Freedom over cynicism

Posted: Jan 30, 2005 12:00 AM

When you read that Jordan's King Abdullah is taking steps to organize new elections in his country, with regional election districts that look a lot like Iraq's, you realize just how wrong my friend Peggy Noonan is when she writes that President Bush's inaugural speech "forgot context."

When you read the latest fatwa from the murdering terrorist Zarqawi, that it is our democratic, freedom-embracing way of life that makes us the enemy, you realize how wrong Noonan is in calling Bush's vision of eradicating tyranny worldwide "rhetorical and emotional overreach of the most embarrassing sort."

 When you recall FDR's famous address of more than 60 years ago, when he talked about a world founded upon four essential human freedoms (to speak and worship freely, as well as the freedom from want and fear), you realize how mistaken Noonan is when she tries to restrain Bush's vision.

 Go back and reread Bush's second inaugural speech. He says, "There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment ... the force of human freedom." He declares, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." He states that supporting democratic movements with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world "is not primarily the task of arms." Read all this, and you know how wrong Noonan truly is.

 Inaugural speeches should be about vision, and great American presidents in pursuit of great causes should always seek great visions. If the United States doesn't do it, nobody will. But Noonan suggests that the overthrow of dictators and would-be tyrants would unleash ugly garbage, creating bigger messes. That's exactly the balance-of-power detente-ism that failed so miserably in the 1970s, before Reagan put and end to it. It's the so-called realist perspective that led us nowhere in the 1990s, as presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, on the advice of their key advisors, refused to take stern action against terrorist-harboring dictatorship states. It was precisely this failure that led to the 9-11 attacks. Lob an occasional bomb or two? Coddle the terrorist-harboring dictators? That's the realism that George W. Bush has pledged his presidency to stop.

 Noonan, David Frum and others make the argument that the Bush speechwriting team should have thrown itself in front of the oncoming train of the Inaugural Address. This was a familiar refrain during the 1980s, when many of Reagan's advisors tried to stop him from calling the Soviets an evil empire, or telling the Russians to tear down that wall. Yet Natan Sharansky, in his new book "The Case for Democracy," relates that it was exactly these visionary Reagan declarations that gave the Gulag-imprisoned refuseniks great hope -- indeed all the oppressed peoples of the former Soviet empire great hope -- that freedom-loving help was on the way.

 "Let Reagan be Reagan," was the cry of that great president's loyal supporters. How is it that Peggy Noonan is now deciding, "Don't let Bush be Bush"?

 The reality is the Iraqis will be risking their lives in pursuit of freedom when they go to the polls on Sunday. Do people think the Iraqis in the Baghdad area -- knowing full well they may be killed by a car bomb while trying to cast their votes -- are more or less incentivized to vote after listening to Bush's speech? As Tony Blankley writes in The Washington Times, we have seen such courageous pursuit of freedom before -- people throwing safety to the wind in El Salvador in 1984, in Cambodia in 1993, in Algeria in 1995 and of course in Afghanistan only a few months ago.

 Osama bin Laden and Zarqawi both know that free-election democracy is the death knell of terrorism. They also know that the potential impact of free Iraqi elections on the rest of the region -- including Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia -- is incalculable. The Iraqi elections will reverberate throughout the entire Muslim world, including Indonesia, Malaysia and the whole South Asian tsunami zone.

 Sophisticated policy observers know full well that rather than plotting a worldwide military invasion, Bush is constructing a statement of principles -- that he is setting new standards and diplomatic benchmarks that will govern our foreign policy for decades to come.

 Polling and reports on the ground in Iraq indicate there would be a blowout turnout for Sunday's election. The Iraqi election results for a new government and constitution-writing parliament will produce a pluralistic coalition that will end fears of a mullah-based theocracy or any return of Saddamite Baathism.