, as long as they accept full responsibility for those choices. If you really find that philosophy of government a little nutty or wacky, maybe it’s because you’ve become too accustomed and comfortable with grazing out in the pastures with the other sheep.

    Now, I’ve heard in the past that Bush basically agrees with the philosophy of small and limited government, but his actions (and I’ve pointed out only a few of the inconsitencies in this post) completely bely his words.

    We’re wackos who wear “tin hats???” WE ARE SEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS in debt, no thanks to this free-spending Republican administration and this Republican congress.

    Yes, I love the tax cuts! But guess what? That’s only one half of the equation. Those tax cuts aren’t going to last long if our multi-trillion dollar debt continues to climb out of the stratosphere. You can’t get something for nothing. It has to be paid for somehow, sometime, and since I don’t hear any loud calls for budget cuts coming out of Washington from either Bush or the Congress, it’s only setting us up for a major tax hike once Bush leaves office, especially if he’s succeeded by a Democrat. Cut the spending NOW, so as to take away that excuse for tax hikes from politicians in the future.

    Take off our tin hats??? Pull your head out of your nether regions. The size and scope of the U.S. government has exploded under Bush and this Congress. Are you so slavish in your devotion to Our Fearless Leader that you can’t see the forest through the trees? You certainly would have made an ideal citizen for either Soviet Russia or Castro’s Cuba.

  32. ITT and United Fruit Company – CHECK

    Imperial star destroyers – CHECK

    Blowback – CHECK

    But what about Pinoche and the CIA and the Queen and the Beatles and the NWO?

  33. What????

  34. “There IS a reason you have not, nor will not, exercise power in this country (remember, keep the tin foil hat off).” — Mike E.

    By the way, Mr. E., one more thing: libertarians don’t WANT to “exercise power in this country.” The whole idea of libertarianism is for the Federal government to give power directly back to individuals and their families. It’s the philosophy of personal freedom, individual liberty and personal responsibility.

  35. Hats off to all the morally pure foreign policy the French have engaged in throughout history.

  36. Could someone please tell me–AGAIN–why we bothered “liberating” that country again?

    So the Islamonutters would stop using it as a base of operations? To show what happens to countries that don’t deliver mass murderers to the US when requested?

    Pretending that one intolerant and backward statement concerning a non-resident of Afghanistan means that nothing has improved since the Taliban shows remarkable ignorance about the Taliban and conditions in Afghanistan both then and now.

  37. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
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    DATE: 01/19/2004 08:19:31
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