Democracy at home & abroad

Bold. Visionary. Idealistic. Courageous. These were just a few of the adjectives used by supporters to describe President George W. Bush’s November 6 speech before the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington, D.C. Grandiose, hypocritical, simplistic, even cynical were the words deployed by skeptics. In his speech, Bush compared the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the transformation of Iraq into a democracy to the long struggle for freedom the West waged first against fascism and then against the Soviet Union in the cold war. Ronald Reagan’s stand against the evil empire is the paradigm. “The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution,” Bush said.

President Bush can be eloquent, and the vision of a more democratic world outlined in his speech is compelling. “We believe that liberty is the direction of history,” he said. “And we believe that freedom, the freedom we prize, is not for us alone. It is the right and the capacity of all mankind.”

What is not compelling is Bush’s history of enunciating similarly bold initiatives only to abandon them when political sacrifice is required. It was only a few months ago, for example, that the president unveiled his “road map” to peace for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying he was going to put his prestige and authority on the line and use his powers of persuasion to...

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