Where Woodrow Wilson was going to make the world safe for democracy, George W. Bush is going him one better. President Bush is going to make the whole world democratic. As he declared in his inaugural address, our “great objective” is “ending tyranny” on earth.
And how does the president propose to achieve it?
“So, 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.”
The president is here asserting a unilateral American right to interfere in the internal affairs of every nation on earth, without regard to whether these nations have threatened us or attacked us. Their domestic politics are now our concern, because if they are not democratic, we are not secure.
Let it be said: This is a formula for endless collisions between this nation and every autocratic regime on earth and must inevitably lead to endless wars. And wars are the death of republics.
President Bush also plans to badger and hector foreign leaders on the progress they are making, or failing to make, in attaining U.S. standards of liberty and freedom:
“We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. … We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own peoples. …”
One awaits with anticipation the next visit of the Saudi crown prince. And as there are at least 50 autocracies or tyrannies in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, questions arise.
If President Musharraf refuses to yield dictatorial powers, will Bush sanction Pakistan, and risk his overthrow and the transfer of his nuclear weapons to pro-Taliban generals sympathetic to al-Qaeda?
If Beijing declares its treatment of dissidents to be none of Bush’s business, will Bush impose sanctions and enrage a regime ruling 1.3 billion people with whom we have $200 billion in annual trade?
When a Chinese fighter crashed a U.S. reconnaissance plane and Beijing held its crew hostage, Bush meekly apologized. Now, he’s going to take these xenophobic Chinese communists to the woodshed?
If President Putin tells Bush the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky will stay in prison and he will decide how elections are run in Russia, what is Bush going to do? Isolate him and drive Russia into the arms of China, as we have already done with our sanctions on Burma?
If the Saudis reject democracy, are we going to stop buying their oil? Somewhere, Osama is praying that Bush will undermine the Saudi monarchy, as another democracy-worshiper, Jimmy Carter, helped to undermine the Shah after whom we got the Ayatollah.
President Bush is championing a policy of interventionism in the internal affairs of every nation on earth. But did we not learn from 9/11 that intervention is not a cure for terrorism, it is the cause of terrorism?
Clearly, the president does not understand this, or believe it. For in his inaugural, he describes 9/11 as the day “when freedom came under attack.” But Osama bin Laden did not dispatch his fanatics to ram planes into the World Trade Center because he hated our Bill of Rights. He did it because he hates our presence and our policies in the Middle East.
President Bush says we have no other choice than to end tyranny on earth because the “survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” But this is ahistorical.
The world has almost always been a cesspool of despotisms, but America has always been free. We have retained our liberty by following the counsel of Washington and staying out of foreign wars that were not America’s wars. It has been when we intervened in wars where our vital interests were not imperiled crushing the Philippine insurrection, World War I, invading Iraq that America has come to grief.
Occupying the Philippines led us to intervention in Asia, war with Japan and, soon after, wars to defend the South Korean and Indochinese remnants of the Japanese empire. Wilson’s war gave us the Versailles peace treaty that tore a defeated Germany apart and imposed unpayable debts on her people, leading directly to Hitler.
The invasion of Iraq has reaped a harvest of hatred in the Arab world, cost us 10,000 dead and wounded and $200 billion, and created a new training ground and haven for terrorists to replace the one we cleaned out in Afghanistan.
In declaring it to be America’s mission in the world to end tyranny on earth, President Bush is launching a crusade even more ambitious and utopian than was Wilson’s. His crusade, too, will end, as Wilson’s did, in disillusionment for him and tragedy for his country.