Kathryn Lopez

Now, of course, the world has miles to go, mind you. Just in time for the Christmas season, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in-between his vehement Holocaust denials, reportedly declared "I will stop Christianity in this country." In a first-of-its kind report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released eyewitness testimony from North Korea "of gruesome public executions for those possessing or importing Bibles or for groups discovered worshipping clandestinely." According to Freedom House, 45 countries remain "Not Free," representing 2.3 billion people -- 35 percent of the world's known population who "are widely and systematically denied basic civil liberties and basic political rights are absent."

At the end of the day (or year, as it is), the United States can't take all the credit or be responsible for the spread of freedom and democracy. However, we can play a role in promoting it. And we have. The way Bush put it in January was: "The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause."

As Freedom House reports, "Since the events of 9/11, the United States has made the promotion of democracy -- in the Middle East primarily but in other regions as well -- a greater priority among the broad mix of foreign policy goals ... the administration of George W. Bush, building on policies initiated by his predecessors, has pushed forward an agenda in which the advancement of freedom plays a tangible role ..." Freedom House also notes, "... But if the gains for freedom revealed in this survey tell us anything, it is that the policies of the United States, Europe, and other free societies are achieving some crucial goals. These efforts should be strengthened, not diminished" -- a statement that rings true beyond the analysts.

The words of one Iraqi voter leaving her voting station were much quoted in certain segments of the media: "Anybody who doesn't appreciate what America has done, and President Bush, let them go to hell!" You have to have an appreciation for the hell she lived under in Saddam Hussein's tyranny to fully get the sincerity of her words.

We'll debate the hows and how longs, as we should, but in the heat of political debates and trying to keep us safe, let's not lose sight of these brave people the world over who, with just a little help and inspiration, will work for a new future of freedom.

Kathryn Lopez

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