I know it’s considered poor sport to shoot fish in a barrel, but what on earth is David Brooks talking about?
With that speech [i.e., the inaugural offering], President Bush’s foreign policy doctrine transcended the war on terror. He laid down a standard against which everything he and his successors do will be judged.
When he goes to China, he will not be able to ignore the political prisoners there, because he called them the future leaders of their free nation. When he meets with dictators around the world, as in this flawed world he must, he will not be able to have warm relations with them, because he said no relations with tyrants can be successful.
His words will be thrown back at him and at future presidents. American diplomats have been sent a strong message. Political reform will always be on the table. Liberation and democratization will be the ghost present at every international meeting. Vladimir Putin will never again be the possessor of that fine soul; he will be the menace to democracy and rule of law.
Because of that speech, it will be harder for the U.S. government to do what we did to Latin Americans for so many decades – support strongmen to rule over them because they happened to be our strongmen. It will be harder to frustrate the dreams of a captive people, the way in the early 1990’s we tried to frustrate the independence dreams of Ukraine.
It will be harder for future diplomats to sit on couches flattering dictators, the way we used to flatter Hafez al-Assad of Syria decade after decade. From now on, the borders established by any peace process will be less important than the character of the regimes in that process.
I mean, I love Austin as much as the next girl (well, OK, a lot more than the next girl), but it has always been my distinct impression that the scope of things you can do with words has been, hmm, let’s say, overstated by his would-be popularizers. Naming ships? Hell yeah. Transforming U.S. foriegn policy by shaking democracy-supporting fairy dust on everything? Not so much. Or maybe we’re on a 40’s crooner tip, with the classic “Wishing Will Make It So“? Seriously, though, does Bobo believe this, or what?
Note to outraged defenders of liberty: I think it would be great if the U.S. stopped coddling dictators in the name of stability or anti-terrorist bona fides, but that’s because I’m a silly, utopian leftist. What’s your excuse?
UPDATE: from the Washington Post, “Bush Speech Not a Sign of Policy Shift, Officials Say; Address Said to Clarify ‘The Values We Cherish’” Right.