Kathryn Lopez

Around this time every year, most of us give lip service to new year's resolutions, goals and personal benchmarks. Some will not happen, others will be successes and a few will be gambles. President Bush's freedom push is certainly in the "gamble" category. But despite what you hear from naysayers, he didn't do too badly. And that's a good thing for the world.

Freedom had an excellent year in 2005. And W. deserves some credit for that.

The watchdog group Freedom House reports that, "On the whole, the state of freedom showed substantial improvement worldwide with 27 countries and one territory registering gains, and only nine countries showing setbacks. The global picture thus suggests that the past year was one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972." For the Middle East, especially, the performance was the best, again, since Freedom House started keeping track over three decades ago.

"What does this have to do with W.?" you may ask. Consider this. In his second inaugural address this past January George W. Bush said, "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

To be honest, even some of the president's supporters, folks who probably lost sleep during the 2004 election season, were skeptical about the newly re-elected president's idealism. One of my favorite writers, who had actually taken time off as commentator to help get Bush elected, accused the president of "mission inebriation." She cautioned that he and his posse "ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not."

And here we are. The world ain't perfect. We probably haven't seen the "greatest achievements in the history of freedom," one of the loose long-term goals President Bush had set in his second inaugural address. That would certainly be overkill and an overstatement. But we haven't done too bad, and the president's potential rhetorical overreach, policies and principles have lead the way -- along with the bravery of Americans and Iraqis, among others.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.