Reagan's support of democratic movements was vital. But so were his words by which he made clear to the world that the United States was going to quit meekly holding back and begin to take the fight to the communists. Both his words and deeds were instrumental in the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the defeat of world communism.
Today, we face a different global threat in the form of extreme Islamic terrorism. President Bush, like President Reagan, understands that ideas and words have consequences, and that it's important to fight terrorists not just with force of arms, but also with the power of ideas.
President Bush is saying that we are not going to sit around and wait for the next terrorist attack. We are going to take the offense, not just militarily against terrorists and the nations supporting them (preemptively, if necessary: The Bush Doctrine), but also in aggressively supporting democracy throughout the world by nonmilitary means. While the spread of democracy and liberty won't automatically eliminate terrorism, it will help to choke off the oxygen of oppression and poverty that terrorists breathe.
Perhaps, then, we should consider the president's speech as a non-military corollary to the Bush Doctrine. The Bush Doctrine says we will take preemptive military action, if necessary, against terrorists and supporting states, because containment and deterrence are no longer sufficient strategies to protect our national security.
The Bush corollary says that we will reject containment and deterrence on the nonmilitary front as well and will proactively support the spread of democracy through nonmilitary means.
So those who think that President Bush has issued a directive to the Pentagon's war games department to begin working up scenarios against every non-democratic nation in the world -- as distinguished from those who are supporting terrorists against the United States -- should take a deep breath.
And those, like the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein, who think President Bush sent his father out to soften his inaugural message, need to re-read his speech and review his previous ones.
In his speech, the president offered no departures from his existing foreign policy, but provided a profound exposition and amplification of the Bush Doctrine by incorporating into it previously articulated and wholly consistent principles.
Asymmetrical Politics: Republicans Act Like an Unruly Mob, Democrats Like a Regimented Army | Michael Barone