Unclouded by Doubt, Bush Vows Freedom-Spreading
off his second four-year term, President George W. Bush Thursday
delivered an inaugural address filled with the righteous resolve
and soaring rhetoric that are music to his core constituency, but
will almost certainly grate on the nerves of almost everybody else,
both here and abroad.
speech, which was studded with religious references, was dominated
by a sense of certainty and even triumphalism about Washington's
special mission to spread "freedom" and "liberty"
words he used more than 40 times in an 1,800-word address
throughout the world.
even argued the country's very survival depended on exporting freedom
are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion," he
declared, evoking the "mortal threat" posed by violence
arising from "resentment and tyranny." "The survival
of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty
in other lands."
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," he
said, adding, "This is not primarily the task of arms, though
we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary."
insisting that Washington's goal is "to help others find their
own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way"
rather than to impose "its own style of government"
Bush warned that his administration will not be shy about
pushing its agenda.
influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's
influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's
cause," he said, adding that "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
the inaugural speech, which takes place outside the Capitol, is
used by presidents to set out their grand visions rather than their
concrete plans, which are normally the subject of State of the Union
address that takes place inside the Congress several days later.
some analysts expressed surprise at the foreign-policy sweep of
Bush's vision, the almost total lack of specificity that it contained,
and the almost total certainty with which it was expressed.
very much reminds one of John Kennedy's inaugural address (in 1961)
about Americans being willing to 'bear any burden (in order to assure
the survival and the success of liberty)' and that's what
got us into Vietnam," said Jonathan Clarke, an expert at the
libertarian Cato Institute.
notable, several analysts noted, was Bush's failure to explicitly
cite the situation in Iraq, except when he noted that "(o)ur
country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill,
and would be dishonorable to abandon."
there were indirect references to sacrifice," noted Lee Feinstein,
who heads foreign policy studies in the Washington office of the
Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), "his failure to mention
Iraq explicitly speaks to the administration's vulnerabilities."
represents a serious credibility problem for Bush's insistence that
Washington does not wish to impose democracy on other countries,
according to Ivan Eland of the California-based Independent Institute
(II) and author of The
Emperor Has No Clothes, a realist critique of Bush's foreign
he says freedom must be chosen," said Eland, "that's not
what happened in Iraq. The Iraqis had no choice, because it was
the U.S. government that decided to 'liberate' it. Now, they're
faced with what could be a full-blown civil war. Bush thinks it's
going to work out, but most experts don't agree."
according to recent polls, a growing majority of the public also
lacks confidence in Washington's mission in Iraq, and Bush offered
nothing to reassure them Thursday other than to remind them that,
"Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the
power of our ideals."
really falls on a very divided nation," said Marina Ottaway,
a democracy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
(CEIP), an influential think tank here.
speech was really tailored for hard-core Bush supporters, but for
those who have become very skeptical, including many people who
voted for Bush, the speech will very difficult to follow. It declares
the success of our policies at a time when there are an increasingly
large number of people who see Iraq as a mistake."
who co-edited a new book on US efforts to promote democracy in the
Middle East, 'Uncharted Journey', also predicted that the speech
is likely to be poorly received abroad, particularly in the Arab
world, for what will be seen as its hypocrisy and double standards
a point much echoed by other commentators.
rhetoric about the United States serving as a beacon for democracy
and human freedom doesn't jibe well with the resentment toward the
US that is building around the globe and with the chaos that has
ensued in Iraq following the American invasion," agreed Charles
Kupchan, a foreign-policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
someone were watching this on al-Jazeera or al-Arabiya (television
stations)," he added, "this speech would do more to incite
cynicism about US motives than alleviate it."
and Clarke stressed that the absence of details as to how his administration
intended to achieve its goal of eradicating tyranny and promoting
freedom and particularly when to use military force
made the speech an unreliable predictor of what Bush will do in
his second term.
the United States opposes tyranny and supports freedom, who wouldn't
support that?" said Kupchan. "If, on the other hand, that
agenda is carried out through a series of military invasions, then
Americans and everyone else has reason to be quite worried about
the second term."
Gershman, director of Foreign Policy in Focus, a liberal-left think
tank, had an even more pessimistic take. He noted the contrast between
Bush's speech and that of former President Woodrow Wilson's second
inaugural address, which also extolled democratic government as
a top US foreign-policy goal.
Wilson framed that mission in terms of a concern of the 'family
of nations', decidedly not as a nationalist, unilateralist crusade
of the kind that Bush is putting forward," Gershman said, adding,
"(a)ny doubts that this second term will be marked by less
Manichean (good versus evil), more nuanced approaches to foreign
policy should be dismissed by this address."
agenda is even more ambitious than Wilson's," noted Eland.
"Wilson only wanted to make the world safe for democracy, but
Bush wants to make the world democratic and to do so at the
point of a gun, if necessary."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service