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Tuesday, March 18, 2003
 
OK - here is my first substantive post.

I was very pleased with Bush's address last night. I think we have been far too apologetic about the "American Idea". The driving principles of the American Idea are laid out in the Declaration of Independence first and foremost. When the Declaration says that "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - - I read that to mean all men, not just Americans, not just Anglo Saxons, but Arabs, Iraqis, North Koreans, everybody. In the early days following the revolution, we had an expansionsist view of the American Idea - that this is an ideology that we should be exporting so everyone can enjoy the fruits of liberty and self-government. This was discussed at length in Gordon Wood's "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" if you are looking to get some background on it (admittedly Wood, a Brown professor, would in all likelihood oppose the war). We took a step back from this due to the disastrous impact of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" in the French Revolution, and due to the general precariousness of our own position here at home (which is why Washington thought it best to "avoid foreign entanglements").

What Bush is laying out, in a series of speeches, I think, is a new committment to exporting the American idea abroad. Instead engaging in the typical cultural relativism that pretends that all cultures and political systems are equal (the who are we to judge phenomenon), we are are being much more forthright in our commitment to expand systems of economic and political freedom to other people. That doesn't mean that we are going to impose the American system on everyone. But given the dangers of terrorism and WMD in rogue regimes (like Afghanistan and Iraq), we need more than simple containment or a change of dictator. Sometimes, we will need a change in the culture that breeds terrorists. Basically, Bush has figured out that exporting the American idea, creating a cultural change in rogue regimes, makes us safer. As Dick Armey used to say, "Freedom Works". The expansion of prosperity and freedom to all the people of Iraq will give them a sense that life is going to get better, for both themselves and their children. That gives everyone in that area a strong incentive to police themselves - - plus more resources to do it with. Yes, Skip, I understand we can't do that everywhere. We don't have the resources to do it everywhere and in some places (N. Korea) the price may be too great to pay (Jonah made this point the other day). But where it can be done, I think it should be done. It is the right thing for the people who are currently in chains, and it is the right thing for us because it makes the world a safer place.

My guess is that the people of Iraq, after years of systematic torture, rape, murder and oppression, will welcome this change. Along with the food and medicine, there is one other thing the Iraqi people will need: a whole lot of American flags.












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