The Bush doctrine: Heaven on earth?

mountainI was busy writing a column last night and didn’t watch the State of the Union. However, I think it’s safe to predict that, once again, there will be lively debate among some conservatives about President Bush’s restatement of his claims that American can, almost literally, create peace on earth.

Here is the key section of the speech, taken from the text posted at the New York Times (which includes some wonderful interactive links to related documents):

Abroad, our nation is committed to a historic long-term goal. We seek the end of tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends on it. On Sept. 11, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.

Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time.

It isn’t hard to figure out who Bush is pointing toward with his “some dismiss that goal” reference and, in this case, he is underlining a public disagreement with a certain conservative columnist. That would be Peggy Noonan, an outspoken Christian who also knows a thing or two about writing presidential speeches. A year ago, Noonan penned a post-SOTU piece that stunned many on the right, especially the religious right. Click here to flash back to that Wall Street Journal column. Meanwhile, here is a sample:

Ending tyranny in the world? Well that’s an ambition, and if you’re going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn’t expect we’re going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it’s earth.

This morning, another outspoken conservative — Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher of the Dallas Morning News — lit into the top Texan against tyranny with a similar online comment.

The key question: Is there such a thing as a bad democracy? Or, stated another way, does the creation of democracies automatically defeat tyranny in a region? After 12 months of balloting in the Middle East, Dreher has some doubts:

What the president said was complete nonsense. “Dictatorships shelter terrorists?” Shoot, the Palestinians just elected terrorists! And you don’t think Palestinian democracy “feed(s) resentment and radicalism?” It’s their raison d’etre! And there is absolutely no reason to conclude that democracies will join the fight against terror. Some will — and some will foment terror, if that is the wish of their people.

Perhaps Noonan will write again in a day or so. Watch this space (or the Journal‘s archives section).

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • DK

    Interestingly Tucker Carlson was quick to fisk the incoherent presidential freedom-n-democracy remarks, while Michael Ledeen at the NRO is even better than the prez at talking crazy.

    Didn’t Bush also say something like, “Fellow Americans, together we can rule the galaxy?”

    The MSM ought to ignore these “speeches” and run old episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle on TV until the SOTU goes back to being a written paper delivered as hard copy to congress. (On NPR, commentators could analyze the ways in which Natasha and Boris are foiled without phone-tapping.)

  • shari

    we are a republic not a democracy

  • kbh

    Shari: With popular election of senators, the shell of an electoral college, a universal franchise for citizens 18 and over, and the system being near-deadlocked by two largely populist parties… we might as well be the latter.

  • Matthew M.

    it’s both, or it’s supposed to be… “a democracy in a republic, a sovereign nation of many sovereign states”…

    I think I’m with Noonan and Dreher on this. The Hamas-stan debacle was the reason Bush had to say that democracy is not “really” democracy unless it recognizes the rule of law, meets a few other criteria, in this case recognizes Israel, etc. I believe that the reasons the U.S. democratic republic worked were 1) freedom of religion and 2) free enterprise (which went along with “no taxation without representation”, in general a limited-government principle). Geographic isolation helped considerably, of course.

    Hamas-stan will not have freedom of religion; I can’t speak to the economy. They also don’t have geographic isolation in any sense.

  • Molly

    It is refreshing to read that not all conservatives will march in lock step with the President. I suspect it it their faith that guides them so and I say, “Hallelujah!”

  • dk

    Conservatives have never marched in lock-step with the president or each other if lock-step means thinking alike. Voting alike is a different matter. The party system does necessitate some appearance of lock-step for a lot of people who think, “better the GOP than the alternative.” Recently that has meant libertarians and the social/cultural/religious conservatives, non-neocon theocons and paleocons. One may dislike Bush quite a lot but not see supporting him as really support for HIM. It has meant support for leveraging a man and an administration that is open to favorable judicial appointments and so on. Once the lame duck and campaigning season begin, I doubt there will be any hopefuls on the right representing themselves as “more of the same.”