President George W. Bush's State of the Union address is a stirring message to the world that the United States will aggressively confront tyranny, terror, and barbarism on the international stage. It was a speech fitting of the greatest power on earth, whose durability, security, and prosperity lie in its willingness to "lead freedom's advance."
With echoes of Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War, as well as a dash of Churchillian resolve and determination, President Bush reminded the American people of the great role in history that the United States must play. It is an awesome responsibility that lies with a nation whose unique position today as the world's dominant superpower demands of its citizens both an extraordinary sense of mission and self-belief, as well as visionary global leadership.
The President's speech was a firm rejection of the "false comfort" of isolationism and protectionism, a reminder that "we are the nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed and move this world toward peace." America's sneering critics in the cafés and salons of Paris or Brussels would do well to read these words carefully as they savor the freedoms that were won by the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of American servicemen just two generations ago.
This State of the Union speech projected a confident, outward-looking vision of U.S. foreign policy that contrasts sharply with the insular debates that dominate the European Union as it drives towards the misguided goal of "ever-closer union." While much of Europe agonizes over internal issues such as tax harmonization, low birthrates, and farm subsidies, the United States remains fixated on its global responsibilities, including defeating al-Qaeda and confronting the looming threat posed by terrorist states such as Iran and Syria.
Significantly, the President made no mention in his address of supranational institutions such as the United Nations, a clear acknowledgement of the fact that the defense of freedom and the defeat of terrorism and tyranny across the world will only be successfully achieved by strong U.S. leadership in conjunction with the leadership of key allies such as Great Britain. Indeed, the Anglo-American alliance remains the bulwark of the West's global war on terrorism and fight against rogue regimes. It is highly unlikely that the oppressed of Burma, Iran, North Korea, and the Sudan look to bureaucrats in Turtle Bay or Geneva to ease their suffering.
The President's State of the Union address was a powerful reminder of America's global responsibilities and commitments at a time of great fear and uncertainty. To be sure, there are limits to American power, both financial and military, and the U.S. must work closely with its allies in pursuing its goals. The United States, however, cannot shirk from its leadership role and must fulfill its destiny as a great nation that stands as a beacon for the advancement of liberty and freedom across the world.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is the Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation.