In his inaugration speech yesterday, President Bush committed America to bringing the untamed fire of freedom to the darkest corners of our world. He went on to say that America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one and that 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.
Now it is the critics' turn. British newspapers are openly mocking the President's speech -- the tabloid Star labelling it the "Have I got nukes for you" speech. In America, Peggy Noonan, the influential conservative speechwriter for President Reagan, in a Wall Street Journal column, has gently mocked the speech as being heavenish, then mischievously pointed out that the world is not heaven. American isolationists, like Pat Buchanan, have called the speech Wilsonian -- referring to the expansive idealism of Woodrow Wilson that created the ill-fated League of Nations and could not prevent the Second World War. Democrats wonder how this ambition would be paid for.
We ourselves are strongly with the President on this. We have called him revolutionary in the past, and being neoconservative, we applaud his unapologetic salute to the flag of global freedom.
For what purpose, afterall, is a nation's silver and sword if not for bringing hope -- of liberty & equality -- to those less privileged? America itself is a nation built on the hopes of its people trying to expand their freedoms -- of early settlers, of later immigrants, of slaves, of suffragettes, of entrepreneurs, of believers in the American Dream, of Hollywood's dream merchants, of inventors, of voyagers, etc. If America, of all nations, shied away from her constant hope of freeing herself ever more, and freeing the world likewise, she will not remain.
Sure, the world is not heaven -- here pragmatic deals must sometimes be made with people not worthy of handshakes. Sure, the cost of liberty is high -- freedom has always demanded sacrifice of blood and treasure. So what? Should dreamers just stay in bed & stop aspiring? A world like that is blah.
We have repeatedly favored a similar bold policy for India -- a policy to spread democracy in our bombed-out neighbourhood. In this context, we'd like to draw the readers' attention to a recent paper on South Asia Analysis Group website advocating this perspective forcefully. To quote from it:
Why not offer accommodation and compromise only to neighbors willing to abide by our (unilaterally set) standards of democratic conduct? Conversely, to dilettantes and dictators, why not present Indian national power as a ever-threatening Damocles' sword? Most important, to neighborhood democrats, no matter what their specific views, why not present India as a protector, a safe haven, an inspiration, and a resource bank?
Why not indeed?
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