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Friday, January 21, 2005

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Analysis of Bush's inaugural address

Reuters published an analysis of Bush's speech by a former member of Bill Clinton's foreign policy team.
President Bush has made a sweeping promise to stand with oppressed people if they challenge tyrannical leaders, an ambitious goal that may put the United States at odds with some of its anti-terrorism allies who lack popular support.

Bush's expansive foreign policy vision for the next four years, outlined in his second inaugural address on Thursday, raised questions about U.S. ties with non-democratic leaders in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The speech "is nice rhetoric but on a practical level means absolutely nothing because it doesn't tell us how we're going to go about trying to achieve the goal," said Ivo Daalder, a former foreign policy aide to President Bill Clinton who is now at the Brookings Institution.

"Does this mean that we will now deal with China in a fundamentally different way than we did in the first term -- or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Russia?" he asked.
Are liberals really this dense? Can anyone who heard or read Bush's speech really believe that what he meant was that we would change the world in four years? On the other hand, can any reasonable person deny that his policy, articulated clearly yesterday, has dramatically altered the world's landscape?

Since Bush took office, the Ukraine and Afghanistan have democratically elected a President, Libya has revealed and destroyed their nuclear program, North Korea is coming back to the negotiating table — on US terms, Palestine has elected a leader and posted guards to prevent attacks on Israel, and Iraq has seen Sadaam deposed, an interim government installed, and elections scheduled. By any reasonable measure, these are incredible changes that no one could have predicted.

Some have argued that Bush had nothing to do with the changes, but in the interconnected world we live in, events on one side of the world affect the future in other parts of the world almost simultaneously. Who can possibly predict what will happen in the next four years? Who can even predict what the long-term effects of the US relief mission to Indonesia will be?

To ridicule Bush's vision by claiming we can't change Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Russia during Bush's second term is sophism of the worst kind. To claim that his speech was "nice rhetoric" that "means nothing" is syllogism in the extreme.

Bush revealed a dramatic change in the long-term direction of US foreign policy not a short-term vision. For the first time in history, a US President has aligned our foreign policy with our domestic aims. He has understood that the world is no longer isolated islands that have little impact on us — that oceans not only no longer separate us from trouble but do not even represent a barrier to troublemakers — that in a world where a handful of deluded criminals can change the course of history for the cost of a Ferrari, we can no longer wink our eye at world leaders who foment revolution through their iron-fisted authoritarianism or greedy self-indulgence.

Will we change the world overnight? No. Will we change the world? Yes, if we are steadfast in our vision.