Our American Cousins

Posted: Nov 26, 2003 12:00 AM

Last week, President Bush gave an historic speech about foreign policy at London’s White Hall Palace before an audience of foreign policy experts.

In reply to European critics who call Americans “moralistic,” Bush not only embraced that description, but he also identified it as part of the Anglo-American cultural legacy. He spoke of the moral zeal “inspired … by the tireless compassion of Lord Shaftesbury, the righteous courage of Wilberforce, and the firm determination of the Royal Navy over the decades to fight and end the trade in slaves.”

The president’s invocation of William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury, the committed Christians who worked tirelessly to relieve oppression wherever they found it, marks the first time in my lifetime that any president has set forth his policy in such an explicitly Christian context.

His identification with this tradition stands in contrast to what you read in the European press. There, they call the president a “cowboy,” at best, and a religious crank and eccentric, at worst. Rather than get defensive, the president has replied “this is the tradition from England that has come to America, and it is what informs our faith and what informs our beliefs today.”

But the president’s speech was hugely significant for more than his reference to our evangelical roots. He outlined the most honest and visionary approach to foreign policy that any other American president has taken in a long time.

Bush, reflecting a hard-headed realism, candidly stated that we’ve had decades of failed policy in the Middle East . We’ve been willing to bargain and to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe; it merely bought time while problems festered and men like Osama bin Laden got organized.

Not any more. We’re going to get to the heart of the problem, which is the lack of freedom in these societies. “No longer,” Bush said, “should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.”

If bin Laden and company think we will cut and run, they are mistaken. Bernard Lewis, the Princeton professor and noted scholar of Islam, says that it is clear from bin Laden’s writings that he—bin Laden—expected Europe and the United States  would cut and run when attacked. It is our perceived weakness that invites terrorism. They think they can topple us.

Europe has shown just such a weakness, but the United States  and Britain are not caving in. Listen to Bush’s words: “The greatest threat of our age is nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists, and the dictators who aid them. The evil is in plain sight. The danger only increases with denial. Great responsibilities fall once again to the great democracies. We will face these threats with open eyes, and we will defeat them.”

This moralistic stand by the president deserves our support. That’s why I hope you’ll call us here at BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) so we can send you a full copy of the speech. You need to study it, think it through, and be able to explain it to your neighbors. It’s not often that Christians get to witness history in the making. It’s even less common when the history invoked is their own.

For further reading and information:

President Bush Discusses Iraq Policy at Whitehall Palace in London ,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, 19 November 2003 .

BreakPoint Commentary No. 031124, “ Raising Our Sights .”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 031103, “ Mankind Is Our Business .”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 030723, “ A Necessary Show of Strength .”

Kevin Belmonte, Hero for Humanity: A Biography of William Wilberforce (NavPress, 2003).

Diana West, “ Islam’s consistency with democracy ,” Townhall.com, 24 November 2003 .

Robert Kagan and William Kristol, “ An Administration of One ,” Weekly Standard, 1 December 2003 .

David Ignatius, “ A warming trend for Bush in Europe ,” Indianapolis Star, 23 November 2003 .

David Gelernter, “ The Roots of European Appeasement ,” Weekly Standard, 23 September 2002 .

Max Boot, “ The End of Appeasement ,” Weekly Standard, 10 February 2003.

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