April 21, 2004


The Party of Liberation: At his recent press conference, President Bush has returned the GOP to its historic mission of liberating captives -- this time, in the Islamist world. (Stephen Schwartz, 4/21/04, Tech Central Station)

Isolationists, Islamist extremists, and "intellectuals" -- and other types beginning with the letter "i," who will be left unnamed in the interest of civility -- have sneered at the awkward eloquence of President George W. Bush, embodied in his press conference on the evening of April 13.

"Awkward eloquence" is not an oxymoron, for those who express themselves with some difficulty, or when struggling with emotion, may yet speak more powerfully than those whose orations are brilliantly-crafted, and well-practiced. Moses, the prophet of freedom, was afflicted with a stammer, and the prophet Muhammad was an illiterate. Neither of them would have had a chance on most of today's television talk shows, yet they moved the world.

I did not sneer at the President's words. And I believe there are others who, like me, were moved, even to tears, by his statements:

"Freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom… We have an obligation to work toward a more free world."

The Chief Executive of these United States sought, at times haltingly, to explain to the American people that "it's important for us to spread freedom throughout the Middle East."

Not for many decades, for even a century, has an American statesman so simply and necessarily defined our place in world history. As I explained to my son, other admirable American leaders fought to defend our freedoms -- only rarely, and at great risk, did they commit our nation to the defense, nay, the extension of freedom far from our borders, in places where most of us would never set foot. [...]

President George W. Bush has clearly seen in the Arab and Islamic world an equivalent, for him, of what the Soviet empire represented for Reagan -- a part of the world that must inevitably also share the benefits of capitalism, democracy, prosperity, and peace. As he said on April 13, "Free societies are hopeful societies. A hopeful society is one more likely to be able to deal with the frustrations of those who are willing to commit suicide in order to represent a false ideology. A free society is a society in which somebody is more likely to be able to make a living. A free society is a society in which someone is more likely to be able to raise their child in a comfortable environment and see to it that child gets an education."

These simple phrases were not scripted. They were spontaneous, in reply to questions from reporters. And they speak to the responsibility that was always our American mission, when heroes like Kossuth looked to us for hope, and when our leaders, exemplified above all by Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed "a new birth of freedom" to the globe.

The task President Bush has assumed is an immense one, and is not without risk. When Reagan called on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, Sovietism was moribund. By contrast, the Wahhabi ideology of al-Qaeda, the brutalizing brainwashing that led to horrors like the mutilations of Americans in Fallujah, remains volatile.

But I have said before, and will write now, and will argue again, that President Bush has restored to the Republican party its rightful legacy as a party of liberation. Those who, in the President's words, "don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free," will be proven wrong.

The walls that separate the Muslim world from the planetary realm of light will crumble. Iraq will not be President Bush's Vietnam, but his Berlin Wall.

That's not just the legacy of the Party but of America. It just so happens that only one party believes in it any more, and not all of that party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 21, 2004 10:05 AM

They're voluntary captives. Does that make a difference?

I don't think they want to be liberated.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 21, 2004 2:21 PM

Let them decide for themselves and we'll see.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2004 2:28 PM

Stevie Schwarz, Catch him now before he changes his stripes again!

Posted by: Derek Copold at April 21, 2004 3:05 PM

There are quite a few Islamic states in which neither we, for good, nor Europe, for bad, have had the slightest influence for a generation or two: Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia, maybe a few more.

They've been completely free to develop however they wanted. Not one of them thought it wanted any kind of popular self-government.

Why is that?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 21, 2004 5:43 PM

Because FDR failed toi understand that the USSR was our enemy.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2004 6:24 PM

I think FDR understood the USSR was the enemy.

His estimation of the enemy's capability was, in retrospect, overly respectful.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 22, 2004 5:03 PM


On the way back from his triumph at Yalta FDR told Sam Rosenman: "he was sure Yalta had laid the foundation of a peaceful world. He felt he 'understood Stalin and Stalin understood. him' He believed the Soviet leader had a 'sincere desire' for peace so he could make 'industrial and social changes' in Russia that would lead to true democracy. FDR's only worry was the possibility that 'others back in the Kremlin' might oppose Stalin."
-The New Dealers' War

This was the most catastrophically deluded man ever to be president. No other ever did more to aid an enemy.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2004 6:11 PM

Well, OK. My mistake.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 22, 2004 10:30 PM

Well, Orrin, even you seem to believe that industrial and social changes lead inevitably to democracy.

I'd say you and Roosevelt are wrong about that.

As a matter of fact, Stalin was pretty peaceful compared to other dictators of his era, at least internationally, which is the only standard that ought to have been of interest to Roosevelt.

The reason was not his big heart but his weak economy and backward army. Still, it was not Stalin who was throwing his divisions across international borders before 1939, nor, except to police his colonies, did he after 1945, either.

The judgment that German adventurism was more dangerous than Russian internal despotism was a reasonable position in the 1930s and in hindsight was exactly right.

Russia has always been despotic. Different groups got to play the role, but there's never yet been a time when somebody wasn't playing it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2004 2:41 AM

Russia is a democracy.

The rest is just you Stalinist cant.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 8:55 AM