In the calendar of the Revolution, Thermidor was the second month of summer. On 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794), Robespierre was guillotined and the Reign of Terror came to an end.
Thermidor has thus come to mean the turning point in a revolution, when the fever passes on and the fury abates. Trotsky called Stalin's consolidation of power "Soviet Thermidor."
And it would appear Thermidor has come to the world democratic revolution of George W. Bush.
In the catechism of the Bush Revolution, liberty is indivisible. If the whole world is not free, America's freedom is not secure, and we must thus use American power in perpetuity to liberate mankind and, as Bush declared in his Second Inaugural, "end tyranny on earth."
No more utopian ambition has ever been declared by an American president.
In 2006, however, reality intruded.
The elections Bush championed as way stations on the road to global democracy produced, from the Mideast to Latin America, defeat after defeat. In Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq, the real winners were the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas and Moqtada al-Sadr. In Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, free elections gave Hugo Chavez three new allies, and radicals almost captured Peru and Mexico. Populism, socialism and anti-Americanism are surging in Latin America.
Following the worst year of his presidency, where nothing seemed to go right for him or his country, President Bush appears to be executing an about-face in foreign policy.
-- Awakening to the fact that future elections in the Mideast, a region where hostility toward him and the United States is pandemic, might bring to power enemies not friends, Bush appears to have set aside the rhetoric of democratic revolution.
-- The White House has acceded to North Korea's demands for recognition, security guarantees and aid, in return for Kim Jong-Il's promise to stop producing plutonium. Yet, there seems no guarantee the North will give up the nuclear weapons it produced and tested on Bush's watch. Though the deal angered former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, President Bush embraced it.
-- Without preconditions, the United States this weekend sat down in Baghdad with Syria and Iran, and Secretary Rice is to meet with the foreign ministers of both nations next month. The talks may not be restricted to Iraq and may deal with the full range of U.S.-Iranian relations.
The road map of the Iraq Study Group seems to have been found somewhere in the West Wing.