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Furthermore, the spillover effect of bringing our policy in the Middle East into line with “the great liberating tradition of this Nation” has begun to be felt in other regions as well. Thus, the nonviolent democratic Revolution that broke out in Georgia in 2003 and that inspired two others in the former Soviet Union (in Ukraine and then Kyrgyzstan), can be traced directly to the influence of the Bush Doctrine. We have this on the authority of the president of Georgia himself: “One thing I can tell you, Mr. President,” he said to Bush on a visit to Washington, “your freedom agenda does, indeed, work. I mean, you can see it in Georgia.” It is a development of this kind that lends weight to the universalist claim in the Second Inaugural that “we have lit… a fire in the minds of men,” and that “one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”
TO BE SURE, the count is still far from in on this grand promise, even where the Middle East alone is concerned. Or perhaps I should say especially where the Middle East is concerned, since there are those who argue that the Muslim world lacks the necessary political, social, and economic preconditions for democratization. But this line of argument ignores or downplays or simply brushes aside the astonishing progress toward democratization that has already been made both in Afghanistan and Iraq. The same line of argument also runs afoul of the judgment of Bernard Lewis, the greatest contemporary authority on the region, who tells us that it is “demonstrably absurd in historical terms.” In any case, Lewis adds, we have no choice: “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.”
But even if, as I believe, Lewis is right, there is still a long and rough road ahead. It took nearly 40 years — with many reversals and missteps along the way — to defeat the Communists in World War III, and the chances are that defeating the Islamofascists in World War IV will — with its own reversals and missteps along the way — take as long or longer. It is even possible that we will lack the “patience” that Bush asks of us, and that we will desert the field before the Islamofascists and their terrorist shock troops are defeated by the tide of democratization that this President has unleashed.
Assuming, however, that we can steel ourselves to stay the course until victory is ours, it will be because in our American hearts and in our American bones we know that the President is right when he tells us in his Second Inaugural that our “vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one,” and that advancing the ideals that “created our Nation” is now “the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.”
The high nobility of this calling, and the incandescent words in which George W. Bush summons us to its service, are what convinces me that his Second Inaugural is one of the greatest speeches ever delivered by an American President.
Norman Podhoretz is the editor-at-large of Commentary and the author of ten books, including, most recently, The Norman Podhoretz Reader (Free Press). In June 2004, Mr. Podhoretz was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. This essay is the third in a ten-part series being published in successive issues of The American Spectator under the general title, “The Pursuit of Liberty: Can the Ideals That Made America Great Provide a Model for the World?” The series is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.
This article appeared in the November 2006 issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe to our monthly print edition, click here.
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H/T to National Review Online