That’s Dafydd ab Hugh. Here’s his take on Bush’s speech:
Every conservative criticism of the speech I’ve read is a variant on the same theme: Bush couldn’t possibly have meant what he said; therefore, he was either confused or lying. How dare he!
This only proves how necessary, even vital, was this address: even conservatives have lost the ideological core that was once America. We as the people no longer truly believe in liberty, not as Americans did for the first sesquicentennial. We have become cynical; we are little, green pieces of rock.
The new Bush call to liberty is not rash. It does not require we drop everything to march to the crusade, launching simultaneous attacks on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Russia. Neither does it prohibit temporary alliances with tyrannies in order to defeat larger ones, as in World War II. But it does say that no longer will we acquiesce in another nation’s tyranny simply for our own convenience. We will not overturn elections, overthrow democracies, or even, by our money and our silence, encourage autocracies to crack down on their own people’s natural, godly desire for freedom. Appeasement is a tactic of weakness, and we are strong.
We have done these things before; we justified them in the name of a higher cause: trade, security, anticommunism. But Bush notes that, in the long run, we cannot rely on trade with dictatorships; and tyranny (not poverty) begets terrorism, which threatens America’s security; and we cannot fight an ideology like Communism — or militant Islamism — without an equally robust ideology of our own… you can’t defeat something with nothing. Our “something” is liberty; and without it, we are nothing more than the new Roman Empire, adrift in an ocean of relativism and cynical realism.
This is foreign to our character. It is un-American. It is French.
To the extent that the dinosaurs of the movement — Buckley, Noonan — cannot recognize their own jadedness, they have become unhelpful. To the extent they fight against the new revivalism of that old time ideology of liberty, they give aid and comfort to the enemy… not only the internationalists across the aisle but even the torturers and beheaders across the sea. There may once have been an epoch of accomodation; but if so, it’s time to move on. That was then.
This is now, today. And today, the watchword is liberty, and America is its guardian — for all, at least by word if not always deed. Time for us all to learn it; it comes as second-nature to us Americans, if we’ll just stop talking ourselves out of it.
UPDATE: David Brooks, who is seldom immoderate, finds great merit and significance in Bush’s speech. Because of it, Brooks argues, “the bias in American foreign policy will shift away from stability and toward reform. It will be harder to cozy up to Arab dictators because they can supposedly help us in the war on terror. It will be clearer that those dictators are not the antidotes to terror; they’re the disease.”
Meanwhile, Random Observations demonstrates the close parallel that I’ve referred to between JFK’s monumental inaugural address and Bush’s widely maligned effort.