Reading President Bush’s address to the National Endowment for Democracy, one wonders: Have the neocons captured him totally? For, though he is being hailed as Reagan’s true heir, Bush has begun to sound like a clone of Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter.
Foreign policy is, in Walter Lippman’s phrase, the “Shield of the Republic.” Its purpose: protect our independence and freedom. “We do not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” said John Quincy Adams.
Traditional conservatives believe in the Eisenhower formula of Peace through Strength and the Washington-Jefferson policy of nonintervention in the affairs and wars of nations that do not threaten us.
Wilsonians believe that unless the whole world is democratic, we are not secure. America’s first crusade was Wilson’s war “to make the world safe for democracy.” It succeeded in making the world safe for the British Empire, which added a million square miles, and paved the path to power for Lenin, Stalin and Hitler. Wilsonism was a glorious failure, though his disciples will never concede it.
Bush has now embarked on a new Wilsonian crusade. Monarchs and dictators in the Arab and Islamic world are to give way to democracy in Syria, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco?
Have the president and his War Cabinet thought this through? Or is this like the invasion of Iraq, where no one seems to have considered the consequences of smashing the Iraqi state?
Is the president aware of what happened when the kings, shahs and emperors fell the last time in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Ethiopia and Iran? We got Nasser, Saddam, Khadafi, Mengistu and Khomeini.
Before Bush sets off destabilizing regimes, he might recall what Carter reaped after his human rights hectoring helped topple Somoza and the Shah: Soviet-backed Sandinistas in Managua and the Islamic republic of the ayatollahs in Teheran.
If Hosni Mubarak falls in Egypt, we could get a populist regime that severs ties with Israel and declares solidarity with Hamas. If the Saudi house falls, we could get a regime that welcomes Osama home as a national hero and uses its oil weapon against us. If Gen. Musharraf falls in Pakistan, we could get an Islamist regime with atom bombs that would help restore the Taliban in Kabul.
A global crusade for democracy entails endless interventions in the affairs of foreign nations. Did 9-11 teach us nothing about blowback? The terrorists were over here because we were over there, dominating the Islamic world culturally, politically, militarily.
In his address to NED, the president disparaged the foreign policies of no fewer than 10 predecessors, including his father: “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East,” said Bush, “did nothing to make us safe.”
What is he talking about? Did America not win the Cold War?
U.S. presidents did not pick the Arab leaders who came out of the British and French empires. We had to deal with them in a world war Stalin declared against us. It is presumptuous and arrogant for Bush to assert that his Middle East policy is morally superior to all those dating back to 1945. If it is superior, why is his administration the most detested in the Arab world of any U.S. administration, ever?
Upon what ground does he stand to demean all his predecessors? Unlike Dwight Eisenhower, who forced the Israelis out of Sinai, Bush has proven feckless in his failure to face down Ariel Sharon, whose rampages are making enemies for us all over the Arab world.
What coalition has Bush built to rival his father’s in the Gulf War? What triumph has he achieved to match the Camp David peace that Jimmy Carter brokered between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin?
And where in the Constitution is Bush empowered to conscript the wealth and soldiers of his country to conduct foreign crusades? With a $500 billion deficit, how are we going to pay for it? Where do we get the right to tell foreign nations how to arrange their societies and rule themselves? Just who do we think we are?
If the president wants to defend America, he would dissolve all the old Cold War alliances, bring U.S. troops home, defend our borders and fumigate the neocon nest at NED that meddles in the internal affairs of nations in ways that would cause us to go to war, if done to us.
The Bush strategy of moral interventionism in the internal affairs of foreign nations, to rearrrange their societies on an American model, is a formula for endless war abroad and Big Government forever at home.
No wonder the liberal media and the neocons are hailing Bush’s speech to NED. He is singing their song, Wilson’s song.
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