Saturday, January 22, 2005

# Posted 8:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THE OTHER GUYS SAID ABOUT DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: There are two attributes that distinguish Bush's second inaugural from those that preceded it. Its talk of democracy spreading across the globe is not one of them. That is a cliche.

But the intensity of Bush's emphasis on democracy promotion is unprecedented. His emphasis has forced all those who comment on the inaugural address to grapple with that issue.

But more importantly, Bush repeatedly emphasized that the United States must take an active role in spreading freedom and liberty across the globe. In contrast, his predecessors have relied on passive formulations that, as John Quincy Adams might have said, present the United States as a "well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all" but "the champion and vindicator of only her own."

For example, Clinton's first inaugural declared that
Our greatest strength is the power of our ideas, which are still new in many lands. Across the world we see them embraced and we rejoice. Our hopes, our hearts, our hands are with those on every continent who are building democracy and freedom. Their cause is America's cause.
In his second inaugural, Clinton stated that
For the very first time in all of history, more people on this planet live under democracy than dictatorship...

[Someday], the world's greatest democracy will lead a whole world of democracies...

May those generations whose faces we cannot yet see, whose names we may never know, say of us here that we led our beloved land into a new century with the American dream alive for all her children, with the American promise of a more perfect Union a reality for all her people, with America's bright flame of freedom spreading throughout all the world.
In other speeches, Clinton suggested that democracy promotion would be the foundation of his grand strategy. Although Clinton's achievement in that domain were significant, his aspirations were often frustrated.

Suprisingly, George H.W. Bush was more emphatic about democracy in his inaugural address, although his careful constructions also implied a passive role for the United States:
I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time but we can make it better. For a new breeze is blowing and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree... [This was 10 months before the Berlin Wall came down. --ed.]

Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy -- through the door to freedom. Men and women of the world move toward free markets -- through the door to prosperity. The people of the world agitate for free expression and free thought -- through the door to the moral and intellectual satisfactions that only liberty allows.

We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.
To the suprise of many, myself included, it turns out that George W. Bush also spoke quite clearly about the spread of democracy in his first inaugural:
Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations. Our democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is the inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust we bear and pass along. And even after nearly 225 years, we have a long way yet to travel.
This time around, Bush has no intentions of letting the wind decide where the seeds will fall. Even Reagan, who became more committed to democracy promotion as time wore on, did not escape the language of passivity in his second inaugural, let alone his first, when he stated that:
As we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.

To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.
Finally, there was Jimmy Carter, who stated that
The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation...

The world itself is now dominated by a new spirit. Peoples more numerous and more politically aware are craving and now demanding their place in the sun --not just for the benefit of their own physical condition, but for basic human rights...

Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere. Our moral sense dictates a clearcut preference for these societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights.
Presumably, I have taxed your patience with a post of this length. But it is only in the context of his predecessors' words that the uniqueness of George W. Bush's inaugural address can be understood.
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